Making Of “Low Earth Orbit”

Like so many complex productions, this was a simple idea – to make a short film as a showcase. To push some boundaries and possibilities in our work. And also to have some fun at the same time!

Inspiration

Of course we wanted to work with a car….but in a modern visual language evolving around the dynamism developing in electric cars. Images of power and light, of a clean and positive future, more attuned to the environment without losing any of its visceral impact as an object of desire.

What contemporary pioneers would inspire us, visually and conceptually?
A character to be the centre of gravity for our story.

We settled on a man with a dream to be the first Black man on the Moon.

Setting and mood building

When creating the world for this character to live in the process (as always) started long before any CGI – with pen and paper, talking and thinking. Using these analogue methods allows for swift changes and flexible, imaginative thinking, to expand the possibilities, making it so much easier to say “What if…”

We built the world up through questions, rather than software.
Where would this person live?
What kind of house?
What’s in it?
What do these things tell us?
What’s the landscape and plants like that surround it?

Such level of detail isn’t usual in advertising so it was an interesting exercise, which has parallels in the process of CGI. Just as we built a ‘real’ framework for CGI structures, lighting and cameras, we referenced reality to construct the character and story, to make both feel more tangible. Every viewer doesn’t see every detail, but the liminal storytelling of these elements brings vivid personality to the atmosphere.

To develop the luminous and dynamic look, we wanted glowing light and rich, soft-textured shadows, imagery of space and earth, sliding and gliding lights both natural and artificial.

We collected ideas and inspiration from a huge variety of influences – from film, to photography of architecture, light and atmospheric affects, to artists working with light like Yayoi Kusama and Olafur Eliasson.

 

Storyboarding

With these assembled, we began the process of story development.  Thinking, reviewing, collaborating, thinking again – working to define and refine the story and the shots that we needed to tell it. As the story began to coalesce around these storyboards and with each development, we felt it was getting closer to the vision we had.

Eventually we had a full set of storyboards, making the flow of shots complete and suggesting in itself further improvements.

 

CGI process

With choices made on the shots we would need, we had the maximum amount of time for creating detailed work on each one in Maya.

For each shot, we also honed the camera moves. Of course in CGI there are no restrictions… but it’s integral to the work to consider how a real camera would move. So we gave a lot of thought to how this would actually be filmed, reproducing the constraints of a physical camera with car to car filming, rig shots or drone shots. Impossible camera moves are a clear cue of artificiality, so lead CG artist Tanguy Koutouan had to balance boldness against the potential of unreality. Each move was refined until it was smooth and harmonious with the other elements such as the car’s suspension movements, or camera drifts for organic animations.

We discussed our ideas for the project with the team at Audi, who we often work with. Audi very kindly gave us the concept model of their new Audi e-tron GT – the perfect car for the character we had created.

Studio shoot

With an initial sequence in place, we cast for a model to represent our hero. Director of Photography for this was Jorge Diéguez, who assembled a fantastic crew, selected equipment and took care of the lighting, matching it meticulously to the sequences already visualised.  Set designer Jason Synnott rigged up the car seat with steering wheel construction, and we shot the green screen sequences at our neighbours: Hackney Studios, with on-set VFX supervision and general advice from Gareth Repton.

Compositing, editing, sound and polish

The music by Olafur Arnalds was the key to bringing everything together – we altered shots and especially camera moves to match the rhythm of the piece, and make everything fit together flawlessly.

The scenes were rendered in VRay, and then taken into Nuke for compositing led by Felix Baesch. In this phase, enormous amounts of infinitesimal adjustments finessed the result for maximum photorealism. We added matte painting for the mountains, created the moon, removed occasional CGI artefacts and added the green screen footage of the model.

This polished footage was then brought into Resolve for Tanguy to continue the process of editing, and Dan Carney to bring his detailed eye for nuanced colour to the grading. 

With editing and colour grading in place, the film went to Gavin Little at Echolab for sound editing. Although the music carries the whole piece, sound makes it subtly immersive – small details that bring atmosphere but never overpower the music. At the same time, we designed the title sequence and the end credits.

