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HomeCraftsAnimationBig Block and DDB Canada Challenge the 2015 Suburu WRX STI

Big Block and DDB Canada Challenge the 2015 Suburu WRX STI


LR-big_block_subaru_shoot_hughes_aircraft_2Bi-coastal digital production and design studio Big Block produced the live action shoot, virtual obstacle course and animated drone fleet for the television, cinema and online commercial “WRX STI vs. the Drones.” To showcase the 2015 Subaru WRX STI’s improved steering and handling, DDB Canada’s Toronto office developed the concept of a futuristic autocross course made of CG drone quadcopters to challenge the WRX STI with real-time precision driving.

In the spot three hundred shape-shifting drones put the WRX STI to the test, altering the course in a dynamic, real-time display of synchronized morphology.

According to Rob Sturch, associate creative director, DDB, there was no existing course available, “so we created our own.”

LR-big_block_subaru_shoot_hughes_aircraft_hangar_1The commercial was shot by Big Block and DDB on a closed circuit in the historic Hughes Aircraft Spruce Goose hangar in Los Angeles. The shoot involved capturing live footage, including a real driver, and an array of reference material that Big Block’s animators and visual effects artists would later use for simulations, lighting, reflections and environment.

Among the challenges faced by Big Block director Mark Glaser was creating a virtual course within the hangar location, a solution that required massive data asset acquisition and management. Glaser and Big Block’s team of visual effects artists, supervised by Randall Smith, spent all night capturing high-resolution photos and LIDAR scans of the space from key locations. All photos were shot as HDRI with seven exposure stops of lighting data. Each station created a 32-bit 32K HDRI and all eight stations ultimately produced 15 gigs of raw HDRI data, which was projected onto the hanger model and painted to correct any overlapping projections.

The WRX STI’s stunt driving was created within Big Block’s Drive-A-Tron TM driving simulator, a physics-based driving technology using manufacturer’s CAD data to perfectly model cars both geometrically and dynamically. The software allows these physically accurate animations to be configured into the studio’s Autodesk 3ds Max lighting and rendering pipeline. Once the Subaru simulations were loaded into Max, the scenes were lit and rendered using V-Ray and environments were projected and painted using Mari. High-resolution stills were projected onto the converted LIDAR scans of the hanger giving a fully 3D reconstruction of the space with lighting baked into the textures. All CG elements and rendered layers were composited in Nuke. The final conform was done in Flame and the grade was done in Da Vinci.

A detailed animation rig handled the stabilization and control of the drone movement and allowed Big Block’s animators to focus on the shapes and actions of the flying drone squadron. Once the drones were placed and animated, the animators factored in the forces that the car’s drift would apply to the drones as it blazed past them.

The only live action shots that appear in the spot are of the driver and the interior of the Subaru as it is being driven.

“We didn’t want to take creative license on the way the car performs,” said Sturch. “By replicating the real-world capabilities of the WRX STI in Drive-A-Tron, we see it conquer this course as it would in real life, reacting instantaneously and performing dynamically, regardless of what’s put in its way.”

Glaser added, “The most exciting aspect of this project was the way in which we captured a photoreal dataset of this rare, historical location using lasers and image sensors. This allowed me to shoot from anywhere inside the space virtually with minimal rendering cost.”

“WRX STI vs. the Drones” launched on television, online and in cinemas on April 7. A branded experience with Xbox LIVE is slated at the end of April. Users can watch the campaign and take a closer look at the redesigned 2015 WRX STI with 360-degree rotation views of the vehicle and race through a drone-driving-course game.

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