The making of: The dark side of Los Angeles

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These are only the first three pictures of an ongoing project made in collaboration with automotive and landscape photographer Markus Wendler. We have worked together many times on commercial jobs and we are often on the phone chatting about life and work and it’s one of those relationships that seems to be working on the same wavelength, particularly creatively. So it came natural that we decided to finally collaborate together on something different than advertising; something where we did not have the pressure of showing the cars at particular angles and light, but rather the opposite.

We wanted to create narratives of mysterious scenarios which would at the same time have something magical. Marcus had already shot some dark and desolate corners of Los Angeles at nighttime. We really liked those locations and after talking for a while we came up with the idea of using vintage cars to make up ambiguous stories that are about to happen or have just happened. Images where the cars become a utility to tell a story, but not an obvious one as none of these images ever get resolved.

The vintage cars are completely created in CG. For us it has not only been very exciting to work on something that is the opposite of a perfect glossy surface, but also to be in full creative control and to make all crucial creative decisions ourselves: where were we going to add the dents of a crashed car? Where do we have to add smoke coming off the tires? Which window has to be shattered and how? Where would the shrapnel scatter on the road? Where would a car driving at speed into a lamppost come to a standstill?

Richard, one of our CGI artists did a great amount of research and sketches which is worth having a look at as the possibilities were many.
In the image of the crashed Corvette, he first modeled the scene and planned few possible crash scenarious.


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In this case we decided to go for the last option. He then looked at lots of photographs of cars crashed in a similar way to try and understand better how metal deforms on impact. Below some pictures taken from the internet and used as reference.


Next step was sketching the car to get a feel for the overall form and understand the surfaces and then sketching over the car in the final position.


The roughly deformed geometry was afterward exported into ZBrush software, where the sculpting of creases and dents were made. Below some early test renders of the first attempt.


The car was then placed in the landscape shot by Marcus and composited by Kate, who added the subtle colour magic and nuances of twilight … but maybe we can talk about that in another post as we are now in the process of making another nighttime shot of the vintage cars.

Marcus has already exhibited the photographs at the BFF show in Hamburg and we’ll take as a big compliment the question he was asked by a fellow photographer: “Did you really crash a Corvette?”

Below some close-ups of the final images for the detail lovers.

Click on the images to zoom in 100%.

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Photographer: Markus Wendler
CGI-Director: Christoph Bolten
Lead CGI-Artist: Kristian Turner
CGI-Artists: Richard Jenkinson, Simon Watts, Dariusz Makovski
Post-Artist: Kate Booker