Riot Moves Heaven and Earth

R!OT literally moved heaven and earth to deliver a new effects-driven spot for Hyundai. The studio assisted in the design, and provided visual effects, color correction and post production services for the visually-rich spot, which presents a topsy-turvy world to underscore the radical thinking behind the automaker new Sonata.

Titled WORLD ON ITS HEAD, the spot out of The Richards Group shows a Sonata driving along a city street as its environment slowly turns upside down. People, furniture, bicycles and lots of other cars are sent tumbling through the air, but the Sonata continues its journey, hugging the road, unperturbed. As the car drives off, upside down, toward the horizon, a graphic appears reading ‘Rethink Everything.’

R!OT was involved in the production of the spot from pre-production design through final delivery. Members of the studio creative team accompanied Director Gerard de Thame on a scouting mission to downtown Los Angeles, and took numerous photographs that were used to reconstruct several square blocks of the city in CG. Artists then used the CG environment to previse the entire spot and indicate shot selection, the hero car movement, camera placement, camera movement and, most importantly, how things were going to fall.

‘We placed low-res digital people and tons of digital debris into the previs,’ explained R!OT exec creative director Andy MacDonald. ‘We had sliding cars, things toppling and people hanging onto stuff. We wanted the director and the agency to see what things looked like when they moved. It hard to grasp how things are going to behave until you see it ?‚àö√ë‚àö√Ü or where the creatives opportunities are to tell a story.’

Once the previs was complete and approved, R!OT used it to produce a document that served as a menu for the production, detailing such things as the shot list and lens choices, as well as talent, prop and miniature requirements.

The production included an exterior shoot in downtown Los Angeles and a four-day stage shoot for visual effects elements. On stage, a 20×20-foot motion platform was used to simulate tilting floors and streets and to cause people, furniture and vehicles to slide. Additionally, stunt men were shot diving off rafters onto thick air bags, 25 feet below.

‘The people were shot in slow motion so that, when they were composited into background plates that were shot at normal speed, they appeared to cover a long distance,’ MacDonald said. ‘We shot each person from multiple angles so that, in the edit, we could maintain continuity in the actors’s performances as they progressively moved from scene to scene.’

Many of the vehicles, including a large SUV that tumbles through the background near the top of the spot, were shot as miniatures. Other elements, including some of the people, were digital characters.

Naturally, there were a tremendous amount of details to manage. Each of the hundreds of bits of debris needed to move with the same relative motion. When people were falling, their hair and clothing needed to be fluttering in the right direction. ‘We took that into account in our previs and during production we brought along a couple of computers to do temp composites,’ MacDonald observed. ‘Everything had to move at the same velocity; the shadows and reflections had to be consistent.’

Despite the hubbub going on around it, the car had to be the focal point of the spot. R!OT colorist Siggy Ferstl made sure that attention remained fixed on the product by subtly manipulating its color. ‘We isolated the car and colored it separately from the background,’ he explained. ‘We made the background quite warm, but kept the car neutral and that helps it to pop out of the scene. The car makes a statement.’

With post-production confined to a mere 10 days, the crew at R!OT worked feverishly to complete the composites. When, on the night before the spot was due for delivery, it was decided that more people were needed to fill out the street scenes, MacDonald staged a greenscreen shoot at R!OT using studio staff as talent and added them to the scene. ‘We felt the job needed it, so we did it,’ MacDonald noted.

R!OT ( has offices in Santa Monica, Manhattan and Atlanta.

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