Taking a cue from some of the human-pixel videos on the web, this new Audi advert from Stink and Psyop for Berlin-based agency HEIMAT blends live action and CG imagery into a beautifully complicated package.
The level of choreography it took to pull this off is pretty astounding. In addition to managing over 100 performers during the live shoot in Berlin, there were several layers of visual effects direction that had to line up perfectly. I really like how the end product slides between two modes of presentation—I can’t always pin down where the live action ends and the CG begins.
UPDATE: Here’s a little Q&A on the project from Glossy:
What was the creative brief from the agency?
The task was to show the principle of synchronicity. We were asked to find interesting ways to create real images of driving using thousands of perfectly synchronized humans holding cards. We worked closely with Guido Heffels, from Heimat Berlin, to further develop this idea. We were asked to push it from a design and technical level. It had to be epic and spectacle, but also believable. We were also asked to feature certain characteristics of the Audi Q5 as well as some design details.
So, Psyop proposed to take the idea of perfectly synchronized cards in the hands of Audi engineers to the next level. By combining acrobatic engineers with real time human pixel animation, we set out to create dimensional shapes from people holding cards.
In keeping with the creative brief of the features of the spot, we chose to start with simple images that evolve into landscapes and eventually created a dimensional Audi Q5. The evolution of the spot is from real time human pixels performing in 2d space, to a dimensional version of the Audi Q5 created by acrobatic engineers flipping cards. The faster the cards flip the more the image becomes real. Ultimately we wanted to show people creating images at the very edge of the possible. Far beyond the simple wave, these people would create the ultimate performance art.
What type of feel/aesthetic were you going for? What did you bring to this job creatively?
We were really excited to see how far we can go with the idea of people creating images using cards. Again, we were looking to create something fantastic, something that is almost impossible. This was our main area of interest.
First we explored many different ways of creating dimension. We talked to our choreographer to find ways to throw people in the air, to create human pyramids and synchronous summersaults. It was important that everything could actually be created by people. The scene had to feel human. We wanted to shoot as much as we could in order to blur the line between real and CG.
The idea of acrobatic engineers fit nicely with the perfect synchronization of the Audi Q5 and for us illustrated the concept of thinking outside the box. It explored new ways to demonstrate Audi’s incredible performance capabilities. These are engineers who literally do the impossible by working together to form the shapes, images, and finally the Q5.
This spot pushes the idea of people working in synchronicity to the next level, surprising the viewer with methods that are on the edge of impossible, or in moments even beyond.
To further support the idea, we thought it was important to understand, that this is an actual show set on a very big theatrical stage. We wanted to create the illusion, that this is something that was created and performed through huge effort and scale. So the design became a process of landscapes that could be created in a real theater space.
How was the spot created? Tell me about the mix between live action & CG?
Basically, we combined a green screen live action FX shoot with CG people animation. It was important to see the people close-up, see their faces, see their expressions. The spot starts by introducing the humans behind the cards. Then we cut to wide shots in which we introduce depth by creating waves in the placards. Cutting back to live action, we show see our engineers jumping, flying, doing acrobatics; all while holding their placards. We kept the effect very real by shooting all of the foreground people performing actual acrobatics. In the wider shots we filled in the backgrounds with CG people to get the massive size of the group. The trick is that we always use real people as foreground objects.
Were there any challenges?
Yeah tons. Cloning people, matching CG lighting, getting the design approved, making flipbook animations that work with the concept, and making everything actually look real. Beyond that we had to making an awesome spot! This is always a challenge.
What tools were used?
Panavision Genesis, XSI, Maya, Flame, After Effects.
AUDI Q5 “Synchronized”
Agency: Heimat, Berlin
Creative Direction: Guido Heffels
Creative Team: Guido Heffels, Nico Ronacher, Tim Schneider, Till Eckel
Planning: Andreas Mengele, Sebastian Marx
Account Supervision: Frank Ricken
Production Company: Tempomedia / Stink, Berlin / Psyop, New York
Executive Producers: Vera Portz (Tempomedia), Nils Schwemer (Stink)‚ Boo Wong (Psyop)
Producers: Gunnar Meyer (Tempomedia), Susanne Ehlers (Stink), Jen Glabus (Psyop)
Director: Psyop (Marco Spier, Eben Mears)
3D Lead: Florian Witzel
3D: Alvin Bae, Andreas Gebhardt, Dave Barosin, Heiko Schneck, Jae Ham, Jonah Friedman, Lee Wolland, Pakron Bupphavesa, Pat Porter
Look Development: Marco Iozzi
Flame Lead: Jamie Scott
Flame: Chris Staves
Lead Compositor: Doug Purver
Compositor: Jason Conradt
Flame Assist: Dan Boujoulian, Jeen Lee, Leslie Chung
Design: Anh Vu
Editor: Graham Brennan, Cass Vanini
Roto: Alejandro Monzon, Brian Dangren, Chris Riemann, David Marte, J Bush, Joe Brigati, Jordan Harvey, Will Frazier
Storyboard Artist: Ben Chan
Additional Design: Pete Sickbert-Bennett
Tracking: Joerg Liebold
Music/ Sounddesign: Drazen Bosnjak, Q-Department