“The ethereal elements of light, colour and haze transmit feelings and emotions. This has been a great project to experiment with the translation of these emotions from the normally more sterile environment of CGI” – Alessandra Kila
The artist brings her unique creative vision to the new BMW 7 series, in a campaign driven by light. Inspired by exhibition spaces where light interacts with installations to become part of the work, she intersected the sculptural forms of the car with the angular shapes of sharply cut sunbeams, laser curtains and light screens – innovative imagery to reveal the lines of a visionary vehicle.
Originally developed from a creative partnership with the BMW design department, Recom Farmhouse London collaborated intensively with the artist to realise her vision in pure CGI.
Simulating light in volumetric space is challenging enough, and quick previewing of iterations fast enough as to not inhibit the creative process raises further issues. In order to deliver such ambitious images, we developed an intricate technical framework within the CGI software. This custom lighting rig can abstract the visual effect of using a fully physical lighting simulation, but render in a fraction of the time, allowing creative freedom and experimentation. For the final rendering we used the fully physical lighting model for accuracy and photorealism. Take a look behind the scenes here:
The team called on Alessandra’s strong experience with still life art photography to set up varied and subtle lighting for depth and believability in the car and environment. A myriad of tiny details, such as effects of bleeding and darkening, give a natural look, along with elements of photographed neon tubes and illuminated screens. Further lighting directed the balance of warmth and cold in the images.
To create the required atmosphere, she drew on her ongoing exploration of the use of haze to soften light. Here, the haziness carries the light and colour that are central to the project.
We introduced dust to give a liquid silkiness to the light. Algorithms that mimic the movement of particles create a heightened atmosphere of dusty air moving in warm light.
Colour was a vital part of this project so the post artists hand tinted the lightwaves being carried through the haze in tonalities of greens, aqua and gold. By literally mixing the colours directly with their virtual paint brushes, they painted the light with the colours of the campaign.
As the car slices through angled laser beams and sheets of pouring light, there’s a tactile and almost synaesthetic quality to the images. The interior shots in particular are hugely innovative: re-imagined as a magical space where anything could happen, and brought to life with light beaming in.
Creative Supervision BMW: Florian Hartmann
Creative Direction BMW Group Design: Julia Obermeyer
Concept & Art Direction: Alessandra Kila
CGI Artists: Kristian Turner, Carlos Pecino, Anna Toropova / Recom Farmhouse
Post Artists: Pepê Alram, Kate Brown, Riikka Eiro, Maria Luisa Calosso / Recom Farmhouse
This cinematic series gives a new slant to the dramatic play of sunlight in a big city, with strong transitions to long edgy shadows.
Against a backdrop of heritage architecture in Warsaw,the sleek modern neutrals of the car set the scene for its driver – a bold and stylish redheaded individualist.
Recom Farmhouse London collaborated with the photographer to intensify the film noir ambiance. A strong duotone palette led by the rich orange and deep greens of the model infuses with subtler tones into the car and background.
On location in Warsaw, Tomek scouted for locations with interesting light and shadow, no matter how awkward!
Observing the position of the sun, he planned the shoot over time, looking for places where dynamic lines throw the shapes into sharp relief.
For the car, a neutral coloured Volvo was a perfect choice, fitting the overall vision of elegant and modern style with the feeling of heritage in the background.
Amongst the redheaded models cast, Natalia instantly stood out for this shoot, with her striking colouring, purposeful attitude and insouciant style.
Her pierced noseadds a hint of rebelliousness, and Dorota styled her with a gorgeous series of ensembles in green to lay the natural foundations for the palette, to be developed later in post-production.
In discussions with the team in Recom Farmhouse’s London studio, the decision was to evolve these original colours with cooler notes in the darker tones and a strong overall combination of rich warm oranges and deep cool greens.
Post-production also emphasised the strong transitions between shadows and light.
“Being such a noir narrative, we thought that being kinda duotone could be quite fitting. Also, when properly worked on, I think the carpaint could really “sing” with some cyan/green”. – Pepê / Recom Farmhouse London
Enjoy the strong shapes and subtle tone combinations of this series here:
“I’ve always wanted to shoot this car. I love its iconic style and I wanted to shoot it outdoors with a natural look, but a dusky and mysterious sci-fi atmosphere. We wanted to shoot as much as possible during the ‘blue hour’ just after the sun goes down, to enhance the otherworldly feel of the series. I started with finding a guy who owns probably the only Delorean in good condition in Poland. We cast for a model and found Monika with her strong look and short crop. Stylist Dorota added a few bold styling accents that would fit in with the eighties ambience without appearing too clichéd. The location needed to be abstract, monochromatic and above all dry, so that we could generate natural dust – a gravel pit proved to be the perfect choice. Technically the dust had its own issues to deal with! It’s very difficult to control, with the wind changing directions every minute.