These initial phases were completed in a more conventionally collaborative form, all working together. The later phases were during lockdown, so we worked and collaborated remotely, as we’re very used to doing with our internationally based team. This was a long journey for us all, and we’re very proud to present the completed film.

Low Earth Orbit

Put your headphones on and go full screen to join Recom Farmhouse on a lucid vision of a night drive, with repeating visual themes of orbital geometries and light – from softly radiant moonlight to coruscating fireflies, from sliding reflections on wind-honed bodywork to glowing incandescence of stars.

The voyage you dream of is closer than you think…

A Recom Farmhouse Production
Written and directed by Tanguy Koutouan
Co-Director: Christoph Bolten
Executive Producer: Christoph Bolten
Sound Design Gavin Little | Echolab
Music by Ólafur Arnalds
Colour Grading : Dan Carney
Lead CG Artist: Tanguy Koutouan
CG Artists:  Carlos Pecino, Anna Toropova, Luca Veronese, Joe Carney
Lead Compositor: Felix Baesch
Additional Compositor: Stéphane Lugiery
Title Design: Martha Tullberg
Title Animation: Aljaž Bezjak
Original Screenplay: Santi Minasi
Storyboard: Tanguy Koutouan
Editor: Tanguy Koutouan

Green Screen Shoot at Hackney Studios
Directed by Christoph Bolten
Art Director Tanguy Koutouan
Director of Photography:  Jorge Diéguez
Gaffer: David Nye
1st AC: Julian Lalinde
Production:  Martha Tsvyatkov

Set Design: Jason Synnott
Model Damien Le-Hoste | Base Models
On-Set VFX Supervisor: Gareth Repton
Styling:  @vakundok & Alessandra Kila

Special Thanks to: Geoffroy Givry, Cameron Smither, Alessandra Kila, Martha Tsvyatkov, Sven Hasenjäger at 380 Grad, Sarah Giles at Universal Music, Felix Kalf-Hansen at Kobalt Music.

Making of: “Eurostar” with Nick Meek

‘You see more when you don’t fly’ is Eurostar’s latest TV and print campaign. Trying to train an enormous bird with a brain size of a walnut is challenging enough, but what to do when there’s only Emus or randy ostriches available at the time of preproduction? A CG ostrich comes the rescue…

Photographer Nick Meek asked us to hop into the nest to hatch the unusual tourist on the screen. Before heading to Amsterdam and Paris the team covered several locations in London, accompanied by our local CGI director Christoph Bolten and post artist Maria Luisa Calosso. With the support of an endearing and very patient cardboard bird, our CGI experts made sure to gather all necessary elements and spheres for the comprehensive post production process.

 

Hatching a plan for a CGI Ostrich:

Besides matching camera angles, scale and lighting, it was crucial to have the bird appear as realistic as possible, without looking too anthropomorphic – detail in the eyes and beak was the key here, and finally some hand-drawing of the feathers for the most naturalistic look possible.

Watch our new feathered friend come alive in these videos!

 

You can see the whole project on our site here and on Behance here.

 

Client: Eurostar
Photographer: Nick Meek
Agency: Engine
Creative Director: David Dearlove
Art Buyer: Kate Blumer
CGI Artists: Yuriy Dulich, Luca Veronese, Carlos Pecino / Recom Farmhouse
Post Artists: Maria Luisa Calosso, Nuria Segura, Pepe Alram / Recom Farmhouse
Photographer’s Agent: Siobhan Squire, Charlotte Dale

On Location: Nissan Qashqai with Nick Meek

We travelled to Capetown with Nick Meek to shoot this Nissan campaign for TBWA Paris.
“While some may think that adding technology detracts from the raw experience of driving, Nissan is proving that technology can turn your car into an exciting partner”

With the idea of humanising technology, it was appropriate that we all had the most fun with the spacesuit! Join us nn set with New Moon Productions in Capetown…

 

 

In post-production, we put together the astronaut image and ‘painted’ it in Photoshop onto the side of the wall – see how we did it :

See all the final images on our site here.

