Santa Monica-based VFX studio ArsenalFX recently produced visual effects for two new national Lexus spots, via agency Team One. The spots, “Shift” and “Say Nothing”, first aired in November. Both spots will initially run during in-game sports presentations.
“Shift” depicts the dashboard inside a silver Lexus GS performance sedan, as the driver pushes the start engine button, and accelerates down a dark road at night illuminated by brilliant white lights blurring past. As the driver shifts gears, the voice-over announcer says, “That is the moment when driving the Lexus GS will shift your perception. This is the pursuit of perfection.”
In the “Say Nothing” spot, a white Lexus IS sport sedan speeds around the curves of a racetrack under a cloudy sky, snow capped mountains in the background, as the VO says, “We could say a lot about the most track tested IS ever. About its stiffer suspension, precise steering, and more rigid chassis. But the truth is, we don’t have to. The experts have spoken — now it’s your move.”
For the “Shift” spot ArsenalFX was called on to digitally remove vehicle front and rear sensors and dirt, as well as some light spec removal on the vehicle itself. The entire conform of the spot consisted of variable speed alterations and motion estimation warps. Light effects were added to simulate the outer lights on interior shots. Road vibrations and vehicle movement were also simulated on all exterior road shots.
In addition, interior speed and RPM gauges were also reconstructed and redesigned for proper speed manipulation. Roto-scoping and tracking was also utilized in various shots. To tie the full spot together, each shot had to be repo’d and resized for optimum viewing. A 2:35 letterbox was added for the final touch.
“Say Nothing” required ArsenalFX to clean up a good deal of ground seen on the race track, as the road whips past the speeding car. This work spanned crane shots, curving roads and camera zooms. Conventional 2D tracking techniques would not have been able to provide this outcome without extensive hand tracking and an odd-looking perspective.
In order to accomplish this road cleanup, 3D tracking software (Boujou) was used to create a 3D camera that would match the live action camera which was used to shoot the original footage. These sequences were then brought into a 3D program (Maya) where the ground was modeled as geometry. Simply using a flat plane was not enough it was also necessary to match the curvature of the ground. This was all exported as an FBX and imported into Flame.
Once inside Flame, the team painted numerous clean still frames of the race track. These were then projected onto the ground geometry and tracked in via the 3D camera. Ultimately, the technique resulted in a faster process and better image quality.