Venice, Calif.-based visual effects studio Brewster Parsons recently contributed to a sensational Acura ad from advertising agency rp& and Paranoid U.S. director Thierry Poiraud. The Acura RDX “Re-Re-Routed” spot – a promotional tie-in with the box-office hit The Avengers from director Joss Whedon – recently debuted across the U.S.
The action begins with an Acura RDX driving into a disastrous city scene littered with flaming wreckage. Inside the vehicle, the on-board navigation system instructs the driver to “turn left at flying car.” The next instruction tells the driver to “turn right at explosion,” and then, “stay left at lightning bolt,” feats he performs as his female passenger gasps in horror and vehicles explode around them. At last, when the vehicle approaches one of the film’s giant leviathans, the navigator instructs “U-turn. U-turn,” and the driver maneuvers on through the city.
“Introducing the entirely new RDX from Acura,” says the voiceover. “The official vehicle of Marvel‘s The Avengers.”
“We were fortunate to work with some exceptional people throughout this project – and the team from Brewster Parsons was a big component right from the get-go,” said Paranoid U.S. executive producer Jamie Miller. “With the aid of a truly astounding previs, they were able to quickly offer us a shoot solution that allowed maximum flexibility on location. We were then able to move into production fully confident that our footage would blend with key plates from the actual film.”
According to Brewster Parsons VFX supervisor Andrew Eksner, he and his colleagues were immediately on board with the plan to shoot the Acura RDX on location and work within a practical, non-CG workflow. “This approach was strongly preferred by the agency and their clients, and we agree that it offers a lot of benefits,” he said. “Of course, everything has to be planned very well, but when it is, everyone gets to see the results they’re seeking right on the set. Plus we all had a chance to do an exciting shoot in downtown LA.”
One significant project component that did employ CG was the spot’s previs, which was created by HALON Entertainment. To bring that previs to life, Eksner and his colleagues including VFX artists Simon Brewster and Simon Scott worked with two kinds of shots. The first were actual plates from The Avengers, and the second were original shots directed by Poiraud and lensed by director of photography Tim Hudson during their two-day shoot in downtown LA.
The plates from the movie were carefully selected by Poiraud to fit his storytelling needs for the commercial. “A big problem in reviewing the footage provided was finding scenes that had room to put a car in there,” Eksner said, giving Poiraud full credit for selecting great shots. “Our most challenging shot from the movie is the wider overhead shot where the car is driving into fire. In the original scene, the whole left area was wreckage and debris, which I cleaned up in Flame. We also used some of the movie’s plates that were shot on greenscreen, like the element of the vehicle falling from the sky.”
For those scenes, the VFX artists performed clean-up and composited in their new footage of the Acura RDX along with other blending elements like debris, matching the perspective and lens from the movie’s cinematography.
For their original scenes, shot on a set designed to match the movie, the filmmakers added wreckage and debris on the street and shot the Acura driving through those obstacles with some pyrotechnics. Finishing touches included adding more photographic fire elements, as well as final color passes to ensure everything matched the movie’s vibrancy.
Between Poiraud’s live-action shoot on Feb. 11-12 and the debut of “Re-Re-Routed,” the work between Poiraud, Arcade Edit editor Stewart Reeves and Brewster Parsons’ artists occurred around-the-clock. “Basically, the reason it came together so well was planning,” said Eksner. “I’m very glad we got on this early and were able to handle the project the way we did. The practical process is much better for many reasons, and to me, it’s much more like a true creative collaboration.”
Agency credits for rp& include executive VP, executive creative director John Hage, VP, head of art Phillip Squier, senior copywriter Jimbo Embry, senior art director Josh Gilman, VP, executive producer Jack Epsteen and senior producer Erin Finch. Along with Thierry Poiraud, Tim Hudson and Jamie Miller, the team from Paranoid U.S. also included executive producer Claude Letessier, producer Lisa Cowan, production designer Jennifer Williams and art director Gabriel Abraham. Georgina Poushkine produced for Brewster Parsons, where Darcy Parsons is executive producer.