Arsenal FX recently worked with ad agency Team One to produce dramatic, weather-driven visual effects for a new 30-second Lexus spot entitled “The Point of All-Weather Drive.”
In the spot, a series of luxury Lexus GS, LS and IS sedans drive through city streets at night during winter. The drivers negotiate ice, snow and slush, as the cars stream effortlessly through intense weather obstacles.
“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,” explained Arsenal FX partner Terry Silberman. “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 and roto-scoping necessary elements like the car and various background objects. The Arsenal FX team then began the process of creating dynamic fluid simulations in 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 compositing, Silberman and team used depth passes from 3D to create atmosphere and a background haze. They used the roto-scoped 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 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,” said Silberman.
Silberman and his team developed a look 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 developed the post pipeline design for “The Point of All-Weather Drive” project so Arsenal FX would provide quick look development for their client’s vision. This allowed the team to get a lot of concepts in front of their client early so they could decide on 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,” said Motal. “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.”