Client: Nissan
Agency: TBWA Paris
Photographer: Nick Meek
Photographer’s Agent: Prune Pariente, Florence Moll
Creative Director: Darren Rosenberg
Art Buyer: Claire Sougy-Walwer
Art Director: Joy Robin
Production: New Moon Production
Post Artist: Pepe Alram, Aljaz, Bezjak / Recom Farmhouse

Working at Recom Farmhouse London

Working environment:
The Clapton Tram Depot is a great working environment of converted buildings around a cobbled street / courtyard with a variety of small and interesting creative businesses. There is plenty of bike parking inside our big warehouse space and we’re close to Clapton train station. We believe strongly in a good work/life balance and enjoyable working conditions. We keep to a 40 hour work week whenever possible, with flexible start and end times (deadlines permitting).
We love to see creative, personal and professional development and support training, personal projects, self-learning, conferences and field trips such as exhibitions.

We always take time out to sit down to our communal lunch, which is provided – we decide together what we want each week, and order a wide range for all tastes and preferences. We all realise the importance of coffee and have an excellent espresso machine. Every two weeks, we also have a masseur visit on site, to keep your Wacom arm in tip-top shape!

Making Of: “Vitruvian Man” for Barclays

Barclays wanted to mark the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci with a modern evolution of his celebrated “Vitruvian Man“, showing how technology might enhance different parts of the human body.

We created the image in full CGI, in collaboration with photographer Andy Glass.

Appropriately for the subject matter, we started with sketches. Pen and pencil remains as perfect for quick visualisation and prototyping as it was 500 years ago. We put together sketches inspired by existing technology in biotech and visualising futuristic enhancements. Pencil drawings made it easy to react to feedback as we worked with the clients to refine the designs.

The individual parts come together to make the classic “Vitruvian Man” diagram

The CGI team then built the image from scratch, following the concepts and design from our sketches. The most challenging part of the process was keeping the classic design instantly recognisable and coherent, whilst working on the detail of each component and making the whole image both believably realistic and compellingly futuristic

Once all the pieces were fitted together in the final design, we modelled and lighted it, and applied shaders using photographic references to ensure a solid feel to the materials.  A circular platform and illuminated neon square completed the iconic image.

See the whole process here:
Making of “Vitruvian Man” for Barclays Private Finance

 

The image was used for an exclusive wraparound for the Canary Wharf delivery of the Financial Times, and as a poster.

Final image:

And video animation:

Vitruvian Man on Behance.

Client: Barclays Private Bank
Agency: Ogilvy
Photographic & Creative Direction: Andy Glass
Creatives:  Dave Anderson, Richard Barrett, Ian Brassett, James Manning, Giles Montgomery, Jon Morgan
Art Buyer: Lesley Scott
Concept Design: Kristian Turner / Recom Farmhouse
CGI Artists: Alex Bowen, Carlos Pecino, Anna Toropova, Kristian Turner / Recom Farmhouse
Post Artists: Aljaz Bezjak, Kate Brown / Recom Farmhouse

On Location: BMW with Stefan Milev

Project: BMW Group / Stefan Milev Client: BMW Group Photographer: Stefan Milev Creative Director: Antje List Post Artist: Julia Ackermann,Lorenz Edelmann,Thomas Saalfrank

That’s how it goes when you have so many cars….over time, some go missing, and eventually one is lost completely.

This is what happened to BMW’s Garmisch concept car from 1970.  The Garmisch was designed at the legendary Italian house Bertone, and exhibited at the Geneva Motor Show –  its modern lines clearly influenced the design of the first 5 series in 1972.

The original concept car has disappeared, untraceable to this day. Maybe it will turn up as a barn find in fifty years.

