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Arsenal FX Provides Wintry VFX for Lexus

Arsenal FX produces dramatic, weather-driven visual effects for a new 30-second spot for Lexus, “The Point of All-Weather Drive.”

Santa Monica, CA -- Arsenal FX produced dramatic, weather-driven visual effects and provided finishing for a new 30-second spot for Lexus, “The Point of All-Weather Drive.” The ad, from agency Team One, broke nationally October 1st.

In the commercial, a series of luxury Lexus GS, LS and IS sedans are driven through city streets on a cold, snowy winter night. Drivers negotiate falling snow, icy streets, snow banks and slush as the cars glide effortlessly through various intense weather obstacles. A voice-over asks: “What’s the point of having all that power if you can’t conquer this? All that craftsmanship, if you can’t master this? And all that technology, if you can’t defeat this?”

“The VFX concept for this spot was to take the live action plates of the various Lexus models driving through a winter city environment, and make these scenes look even colder and icier,” says Arsenal FX partner Terry Silberman in describing the work. “After some research, we decided that the best visual approach would be to create a lot of atmosphere in each shot, by combining a multitude of elements. These included ground fog, background haze, wispy ground particles, snow flurries, volumetric headlight beams and water mist.” 

After Silberman and his team received the locked edit from the agency, they began tracking each shot in the edit, and then rotoscoping necessary elements like the car and various background objects. The Arsenal FX team then began the process of creating dynamic fluid simulations in Autodesk Maya to create ground fog that could then be animated to envelope the car in the shots. They also developed a “wispy” ground particles simulation that was activated by the car passing. The simulation needed to swirl dynamically through the fog.

In composite, Silberman and team used depth passes from 3D to create atmosphere and a background haze. They used the rotoscoped elements to create a more realistic falloff of the objects farther from camera. Several layers of snow flurries were added to help add a sense of speed. The team additionally created realistic volumetric headlight beams that, in composite, would interact with the other atmospheric elements. Finally, the team built a high frequency mist particle system for the headlights to illuminate. “This really sold the authenticity of the CG headlights and snow elements,” Silberman adds.

Silberman and team developed a look in composite that could be used across each shot -- one that would make the whole spot feel cohesive and believable. This included the integration of all the CG elements, as well as color corrections on the car. They also added light blooms and flares that would be present in a real world icy atmospheric environment.

Lead Flame artist Matt Motal assembled the team of Arsenal FX’s 2D/3D artists and matte painters to work in unison, and developed a post pipeline designed to provide quick look development to help achieve the client’s vision. This custom pipeline, which employed Maya, Nuke and Flame, allowed the team to get a lot of concepts in front of the client early in the process in order to establish a visual style.

“Once our client’s vision was realized, we provided a workflow that specified where our artists were needed and then streamlined the process,” Motal described. “Our artists started with animation tests which were modeled after we received our client’s approved concept art. Our 2D/3D artists refined their techniques on a select few shots, which allowed us to get new versions to our client quickly. Once a few shots were approved, our artists simply had to apply the same techniques to all shots, thus minimizing revision time.”

Source: Arsenal FX 

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network, Jennifer Wolfe has worked in the Media & Entertainment industry as a writer and PR professional since 2003.