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R!OT Santa Monica, Pop Sound Bring McQueen Back to LifeMcQueen "Drives" 2005 Ford Mustang (November 12, 2004)
R!OT Santa Monica and POP Sound helped put Steve McQueen back behind the wheel of a Mustang in a new spot for Ford and Detroit agency J. Walter Thompson. R!OT supplied the visual effects magic necessary to place the late actor’s likeness, drawn from the 1968 action film Bullitt, into a modern day, Field of Dreams-styled scenario involving the 2005 version of the classic Ford car. POP Sound handled final audio post work, preparing a 5.1 mix for the spot’s theatrical release as well as a stereo mix for the several TV versions of the spot.
In the spot, a farmer carves a winding race track out of a corn field and then watches in amazement as McQueen emerges out of the rows of stalks. McQueen calmly accepts the keys to the farmer’s 2005 Ford Mustang and takes it for a spin.
Marrying McQueen, who famously drove a Mustang in Bullitt, to the new car was a natural choice. “Our theme for Mustang is ‘The Legend Lives,’” explained J. Walter Thompson Copywriter Curt Catallo, “and when we began to think about who best represented that legend, Steve McQueen rose to the forefront.”
The spot was directed by Paul Street of Believe Media who shot it on a 75-acre farm near Chilliwack, British Columbia. The production crew built the actual racetrack seen in the spot, modeling it after the Willows Spring International Raceway in Santa Clarita, California. A body double was used for scenes depicting McQueen from the back, while frontal views and close-ups of the actor’s face were lifted from Bullitt and placed into the modern scenes by the visual effects team at R!OT.
R!OT’s team was headed by Visual Effects Artist Verdi Sevenhuysen who became involved in the project during pre-production. Working with Street and FilmCore Editor Nicholas Wayman-Harris, he helped to put together a test version of the spot using clips from Bullitt and digital video footage shot by Street with stand-ins.
“The test spot became the template for the actual production,” Sevenhuysen explained. “It enabled us to determine which scenes from the movie could work as composites and gave us a sense of continuity as far as motion and lighting were concerned.”
“Having Verdi on set for the full seven day shoot was very comforting,” said J. Walter Thompson Art Director Carl Warner. “Whenever an issue came up related to the effects work, he was there to provide an immediate answer.”
A key consideration for the shoot at the farm location was to match the look of the scenes from Bullitt as closely as possible to aid post production integration. “Paul used the same lenses that Bill Fraker used on the film and tried to match the stock as well,” Sevenhuysen said. “I had a long chat with Paul and his DP, Garry Waller, and we decided to pre-flash the film to get a similar look.”
R!OT colorists Clark Muller and Adolfo Martinelli transferred Street’s location footage to HD 10-bit video as the initial color reference and optimimized flat passes. “Warner Bros. didn’t want to release all the original Bullitt rolls to us so we did the HD transfer from an IP to D5,” recalled Sevenhuysen. “The footage was transfered as optimized flat passes, rather than going to final color to maintain maximum latitude to work with in the compositing stage. We transferred all of the negative at full frame—4 x3 aspect ratio—so that we retained parts of the imagery that had been cropped for the Bullitt feature. We could see light rigging at the top of frame which gave us more of a clue about how they lit the scene.”
The final color regrade of the composited picture was completed by Sevenhuysen using Lustre, a new tool from Discreet that allowed him to apply all of the mattes generated in the Inferno for separate color grades on the car, sky, road, cornfield, talent and other details.
Lighting remained a key concern throughout the compositing phase. Despite the time and effort that was spent in pre-production to determine the best time and place to shoot each scene, the variable weather at the location resulted in inconsistencies between the new and old footage that then had to be addressed in post.
“The close-up shots were the least forgiving as we spend a long time on them, and there is little movement,” said Sevenhuysen. “The moment when McQueen walks toward the camera was the most difficult shot to integrate due to lighting and background continuity.”
The scenes with McQueen driving the car were originally intended to be executed with the double at the wheel, however, after post work had already begun, it occurred to Sevenhuysen and Wayman-Harris that it could be much more exciting and rewarding to use McQueen as the hero driver. “I checked the dailies to see what I could do to get Steve in the car instead,” Sevenhuysen said. “I found some elements that I thought could work and did a rough comp to show the agency. We all agreed that it worked better.”
All of the post work at R!OT was completed in HD. The studio ultimately prepared an HD D5 master of the finished spot that was then used to produce all of the required deliverables, including NTSC versions for television broadcast and a 60-second theatrical version.