It also meant that we had very limited opportunities to shoot the Delorean with its iconic gullwing doors open, as we couldn’t risk damage to the car.With the shoot complete, the task of removing every speck of dust for the car was enormous!”
In post-production, Recom Farmhouse developed a faded look with an overall combination of magenta/violet, and yellow/orange hues — again, echoing an eighties palette of early digital and laser colours .
Photography: Tomek Olszowski
Production: Piotr Stefański / Studio Tecza
Model: Monika Rybicka
Stylist: Dorota Magdziarz / @dorota.magdziarz
Make up: Ewelina Mróz
Car: Michał Kraul
Assistants: Dominik Nowak, Adam Gocel, Tomasz Kret, Filip Wyszyński, Maciek Czerniecki
Post Artists: Nuria Segura, Aljaz Bezjak / Recom Farmhouse London
Julia Fullerton-Batten has been working on an ongoing series called “Old Father Thames “…choosing, investigating and photographing a selection of cultural and historical narratives from along its banks.”
For this particular image, she asked us to flood the Tate with water.
“My image captures the aftermath of the flood in the Tate Gallery when a massive wet painting was carried by a group of porters to safety…Miraculously, despite their immersion in muddy Thames water for several hours, only eighteen paintings were damaged beyond repair.”
Here’s a photo of the original event from 1928:
Our retouchers Riikka Eiro and Maria Calosso joined the photographer on set at the Tate Britain (which was only available at night) to see what would need to be done, to absorb the feeling and lighting of the room, and to take the thousands of photos to produce an accurate photoscan. This would be used for the reflections of the water, as a very high level of verisimilitude would be vital to conveying the shock of seeing such an iconic room flooded.
Take a look behind the scenes of the shoot in Julia’s film:
The CGI and retouching had to be worked on simultaneously, as the image had to be composited and graded before the water was added, to allow for accuracy in the reflections and adjustments for the overall look.
We modelled a simplified interior of the room from our photoscans and then camera matched so that the distance and perspective we would use for the water would match the rest of the image as we were compositing.Kristian Turner, head of CGI, worked out the angles within a simplified geometry of the room, and then used that as a camera to project the reflections of this into the water.
Next, we made a basic geometry so that we had the depth in areas where the people intersected with the water. The rest of the bodies were only needed in 2d, for reflections, composited as ‘cards’.
To create the height and pattern of waves created by the people moving in a room,we searched for reference on the internet – news photos of floods were a good source. We looked at the way that water moves inside a building and also at what happens when people interact with the water – how their movement as they slosh around inside a room creates ripples and turbulence. It’s possible to map exactly how this would actually look via simulation – but we needed greater artistic control for the right effect.
It’s of huge importance to this project as a body of work that the water is believable as being from the Thames. We used volumetric rendering – normally used for mist and smoke – to add opacity in a realistic way, working with reference photos and our own observations of the river.In reality the water would have had much more debris. For the image it was important that it retained a river-water look, and that the parquet floor, so familiar to visitors of the Tate, was visible faintly below the water, distorted by the ripples.
Each person’s interaction with the water was individually mapped, such as the movement of the water around their legs. Wet splashes on their clothes were added with retouching.
The shoot was actually done at night, so we added daylight to the room. The figures were all shot with a softbox flash, and we softened them further for a painterly feel. With painstaking care, we removed all signs of modernity in the room – light switches, alarms, cables and so on, and carefully fine-tuned the colours in the image to reflect the volume of muddy water in the room.
See how we did it stage by stage here:
Final image here:
The final, graded image reflects all the hard work…when the Tate posted it on their Twitter feed on a rainy day, people asked if it was a real picture. We’ll take the compliment 🙂
#TateWeather Did you get caught out in the rain this bank holiday? 🌧️ This photo imagines Tate Britain in January 1928 following a flood of the River Thames. Julia Fullerton-Batten, 1928 Flooding of the Tate Gallery 2018, taken from Old Father Thames series. @FullertonBattenpic.twitter.com/EDbQtvNQUf
Digital Operator: Gideon Marshall
Assistants: Sebastian Niespialowski, Ken Street, Jason Lewis
Work Experience: Matt Darlington, Jo Cock, Jamie Buckle
Models: Alan Byrch, David Newton, Martin Reines, John Lauri, Paul Orchard, Frank Gordon, Peter Charlton, Christophe Philipps
Stylist: Graham Cruz
We travelled to Spain with Nick Meek to shoot the new Nissan Juke in a series of elegant architectural settings. For post-production, this involved a wide spectrum of skills – from shooting duplicate cars in order to avoid complex reflections, bringing sunshine to a rainy day, and finally a dramatic day-to-night conversion.
