The collaboration between MPC LA and award-winning director Adam Berg of Smuggler continues with an epic tale of beauty and power that illustrates the future of Acura’s performance sedan line-up. ‘Let the Race Begin’ extensively uses breathtaking visual effects to highlight the fierce competitive spirit of the luxury car market.
The stunning spot, which unveiled during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, was an immense undertaking. Working to deliver Adam’s vision from a live-action base, MPC concepted and created four unique fully-CG horses, digital environments, crowd duplication for tens of thousands of spectators, photorealistic CG cars and heavy atmospheric FX. “Working on a project of this complexity and scale is a rewarding opportunity to be a part of,” says Executive Producer Elexis Stearn. “It’s exciting to put our creative hats on and help find novel and innovative solutions.”
At the helm of MPC LA’s VFX team, Producer Mike Wigart and VFX Supervisors Andy Boyd and Benoit Mannequin wrangled all facets of the VFX spectrum. “We devised efficient workflows in order to create the highest quality work,” Wigart explains. “Modelers developed a mechanical skeleton and muscle framework while concept artists explored ideas for body design of the different cars. Simultaneously, riggers and animators tested range of motion to ensure robotic shapes translated into realistic horse movement. This happened in parallel with preparation for the shoot which made for an electric atmosphere.”
With heavy involvement from the onset, MPC carried out extensive R&D to transform Acura’s competitor cars into metallic beasts. “Staying true to the rawness of the concepts while ensuring these bio-mechanical hybrids still looked and felt like horses was key,” says Mannequin. This set the stage for the centerpiece of the campaign: the natural, vivacious and effortlessly superior hero horse.
The shoot took place over three days in LA. “Shooting live horses allowed Adam to frame his shots and block the horse action to his liking,” explains Boyd. “It was a huge leg up for us in terms of having an edit that told a cohesive story. Adam was specific about the horse performances he chose for the edit, and that served as our basis for animation.”
The horse assets were meticulously detailed: each was comprised of roughly 6,000 CG parts. Entire skeletal and muscular systems were modeled and rigged in 3D, and subtly layered with brand-inspired car components that resembled elements in the cars’ distinctive designs, such as headlights as eyes and front grill styling incorporated as chest plates. “Mullen had clear ideas about which car parts would correspond to horse body parts,” adds Wigart. “It’s cool to look back at the horses and see how this translated – it works very well.”
The massive job features over 50 VFX shots, including 20 fully CG scenes. MPC also took advantage of their global pipeline allowing for seamless 24-hour workflow. Colorist Mark Gethin crafted the grade to support the atmospheric mood, combining a reduced color palette, duotone lighting and futuristic tones to strike a fine balance of ligh
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