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Virgin Media – A VFX Breakdown

Director Brian Williams takes us behind the scenes of “Rebirth”, marrying live action with motion graphics:

The idea was simple enough for Virgin. We would open up on a graveyard of old televisions, moving over them as classic old movie dialogue tells us this is the past. The old way of watching television is over. As we move over them, we reveal there are millions of old televisions slowly dying in a warehouse. The doors open and we move to the future and into the light following the Virgin TV cables to meet a giant ever-changing screen – the ORB.

Process

Before any shooting happened, a low-res animatic was created of the whole commercial so the client, agency and Sehsucht (the post production house in Hamburg) knew exactly what we were trying to achieve. We wanted a 50/50 mix of live action and CG. We found an amazing warehouse in Kiev and built a small set without about 100 TVs. Ten of these worked and we shot the sequence live with the picture on screen saying the dialogue in perfect sync. This was a great technical headache for the production designers as they had to go from analogue Soviet era TVs to macs for playout but it worked brilliantly. Sehsucht were on hand to shoot reference photos and HDR images so we could extend the set in places. For the giant graveyard reveal we used a drone IN the warehouse to capture the its vast size. As planned, many of the shots are pretty much in camera, but this changes as we get to the big reveal. We used the drone shot of the warehouse and tracked it. The we populated it with over a million CG TVs, a two day render every time we changed something then we animated the cable to work in with real shot.

We knew once we left the hangar, the world outside would be fully CG. This was for many reasons. First and foremost the content of the ORB was ever changing but also it was snowing at the location in Kiev and the ORB had to appear to be hovering over an airfield in late Spring.I developed the initial look of the ORB in Cinema 4D and Photoshop. Once approved, the files were handed over to the wonderful people in Sehsucht to animate my initial design concepts. At the same time they produced a huge matte painting for the ORB environment. This was 8K so we could zoom in on it and it would still hold up. The original matte painting was magic hour and looks beautiful. We added the red sky at the end of the post process to line up with other Virgin commercials. I was developing type solution and motion graphic solution with the guys at Sehsucht all the time. Very often my animation is in the into the final composite. The Camera move was done as a separate component and the final ORB was dropped into the camera move the night before we went to station and rendered. Then we polished everything and sadly had to stop. You never finish a job like this you just run out of time!

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