But BMW didn’t want to wait that long, and rebuilt the car from the original design documents. The documents were all in black and white, so for colour, they had to consult the car’s original designer: Marcello Gandini, who created iconic sports cars such as the Lamborghini Miura and Countach, and the Lancia Stratos. The car was rebuilt by hand in Turin, in much the same way as the original 50 years ago, and the reborn Garmisch was exhibited at the Concorso d’Eleganza 2019 at Lake Como.

Read the fascinating story of its reconstruction here in Classic Driver.

On Location (Photos: Stefan Milev)

Stefan Milev photographed the Garmisch using this 8 x 10 wooden Deardorff camera from 1948 – the team travelled to locations around Italy’s Piedmont region using mostly Polaroid film on the vintage camera.

 

 


On Location (Photos: Speedball Productions)

Vlens Mueller-Feller of Speedball Productions: “During early preparations, images of the (possible) final result will start to appear before one’s eyes, when scouting I already can see the photographer or director saying “this is it, this is the perfect spot” (@put.model.here)… So this spot in the Italian Alps was one of those.” See their Instagram feed for more…

 

 


Final images

The resulting film images were scanned and graded by our artists in the Stuttgart studio to enhance the colour mood of the series.

Project: BMW Group / Stefan Milev Client: BMW Group Photographer: Stefan Milev Creative Director: Antje List Post Artist: Julia Ackermann,Lorenz Edelmann,Thomas Saalfrank

See the full series on Behance here and on our site here.

Client: BMW Group
 Photographer: Stefan Milev
Post Artists: Julia Ackermann, Lorenz Edelmann, Thomas Saalfrank / Recom Stuttgart
Creative Director: Antje List
Production: Speedball Productions and Pirate Productions
Model: Scott Temple
Photographer’s Agent: Wildfox Running

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Making Of: “Daily Drivers” – CGI racing car collaboration with Alex Bernstein

Daily Drivers: A peep behind the scenes of a project built on absurdity.

A car is a tool. Its uses range drastically: from everyday tasks like commuting, shopping and school runs, to more exciting functions like self-expression and road trips. And then there’s racing… Race cars are a uniquely specialized end of this spectrum. Their sole purpose is to be fast and light, with creature comforts and road manners thrown out the window all in the name of victory. But at the end of the day, they’re still cars: four wheels, a seat and some pedals.

Daily Drivers Nº 1 : 1999 Toyota GT-One (TS020)

When it comes to getting around the city, most New Yorkers opt for public transportation, because having a car in Manhattan is like trying to paint a mural with a Q-tip. So here — in this alternate and absurdist reality — a few legendary race cars break the boundaries of their purpose.

Daily Drivers Nº 2 : 2003 Bentley Speed 8

In this reality, these retired steeds continue their service. They may not be flat out in Eau Rouge, or spraying gravel off the cliffs of Pikes Peak, but they’re still living, still used, and still loved.

Daily Drivers Nº 3 : 1967 Ferrari 330 P4

Steven Orts of Recom Farmhouse’s New York studio outlined the rough project idea to photographer and amateur racer, Alex Bernstein, who traveled back to his old stomping grounds in New York to brainstorm with the team, scout and shoot in some iconic locations, working his magic to bring this project to life. With his love for motorsports, Alex nailed the angles to capture the city scenes with their obstructions and ambiance, all while still feeling handheld and natural, as if you were walking through the city streets and had just spotted these ridiculously out-of-place machines.

Daily Drivers Nº 4 : 1990 Jaguar XJR-12

All the cars are full CGI. Each model required heavy amounts of refinement, while we retextured and prepped in the studio. With great care and patience, the finer details were added. Dust and grit, scuffs and scrapes, raindrops and reflections all work together to fully immerse these cars into their respective worlds. We captured domes from each location which enabled proper reflections to be brought back into post production. Finally, meticulous colour grading enhanced the light and shade of New York City and integrated the composited images.

Daily Drivers Nº 5 : 1986 Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2

See the full series on Behance.