For this shot, the reflections of the structure were too much to be removed in post, so Nick photographed duplicate cars inside and outside the building, Christoph captured additional backplate elements. We had to deal with very mixed weather conditions! The team went out on a boat to shoot the skyline – the cityscape that you see in the shot was puzzled together from many separate shots to get the perfect backplate, evocative of an attractive city without detracting the viewer from the car as the hero of the shot. Join us on location:
Nights are drawing in! After the shoot was completed, Nissan wanted a night-time version of one of the shots. This was a very interesting challenge – moving a very high key image to be ultra low key
The car is a new, special edition model, so the alterations were complex – far beyond just changing the colour. We re-rendered the paint and the interior of the car – only tyres and lights remain from the original model. Using the HDR spheres that we’d produced at the time, we re-rendered the building and environment. The floor was taken from the original (pre-retouching) imagery, so retained its texture and was accurate at night. We replaced the city at skyline at the back with sourced material to make a new nightscape.
The new shot retains the elegant simplicity of composition that is a key part of the original, whilst adding the distinct ambience of a moonlit night.
Inexplicably a few brave retouchers lived through the night at the Recom Fearhouse forest cabin last Halloween, and the shaken survivors climb back into the veneer-sided station wagon for the next instalment. Escaping the woods, they arrive in a lonely town at dusk…
What warped levels of darkness are layered and blended with a mask of normality? Will our artists be ready for their “Post” Mortem? Reveal All below….
Peer out from behind the sofa and press play….if you dare.
Dark matters in this dramatic Audi campaign. We created still images in a huge variety of media formats, and also animated cinemagraphs.
From the early bidding stages onwards, our London team was heavily involved in the technical realisation of both still and moving imagery. This was some of the most intense post-production work we’ve been involved with and we are all very proud of the final results with their unique mix of realism and epic style, inspired by movie posters.
The biggest challenge in these shots was that the usual process was reversed. Normally, a car is shot on a location that is as physically similar as possible to the final backplate, and the original plan was photograph the car on the site. However as the Q8 is a completely new Audi model, with only a handful of prototype cars in the world, there wasn’t one available for the shoot in Scotland. So for these images, the backplates had to come first. Ben Stockley started out by capturing cityscapes in Scotland and London which we used to make initial compositions.
With the backplates shot, post artist Pepê Alram joined the photographer and art director Raymond Chan to shoot the cars in the studio with the initial background compositions projected onto giant screens. We fine-tuned the process together through constant experimentation with everything from the size of the car to the colour palettes. We refined the look tirelessly, with on-set input from Christoph Bolten, head of Recom Farmhouse London,until we had completely realistic reflections in the sheet metal and had captured the filmic quality we were after.
In our London studio, post artists Kate Brown and Pepê Alram worked alongside Ben & Raymond to meticulously piece the puzzle together by merging studio and background shots. CGI elements replaced outdated model parts, we added a wet road, layers of rain, lens flares and other foreground elements. The reflections were eventually reduced for a more subtle and natural feel, retaining the perfect placement that we worked on so carefully.
The still images:
At all points of the process, we had considered how these images would work with their added motion elements. The final piece of work was to fine tune the looping animations and bring three atmospheric cinemagraphs to life – a rainy night, lightning flickering around a foggy bridge, and a sparkling cityscape under racing clouds.
Behind The Scenes
See how the layers build up to create the ambience of a cool and rainy city evening in our making-of here:
The campaign is currently on display on digital billboards across the UK.
Frame Magazine assigned photographer Thomas Brown and set designer Andrew Stellitano to create visual interpretations of four themes for their four latest issues – they always work in series for their covers, which they treat as an art project in themselves.
This way of working was an ideal fit for Thomas and Andrew, who enjoy the process of creating a thematically coherent series with colour and abstraction as the central concepts. The only stipulation that Frame made was that the images should be colourful, and there should be an environmental, spatial feel to the images, with architectural depth.
