Framestore Create Virtual Car Factory for BMW

Production Line, the new spot for BMW’s new BMW 1 Series Coup?¬¨¬© features a fantastic voyage through a virtual car factory, a trip made possible by Framestore CFC. The 40-second spot was created by Ollie Bearle at WCRS, and produced for them by Sally Lipsius.

It was directed for Outsider by Dom and Nic, who returned once more to Framestore CFC and to their frequent collaborator here, VFX Supervisor Ben Cronin.

The spot is set at an uber-modern assembly line. The factory is an enormous construction of concrete, gleaming steel and glass, powerfully illuminated and spotless. Peering down onto the factory floor from an overhead presentation room, a young businessman gazes in awe at the robotic precision arrayed below.

He cannot resist a trip down to ground level and soon finds himself drawn into the production process. Inside a BMW car as it is put together by a series of hi-tech automata, our hero ends his journey in a completed car heading out of the factory at speed.

With the exception of the human beings, virtually everything you see in Production Line, from environments to robots to cars, is CG. Leading the 3D team on this ambitious and intensive project was TD Diarmid Harrison-Murray. “It was quite a challenge for several reasons,” he says, “HD delivery meant big renders, and just the sheer volume of CG material we had to generate.”

Senior team members Cronin and Harrison-Murray attended the five day shoot in London’s Black Island Studio. The shoot was fairly technical, sticking closely to angles and distant worked out by Cronin, who had produced a detailed previsualization of the film in Flame before the shoot. For Harrison-Murray it was a sobering experience. “Finishing the shoot really brought home just how much we had to do to fill in the gaps,” he recalls. The two also visited the BMW plant in Leipzig. “It was an invaluable visit to an extraordinary place,” says Harrison-Murray, “It informed and inspired much of the work we did on the spot, both in terms of the architecture and the robots.”

The first section of the project was largely centred on modelling and texturing. A small team set about tackling the various areas. Senior Modeller on the project, Alex Doyle, took charge of the detailed technical job of modelling the different robots and their various attachments and heads. The rest of the team set about building and texturing a library of different architectural elements from which the environments could be constructed. While this was going on Harrison-Murray set about cleaning up and optimizing all the CAD data for the car which needed to be pared down to a usable level of detail as it comes from BMW with every single, nut, bolt and washer in there, literally millions of polygons of geometry.

The second phase of the project brought on board a full team of around seven Technical Directors for the two months or so needed to create the spot. Using the previsualization as a template, each shot was constructed and animated with the hi-res models. “It was more a rendering job than an animating one,” says Harrison-Murray, “Whenever possible, the TDs would do any necessary animation – though we’d borrow an animator if we needed one.” The challenges were optimizing these big scenes to get them to render and, of course, making the car look amazing.

Clients such as BMW are always a pleasure to work for because they know exactly what they want. “Both Ben and I really had to be on our mettle,” says Harrison-Murray, “But it’s really great to have a client who can articulate their needs so clearly.” BMW were also in attendance at the spot’s final telecine, created by Framestore CFC Senior Colourist, Dave Ludlam. As the film was for both cinema and tv, Dave scanned it in at full HD 444 RGB resolution, ensuring there would be no compromise on the quality of the images. In addition to enhancing the spots hi-tech look and matching the tone to the press campaign, this final grading was an opportunity to convincingly pull all the shots together.

BMW ‘Production Line’

Agency WCRS
Creative Oli Beale
Agency Producer Sally Lipsius
Production Company Outsider
Directors Dom & Nic
Producer John Madsen

For Framestore CFC
VFX Supervisors Ben Cronin, Diarmid Harrison Murray
TDs Dan Seddon, Ben Falcone, Alex Doyle, Mark Wainwright, Chris Syborn, Simon French, Paul Denhard, Jayed Khan, Daniel Stern, Paul Kerr, Mary Swinnerton
Texture Artist Paul Chandler
Animator Mike Mellor
Telecine Colourist Dave Ludlam
Producer Sarah Hiddlestone

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