Daily Drivers 1

Credits: 
Creative Direction: Steven Orts / Recom Farmhouse NYC
Photographer: Alex Bernstein
CGI: Luke Burke & Alex Bowen / Recom Farmhouse NYC
Retouching: Steven Orts & Andrew Coleman / Recom Farmhouse NYC

 

Making of: Perfect Storm with Thomas Brown

Thomas Brown : Perfect Storm

Sci-fi influences are worn proudly on the sleeve of this series for Wallpaper magazine. Thomas Brown was commissioned again for their “Perfect Storm” editorial, in which “elemental forces and industrial strength converge in a whirlwind of high-voltage design”.

Thomas worked with his long term collaborator, the set designer Matt Morris. Together with Cloud and Horse set builders and projectionist Insight Lighting, they created “a dramatic sci-fi world where a weird automated transit system is augmented with external and often extreme natural phenomena.”

Behind the scenes at the warehouse location: Raising and lowering platforms provide unusual viewpoints…and the scissor lifts themselves are incorporated in the set design, whilst projections create different ambiances for each shot

 

 

 

More images behind the scenes, including the construction of the mirrored boxes, from set builders Cloud & Horse here. (Behind the scenes pictures by Alex Davenport)

Clous & Horse behind the scenes

The final images were published in Wallpaper magazine:

 

And you can see the whole series here:
Perfect Storm with Thomas Brown on recomfarmhouse.com

Perfect Storm with Thomas Brown on Behance

Thomas Brown : Perfect Storm

 

Client: Wallpaper
Photographer: Thomas Brown
Photographer’s Agent: Webber Represents
Set Designer: Matt Morris
Set Build: Cloud and Horse
Projectionist: Insight Lighting
Post Artists: Aljaz Bezjak / Maria Luisa Calosso / Recom Farmhouse

On Location: Mercedes with Nick Meek

 

Bold primary colours meet strong abstract shapes in this campaign for Mercedes from Antoni. We travelled with photographer Nick Meek to Calvert Studios, an extraordinary and unique open air car studio in Spain. Enjoy these pictures from behind the scenes:

 

 

The dream team – Jorge, Nick, Christoph and Paul.

The final images are used in the deluxe print campaign, and billboards in place in Germany. See them in situ here.

 

See all the finished images on Behance here and try to work out which ones are CGI…

Client: Mercedes-Benz Deutschland
Photographer: Nick Meek
Assistants: Jorge Dieguez, Paul Blundell

Executive Production: Siobhan Squire
Location: Calvert Studios

Agency: Antoni
Executive Creative Director: Veit Moeller
Creative Director: Christian Kies, Christopher Hoene
Art Director: Mathias Wilke, Tim Grötzinger
Copywriter: Matti Lietsch, Luca Haeussler
Head of Product Communication Cars Germany: Christine Wolburg
Product Communication Cars Germany: Nancy Weitling
Art Buyer: Valerie Opitz

CGI Artist: Kristian Turner / Recom Farmhouse
Post Artists: Pepe Alram, Kate Brown, Maria Luisa Calosso, Nuria Segura, Aljaz Bezjak / Recom Farmhouse

In Situ: Mercedes with Nick Meek

After a fantastic shoot (take a look behind the scenes here), the final images are used in the deluxe print campaign.

And billboards in place in Germany

See all the finished images on Behance here and try to work out which ones are CGI…

Client: Mercedes-Benz Deutschland
Photographer: Nick Meek
Assistants: Jorge Dieguez, Paul Blundell

Executive Production: Siobhan Squire
Location: Calvert Studios

Agency: Antoni
Executive Creative Director: Veit Moeller
Creative Director: Christian Kies, Christopher Hoene
Art Director: Mathias Wilke, Tim Grötzinger
Copywriter: Matti Lietsch, Luca Haeussler
Head of Product Communication Cars Germany: Christine Wolburg
Product Communication Cars Germany: Nancy Weitling
Art Buyer: Valerie Opitz

CGI Artist: Kristian Turner / Recom Farmhouse
Post Artists: Pepe Alram, Kate Brown, Maria Luisa Calosso, Nuria Segura, Aljaz Bezjak / Recom Farmhouse

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