POP Engineer Mitch Dorf performed final audio post work, mixing the original music track, created by Elias Arts, sound design elements prepared by Wayman-Harris and the voice-over that appears briefly at the beginning and the end of the spot. “Initially, the intent was to have sound design throughout the spot, but it turned out that the opening segment, with the farmer building the racetrack, played better with music alone,” Dorf noted. “It also gave us a way to separate the opening segment, which represents a long period of time, from the back half of the spot, after McQueen appears, which occurs essentially in real-time.”
Holding back on the sound design also lent greater impact to the sound effects when they do appear. “The first sound effect you hear is the shuffling of the farmer’s feet approaching the barn, which suggests that something momentous is about to occur,” Dorf said. “Then you get the impact of the barn door opening and car engine which comes like an explanation point.”
The sounds of the car become the focal point during the second half of the spot. “We play off the POV of each scene, which adds to the dynamic of the spot,” observed Dorf. “The sound follows the edit, so that when the cut goes from an overhead shot of the car to a close up of a wheel, the sound effects hit with a bang—all of a sudden you’re right there on top of it. The edit and the sound design work together, building toward the finale when Steve roars off down the straightaway.”
Dorf’s work on the mix was the final ingredient toward pulling off the illusion. “Mitch’s mix was as seamless as the visual effects,” said J. Walter Thompson’s Catallo. “It added a level of continuity to the story that we needed.”
Dorf, along with POP Sound Assistant Sean Wiedeman, mixed the spot’s in POP Sound’s Studio M, which is set up for both 5.1 theatrical and television mixes. An AMS Neve Logic MMC Series fully-automated, 96k capable, digital mixing console, an AMS Neve Audiofile SC digital audio workstation and a Protools HD digital audio workstation were among the tools Dorf used to complete the mix. For the 5.1 version, he employed the room’s Quested Q200C theatrical surround sound monitoring system and large-screen video projector.
R!OT Santa Monica is located at 702/730 Arizona Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90401. For more information, call Bill Frazee or Michael Taylor at (310) 434-6000 or visit www.rioting.com.
POP Sound is an all digital mixing and re-recording facility located seven blocks from the ocean in Santa Monica. Its ten digital mixing studios and ADR-Foley stage are built in a classic 1937 Mediterranean hacienda within walking distance of first-class hotels, restaurants and shops. For more information, contact Claudia Skimina at (310) 458-9192 or visit www.popsound.com.
About Ascent Media Group
Santa Monica, California-based Ascent Media Group, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Media Corporation (NYSE: L, LMC.B), provides creative and technical services to the media and entertainment industries through its Creative Services, Creative Sound Services, Media Management Services and Networks Services groups. At more than 70 facilities in the regions of Southern California, New York, London, Atlanta and Singapore and at locations throughout the world, Ascent Media Group provides effective solutions for the creation, management and distribution of content to major motion picture studios, independent producers, broadcast networks, cable channels, advertising agencies and other companies that produce, own and/or distribute entertainment, news, sports, corporate, educational, industrial and advertising content.
Length: :90, :60, :30, :15s
Client: Ford Mustang
Agency: J. Walter Thompson Detroit Tom Cordner, executive creative director; Carl Warner, creative director/art director; Curt Catallo, copywriter; Carole Gall, director of broadcast production; Kelly Trudell, producer Rick Ross. Mustang account supervisor; Steve Wineman, Mustang account director.
Production Company: Believe Media/Street Light Films; Paul Street, director; Adrian Harrison, Liz Silver and Luke Thornton; executive producers; Garry Waller, director of photography; Taylor Pinson, producer.
Location: Chilliwack, British Columbia
Editing Company: FilmCore, Santa Monica, CA. Nicholas Wayman-Harris, editor; Wesley Lipman, assistant editor; Therese Hunsberger, executive producer.
Music Company: Elias Arts, Santa Monica, CA.
Post Facility: R!OT Santa Monica. Clark Muller, colorist (initial color correction); Adolfo Martinelli, colorist (optimized flat passes); Verdi Sevenhuysen, colorist (final color grade with Discreet’s LUSTRE tool); Verdi Sevenhuysen, Jason Frank, Randy Lowder, Mark Dennison and Matt Russell, on-line editors.
Visual EFX Company: R!OT Santa Monica. Verdi Sevenhuysen, Visual Effects Supervisor/Lead Compositor; Kiki Chansamone, Les Umberger, Claus Hansen and Sean Wilson, compositors; Ashlee Wismach, junior compositor; D. Todd Davidovich, VFX executive producer/VFX producer; Robert Owens, VFX associate producer.
Audio Post House: POP Sound, Santa Monica, CA. Mitch Dorf, engineer/mixer; Sean Wiedeman, assistant mixer.
Sound Design Company: FilmCore, Santa Monica, CA. Nicholas Wayman-Harris, sound designer.
Stock footage house: Scenes from Bullitt supplied by Warner Bros.
Related Keywords:R!OT Santa Monica , POP Sound