Oscar-winning creative studio builds full-throttle VFX for The LEGO Agency’s latest commercial, where a high-speed race brings imagination to life.
The LEGO Agency, director David Mellor and production company HighlyUnlikely partnered with Framestore, the Oscar-winning creative studio, to provide a host of full-throttle VFX for its latest commercial Drive What You Love. Framestore delivered a range of environments, cars and effects for the playful thrill ride of an advert, which sees a LEGO builder’s imagination come to life for a high-speed race through their house.
The CG-heavy project saw the Framestore team deliver a wide range of work: previs, realizing the design of one of the commercial’s cars, and supervising the live-action shoot before delivering any of the post-production work. The VFX work included entirely CG environments, cars, and digi-doubles of drivers as well as high-end animation and effects. The lighting and reflections effects work that can be seen throughout every shot of the advert - as well as a huge flour explosion - are perhaps the most subtle yet effective VFX elements on the project.
“A huge amount of work has gone into this advert and I think it really shows,” explained Charlie Bayliss, VFX supervisor. “Like the subject we were working with, we built the different elements brick by brick in order to execute all the different parts of this commercial.”
The director insisted on selecting a location early in the project to plan proactively for the VFX. This allowed the team to scan and use the actual house environment that would later be shot throughout the previs process. Approaching the project in such a considered way helped the client “see” the film before it was shot. Working closely with DOP Jordan Buck allowed early planning of the work and meant informed decisions could be made as to what would be captured on location.
This saw the team, working with Vincent Aupetit, previs the entire commercial to plan out shots and their integration with VFX. This way of working meant the whole team could go into the commercial’s live-action shoot on the same page and make the most of the time on set. It also allowed the team to get all the references needed for CG environment rebuilds used to add accurate reflections onto the cars and integrate them seamlessly within the macro world.
The commercial takes place in a house which once prevised, was shot as a live-action environment. As well as supervising the shoot from a VFX perspective, Framestore also took data scans and photogrammetry passes of the location so it could replicate the environments in a macro scale for the CG. This was especially important where it was physically impossible for the real-world camera to make the moves needed to get the right perspective and achieve Mellor’s fast and furious vision.
As well as compositing live-action shots of the McLaren and Ferrari F8 into the live-action or CG environments, Framestore’s team also meticulously rebuilt the cars in CG along with the other cars and all their LEGO counterparts. These assets were used in shots which required the cars to tear around underneath dining room chairs or across counter tops. “The cars - and their drivers - shift multiple times between live-action and CG digi-doubles and it’s a real testament to our team’s work that it’s almost impossible to spot the difference between them,” Bayliss commented.
On top of this the team also embraced the film’s subject, channeling their inner master builder to realize the design of and build in CG both a “real-life” and LEGO version of the City GT car that’s one of the stars of the commercial. The initial design was penned by Mellor, and then through meticulously noted references and a collaborative concept process, it bursts into life in the commercial as it revs its engine and comes speeding out of the bread bin, creating a massive dust-cloud of flour on the kitchen counter.
The spot’s flour effect took a lot of research to find the right look for the particles and powder and how they’d be seen as part of the commercial’s macro world. The correct look ended up being found in footage from the 2019 Dakar Rally, where drivers raced across the red mud flats of Peru’s Arequipa region. The team took references and recreated the look with white powder, producing the photoreal explosion of flour.
LEGO versions of all the other cars were also created for Easter egg moments throughout the ad and for the final sequence, where imagination and reality collide. For that final shot, in which all the cars race in a jostling formation underneath kitchen stools, the team created everything in CG due to the impossibility of filming a location at such scale. The CG cars morph and warp into their LEGO counterparts which are assembled in a final packshot. This sequence is a perfect example of how all the commercial’s VFX elements come together to show the nuances and commitment made by the team to produce something really special.
“It’s been quite the experience watching everyone work on this project, whether it’s the incredible level of detail added to the digital environments, the meticulous car animation or the specialty rendering tools that were created to make delivery run as smoothly as possible,” said Helen Hughes, head of advertising at Framestore. “Throughout the project, they’ve really pushed the boundaries of how a commercial is typically produced and delivered an incredibly accomplished final product.”
“Planning was key to this technical project,” commented Mellor. “From experience I knew that ensuring we consider all the aspects through to finish would in turn build the smoothest and best result for the film. It was extremely collaborative with the team at Framestore. Getting all the details in order ultimately allowed us to focus on the fun and action, letting us all bring out our inner ‘Hoonigan’!”
Client: The LEGO Agency
Director: David Mellor
Production Company: HighlyUnlikely
Producer: Alexander Davis
Agency Producer: Mette Søgaard Lorenzen
LEGO Creative: Lucas Reynoso Vizcaino & Martin Coppola
Editor: Laura Cairney-Keize
VFX and Color: Framestore
VFX Supervisor: Charles Bayliss
CG Supervisor: Mathias Cadyck
2D Supervisor: George Palcut
Creative Director: Ben Cronin
Flame: Paul O’Brien
Animators: Steve Townrow, Joseph Kane
CG Artists: David Cattermole, Alicia Saleh
Lighting and FX artists: Finella Fan, Luca Veronese, Andres Gomez Tollar
2D Artists: Christian Baker, Julia Caram, Reece McFarlane
Asset Lead: Aaron Hunwick
Asset Artists: Joel Savage, Michael John, Tim Gregson, Marnie Pitts, Andrew Butler, Leo Schreiber, Ewa Zych, Bruno Reis Coimbra, Paola Santoro, Alice Roseberry-Haynes
Concept Artist: Daniel Demirdjian
VFX Editors: Nick Feldman, Richard Gao, Jack Hubbard
Colourist: Steffan Perry
Producer: Alexia Paterson
Production Coordinator: Viveka Prabakaran
Production Assistants: Benjamin Michell, Chloe Dunn