Santa Monica, CA -- Production company King and Country  (K&C) recently worked with ad agency RPA to direct and produce a new campaign for the 2013 Honda Civic, which has been widely lauded by the media and drivers alike.
In the first spot, “More to Love,” the camera moves through the inside of the Civic as blue and white metallic mylar balloons inflate containing kudos from major trade magazines, newspapers and websites. Cut to the outside, where the doors burst open and hundreds of quote-filled balloons spill out of the car, joining others that float together to comprise a heart-shaped cloud, as the voiceover concludes, “It’s the best Civic yet.”
Similarly, “Civic Love” showers the love on the outside of the Civic, as the text balloons pop up and animatedly form into a heart above the car.
“By featuring real quotes from real reviewers and consumers, the heart of this campaign is firmly rooted in humanity and personality,” says Rick Gledhill, K&C Director and Partner. “Our goal was to ensure that this spirit resonated throughout the entirety of both spots, from the typography design to the location choice to the shooting style.”
Early on in the discussion, a decision was made to use an art gallery space as the backdrop, which also serves a genuine purpose: turning the Civic and the quotes into an art installation. The aim was to harness the established spirited, friendly nature of Honda marketing and elevate it by drawing inspiration from the look and feel of contemporary gallery exhibits.
With its history of shooting cars for post, King and Country’s director and supporting post team were capable of turning the spots around quickly and efficiently. Using the previs animation created for both spots during the pitch stage allowed K&C to move promptly into production, which was crucial with an incredibly tight turnaround of two weeks to prep and shoot, and 2 1/2 weeks for postproduction.
“We wanted our spots to have a quirky, natural beauty, and not look like slick, stylized motion graphics,” explains Gledhill. “We shot everything on location in a sparse brick warehouse, and constructed a gallery set inside that, which we could reconfigure in many ways for each shot. The key to our speed on the shoot day was having movable gallery walls. Every set piece, including the 40-foot walls, was constructed on wheels and could be glided around to the perfect position.”
“The car was static, so we let the camera do the work,” continues Gledhill, who shot 5K on the RED EPIC. “We shot off a dolly and tracks, riding around the Civic. This specific approach to movement and framing makes it seem as though we’re seeing the point-of-view of someone looking at the car, lending a personal and human feel to the camera, and adding a sense of discovery.”
In post, K&C tracked every shot in 3D, then match-moved a CG car in the same position, so reflections of the typography were created in the sheet metal and glass. This also allowed the team to create photo-real shadows over the Civic and on the floor.
“We advocated that the spots be cut-driven for both aesthetic and practical reasons,” says Gledhill. “This firstly allowed us to compress the passage of time. We wanted to fill the space with reviews in 30 seconds and draw them into a cloud at a natural organic speed. Secondly, we wanted to spend time on all the new features of the Civic. Most importantly, multiple shots enabled us to be more efficient in a fast-turnaround post period; we had multiple teams working on shots simultaneously and reacted faster to client changes.”
On set, a number of steps were taken to ensure the necessary elements were aligned to insert hundreds of CG mylar balloons into the live-action shots. High contrast markers were strategically placed throughout the set for quality 3D tracking.
“After the last take of each shot, real mylar balloons were flown through the shot for lighting and texture reference,” remarks Andrew Cook, K&C VFX Supervisor. “Using a 180-degree fish eye lens, HDRs were captured of every shot's setup for both the external and interior lighting of the car.”
“A digital version of the set was created to verify the 3D tracks and help in the placement and animation of the balloons, as well as the lighting and shadowing of the balloons flying through doorways, around corners and out of the car,” continues Cook. “The base mylar balloons were modeled in Maya with special attention paid to the characteristic skirt and bunching of the material at the seams. The models were then sent to Zbrush to create displacement maps for added wrinkle details.”
Extensive research and development also went into finding just the right balance of reflectiveness and readability for the type on the balloons. For the shots where hundreds of balloons collide and collect into a large heart formation, K&C used Maya’s built-in dynamics system. Dynamics were also used to simulate the balloons pouring out of the car in the “Interior Love” spot. The markers used for tracking, cracks and other imperfections in the walls and floor, along with undesired reflections in the car, were painted out in Nuke.
“Though this was originally intended to be a traditional typographic spot, I think we successfully translated it into one with sleight-of-hand VFX, where typography lives in an organic and natural way on the screen, and never felt forced in its execution,” says Gledhill.
“Our full-service capabilities in directing live-action, editorial, animation, CG and VFX all under one roof enabled K&C to take this project on, given the tight schedule and difficult technical and creative needs of the job,” concludes Jerry Torgerson, K&C Executive Producer and Partner. “Our workflow was highly choreographed across all of our departments. From pitch phase to finish, having a full team sitting next to each other in the same building everyday helped us prepare for every aspect of the project, from live-action footage needs and production design to 3D previs, editorial and VFX. We are always very confident going into a shoot because we do our homework and plan well in advance. In this case, we shot while 3D balloons were being built back at the studio based on the approved previs, so our efforts were very streamlined.”
Source: King and Country