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A52 Remixes Francois Vogel's Lexus "Any Road" Spot to Add Artistic Snow Effects

Back in November, in announcing the launch of its new campaign promoting the launch of the 2006 Lexus IS sport sedan, Los Angeles-based advertising agency Team Ones executive producer Jack Epsteen said that his teams goal was to make each campaign element unique. 

The agency hired award-winning director François Vogel of Paranoid Projects: Tool to direct a set of visually distinctive spots which debuted over the past months.  For the newest spot, the team took Chrome editor Hal Honigsbergs finished edit of Vogels ?Any Road showing the new IS in dramatic running footage filmed in normal weather conditions and asked award-winning visual effects company A52 to ?winterize the spot, from beginning to end.

?We have a long history of relying on A52 for complex visual feats, Epsteen began, ?and in this case, we felt that tapping into the companys artistic expertise to add snow effects to this spot would be an interesting way to back-up the ?Why live in one dimension tagline.  They met the challenge in their typical exemplary style.

A52s team, led by visual effects supervisor Pat Murphy, CGI supervisor Andrew Hall and producer Scott Boyajan, faced several important challenges in fulfilling the agencys request.  First, many of the scenes in Honigsbergs original edit used playback effects where the scenes were sped-up to 3X.  So, A52s team had to make their effects work in real-time for almost 80 seconds of footage that, when sped-up and cut back in, played back in about 26 seconds.  Secondly, as Pat Murphy explained, ?In the original version, you have this beautifully color-corrected car from the transfer that's on a dark black road, and it looks fantastic.  When we put the car into a white environment, where it needed to have white reflected into it, we really had to work hard to put the car in that environment but still make it look good.

To address these and other important challenges, heres how the job was handled, from start to finish.

All of A52s work was performed in HD resolution, and that includes a digital matte painting created in Photoshop by artist Helen Maier, who used real photography to build a one-frame digital matte painting to be used as the spots new background environment.  ?Our goal was to make it feel as if the snow was a couple of days old, that the sun had been shining and the snow had compacted, Murphy explained. ?Some of the trees might not have snow on them because of the leaves being lighter, wind blowing it off or the sun having melted it down.  Maiers multilayered matte included trees, ditches and birms, as well as a new road plate with snow and car tracks on it.

Meanwhile, Flame artist Ben Looram matted out everything except the driving Lexus from the footage used in the original edit.  The CGI team then used a scan of the Lexus and created an animated sequence in Maya duplicating the precise movements of the car from the original edit, allowing them to reproduce the camera tracking data they lacked, due to not being involved in Vogels original, Prague-based live-action production.  That CGI ?template helped the CGI team track Maiers new road plate, to ensure it matched the vehicles movement from the original edit.  That gave Murphy a new, snow-covered road plate that moved in perfect sync with the Lexus.

Having determined what tires were on the vehicle in the live-action footage, Halls team built four new tires for the car, tracked those wheels to the car, built a layer of CGI snow to fill the treads, and passed that layer along to Murphy.  The CGI team was also responsible for creating the snow that flies from the passing car. ?Because the agency wanted to get a sense of this car cutting through these environments, Hall said, ?we had some artistic say in how the snow was generated and the way it kicked off.  For that reason, it was probably a bit more dramatic than it would have been if it had been shot that way in reality.  A52s CGI team uses Mental Ray for rendering.

With the new environment tracked, the wheels of the car interacting with the snow and snow particles coming off the wheels, Murphy used Inferno to improve the way the vehicle and the snow spray stood-out from the background.   How?  ?By tweaking the grade, color- correcting and exploring until we found the right look, he summarized.  ?We also made the snow spray coming off the tires a little bit lighter in color than the snow on the ground.

Perfectionists to the end, Murphy described a few other touches his team added to the finished spot.  ?The spot looks in many ways like a pure mirror effect, but we wanted it to feel like the shots with and without snow were not exact duplicates, he said.  ?So, we did little things like change the sky slightly and turn the cars logos around so they always read properly.

Along with Jack Epsteen, the agencys campaign team also includes executive creative director Chris Graves, group creative director/copywriter Jon Pearce and group creative director/art director James Dalthorp.  The team for Paranoid Projects: Tool included executive producers Phillip Detchmendy and Claude Letessier, head of production Amy DeLossa and line producer Kati Haberstock. Alex Lamarque served as director of photography.  Company 3 Santa Monicas colorist for the project was Stefan Sonnenfeld.  In addition to Hal Honigsberg, Chromes project credits include executive producer Deanne Mehling, producer Cristina Matracia and assistant editor Tommy Harden.  Honigsberg shared sound design credits with Bob Gremore, who mixed the spot at Juice in Santa Monica.

A52s team also included executive producer Mark Tobin and CGI artists Dan Gutierrez, Christopher Janney, Branden Perlow and Max Ulichney.

About A52
Established in 1997 as a home for the very latest high-end photo-real visual effects technologies and the industrys most innovative and talented graphic design artists, West Hollywood visual effects and design company A52 creates award-winning imagery for the worlds most visually ambitious commercial and television projects.  The companys work has been earned AICP Show recognition for six consecutive years along with recent ?Outstanding Commercial Emmy, Andy, BDA, Belding, Clio, British Design and Art Direction, International Monitor, International Automotive Advertising, London International Advertising, One Show and PROMAX awards.  For more information, please call Mark Tobin at 310.385.0851 or visit

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Related Keywords:François Vogel , Paranoid Projects, A52


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