Having worked often together before, they took the initial proposal as a framework but built on it as the work progressed.
One of the most enjoyable parts of this project was the discovery of new ideas to try, as they arose from the initial concepts. It wasn’t all chin-stroking….there was a lot of laughter along the way, as these behind the scenes photos show – enjoy!
Nº 1 of 4: Doubt.
This was inspired by the idea of image as deceptions – thinking about the current geopolitical situation, fake news, the difficulty of knowing what is actually real.
“For the cover of this issue, we created a spatial experience that is all in the mind. The world seems to have flipped on its head, and nothing is as it seems. A tunnel that extends off into the distance is, on close examination, made out of a modular toolkit of materials” — Thomas Brown and Andrew Stellitano
‘Using wood, paper, watercolour, acrylic, glass, organic materials and glycerine, …[they] built a multilayered world that hovers between fantasy and reality. Aptly titled Doubt, it’s their first cover in a series of four’
Exploring the idea of temporality and events such as fashion shows that are hugely involved but fleeting. Flashes in eight different colours captured blocks falling around the static forms.
“Inspired by the speed at which the world is changing, we wanted to create a sculpture that is more than the sum of its parts and that can be captured only as a photograph. With our camera, we compress time.” — Thomas Brown and Andrew Stellitano
“Using stroboscopic lighting in combination with long time exposures the photographer captured moving elements around a static object, creating a feeling of impermanence.” — Frame Magazine
Nº 3 of 4: Environment.
Here, the duo considered the environment in conjunction with illusion and image-making. It’s full of opposites – bringing the outside inside, gravity defying rocks, objectifying the natural and slicing the outside into contained bars in the background.
“We were inspired by a Diane Arbus photograph taken behind the scenes at Disneyland. The image shows huge boulders on wheels against the vast Californian landscape – an artificial backdrop at second sight. It’s a spellbinding scene that puts our expectation of reality into flux. ” — Thomas Brown and Andrew Stellitano
“An outdoor environment that doesn’t play by the normal rules of physics. Rocks become easily transportable objects, and panels function as portals to an alternate reality” — Frame Magazine
Nº 4 of 4: Food.
For the final image, they chose the theme of food. Though it’s ubiquitous, it’s not often an environmental element. The can is revolutionary – its invention changed our relationship to food completely. Its reminiscent of a bitmap, modular, reactive with its simple silver surface which both renders it invisible and responds to the environment around it with reflection and distortion. The shallow water below joins the elements by rising to the right height to make the cans appear to unite, and the projection of Kyoto adds yet another layer of texture and colour.
Shallow water was just below to join elements
“Photography can be a wasteful business, but the contents of all the cans on this issue’s cover were either donated to food banks or turned into amazing corn bread, corn curry and corn fritters. We never want to eat corn again”
“To round off their series of four covers, designed to explore materiality and space [they] … chose food packaging as their medium. Stacked to form primary shapes, the tins create an intriguing landscape.” — Frame Magazine
We loved working with Tomek Olszowski and Bartek Hlawka on this project in set in Croatia, for Mercedes-Benz’s #MBvideocar campaign – the raw power of the car as it roars through the otherworldly setting of a remote island makes for a dynamite short film.Thanks to Tomek for this detailed look behind the scenes of an extraordinary piece of work!
The idea was simple – to create the feel of another world. No trees, no natural green landscapes…we wanted volcanic black sand or rocks, some raw, unearthly and hostile place to be a setting for an insanely extravagant car.
We found the perfect location in a high mountain pass between France and Italy, and sent our concepts to Mercedes, who loved the idea and gave us the green light to use one of their their monster-engined new models – the AMG GT S
However, by this time, our Alpine location was under several unexpected metres of snow….We needed plan B! So we fired up Google Earth and began to explore…
That’s how we found Pag and Rab – two islands in Croatia with spectacular roads to their ferry harbours. They made the perfect choice for our vision: the harbour has lots of free asphalt space, there’s sea water to keep the ground wet, and the traffic is limited because of the ferry schedule.
So I jumped on a plane from Cracow to Stuttgart, picked up the Mercedes AMG GT S model and drove it to Croatia. By the way, the car is awesome – not only a great powerful toy to play with, but also enough comfortable to travel. Very nice experience.
As the November weather was very unpredictable we were worried if we would get any sun in Croatia. The forecast looked strange – on Pag we had a window with great weather – sunny and 18°, but 20 km away on continental Croatia it was snowing and 5°C .
