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Big Block Goes Viral for BMW, Nissan and Audi


BMW “Bullet”
Santa Monica-based digital production and design studio Big Block recently produced online “viral” ad campaigns for BMW, Nissan and Audi.

BMW’s two-minute film “Bullet” blends of lush photography and music. Its production values provoked much debate among more than 3,400,000 online viewers as to the nature of the film – virtual or live action? Big Block’s Mark Glaser directed the branded content piece for Toronto ad agency Cundari.

Shooting from a concrete tunnel designed to look like a gun barrel, the BMW M5 is a speeding bullet as it races across Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway. In extreme slow motion, the car shatters a series of targets, including a giant red glass apple, three enormous balloons filled with water and an oversized bulls-eye. With each impact the roar of the 560-hp twin turbo engine is replaced with the notes of Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 5,” underscoring the car’s luxury.

Glaser spent three days at the Utah location, using a Nikon D800 to photograph the salt flats from a helicopter, a truck and from within a BMW M5 test car. The hi-res photographs were then stitched together by Big Block’s visual effects artists and wrapped around geometry to digitally replicate the salt flats and surrounding mountains in a completely photoreal 3D environment.

The company employed its proprietary Drive-A-Tron driving simulation software to create the star of the show – an entirely CG version of the BMW, down to the salt-encrusted tires and undercarriage and the reflections on its surfaces. Drive-A-Tron was used to race the virtual M5 across the terrain and interact with the targets. Big Block also generated the digital elements and fluid dynamics for smoke, water and the shattering of the CG props.

“We are thrilled with the result and very encouraged by how quickly our customers and fans are sharing the video,” said Marc Belcourt, brand communications manager for BMW Canada.

Big Block was also recently called on to create a live 3D watershow for the market launch of the 2013 Nissan Altima for TBWA, Toronto. “Splash” is a virtual cat-and-mouse game between a lighthouse and the Altima, which appears to play out on ocean waves in the dark of night. The spot was projected on massive, 60 X 120 foot 3D water screens at lake and river locations in Toronto, Halifax, Ottawa and Vancouver on July 1 for huge crowds at the nation’s Canada Day fireworks celebrations.

In the production of the larger-than-life hologram, Big Block was charged with creating animation that was both playful and dramatic to show off the Altima’s energy and safety shield features. In order to enhance the live-action feel and immediacy of the performance, the images could not “break frame” and had to be carefully scaled to the distance of the audience and the projector. Big Block producer Pete King noted that one of the most challenging aspects of production was that a true water screen test was only possible when the project was nearly complete, leaving no margin for error. The test, which was conducted in Pittsburgh under King’s supervision, was hugely successful.

Big Block also designed “Heart,” a logo for Audi’s top tier RS line using actual components of its V-8 engine as graphic elements which were deconstructed and reconfigured by the studio’s creative director Shaun Collings to resemble a human heart. In a nod to the RS line’s allure and 450 hp performance, as well as its positioning as the life force of the Audi line, the animated version of the logo features a syncopated heartbeat. The new logo was revealed by Audi at The Goodwood Festival of Speed in England and will be used by agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, London, for branding, merchandising, print and interactive.

“These diverse projects gave us the opportunity to use all the tools of creative storytelling – real world imagery, digital techniques and most importantly, imagination. To have our work capture the attention of so many is very satisfying,” said Kenny Solomon, managing director at Big Block.

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