And actually, that was it exactly how it was! I was driving on a Croatian highway at 3 C degrees, in heavy snow, feeling pretty depressed. And right after emerging from the 6 km long Sveti Rok tunnel…the winter was gone. I had full sun and temperature jumped from 3°C to 16°C! How is that even possible? The answer is simple: very strong wind blowing from the sea – and that wind was to cause us problems.
Studio Tecza Production drove from Warsaw to Pag Island in our tech car with all the necessary equipment including cameras, tripods, rigs, lights and grip.
We had a Nikon D800 camera to shoot handheld surrounding shots, plus a PhaseOne XF 100mpx tethered to a computer station. We wanted to shot many rigshots, as I just received my custom built carbon fibre 8m long pole back in Poland. The first day, we were tech scouting the harbour on Pag, preparing the car and planning our schedule according to the sun position.
Next morning in the harbour, we started the shoot early, pumping sea water to make the ground wet. The light was so beautiful that when I saw first shots in CaptureOne I just instantly felt in love. I had wanted to keep a natural feel, and there was literally nothing I could improve. We had lights, flags and other equipment but none of it was needed in these conditions.
We had planned to set up some rigshots on the road as the sun rose higher. Unfortunately, the aforementioned strong wind complicated things. We managed to get only one proper rigshot as the wind was so variable, and when it was blowing we had to wait.
Stills Shoot 2
Next day, we started by shooting the rocky parts.
We had scouted some nice spots where the car would look unexpected and strange, but were still accessible. The wind was so strong we couldn’t even hold the lighting flags, but I was OK with that – the surroundings were beautiful and the natural shots looked still amazing.
We did some panning, and wide landscape shots with the car small in frame as well.Fortunately the wind started to weaken in the afternoon, so we had some time to mount the rig and take another shot. The raw material felt really great. I was proud of my rig gear, it was the first serious test for this equipment. I loved the images produced by the new PhaseOne model, and I wanted the colour to be still more unorthodox and unique. I knew the only guys that would understand were Recom Farmhouse!
Director of Photography Bartek Hlawka and his team had arrived on the first day of shooting stills in their oldie but goodie, Subaru Impreza GT 🙂 This car had a real mission, not only to bring the guys and equipment from Warsaw, but also to take a part of the shoot as a pursuit vehicle. We collaborated closely, discussing everything before each lap up and down the hill.
Photo production showed that the road was almost like a movie set from a zombie apocalypse movie. We saw maybe 3 cars every two hours and it became clear that it would be a lot of fun having a road for ourselves.
We started recce from a drone to get to know all the bends and their surroundings. The weather was windy, so it wasn’t an easy task. After doing almost 100km over a 5km section of the road, we knew every centimeter of it.
Finally we chose the harbour as our starting point for all the shots and also as a location for the final shot.
Our trusted Subaru was very brave on the preproduction day, but the real stuff was to come.
We planned two shooting days for images, and one for audio recording. Next day we arrived at the first location at 5 am and the view was breathtaking. We already knew that we have something special in our hands. After only a few kilometres it became clear that if we wanted to show speed on the screen the only was it to drive… fast.
We drove 700km in total on the spectacular 5km course during two days of pure pleasure! Combined with hard work and a lot of a high-speed driving, it was a filmmaker’s dream come true. The weather was capricious but it gave us an opportunity to shoot in different conditions.
Most of the shots were made on a gimbal attached to a Ditogear Vibrafreek stabilizing arm. We chose a Sony camera to have low light capabilities and combined it with vintage Japanese lenses from the 70s. It gave us a nice analogue feel with a lot of information in the image to do the grading.
After intense two days, we were ready for audio recording. Sound design was always meant to be a huge part of the finished video. We mounted microphones on the exhaust and in the interior, and recorded flybys to have as many options as possible.
With the shooting complete, we moved onto the editing, sound design and colour grading.
Bartek Hlawka edited a first cut and composer Michal “Lieke” wrote a powerful and atmospheric piece of music for it, which inspired the further editing that would tell the story in an interesting way.
Starting with abstract shots of an almost unrecognizable silhouette of the car before dawn, and gradually transitioning to a bright day, we combined all the shots from different weather conditions into a coherent sequence. Then the plan was to overwhelm the viewer with dynamic and dense editing of images and sounds to the point where we felt we had to stop and breathe a little bit…and finally reveal the car and all its magnificently curvilinear design for a few final seconds on the screen.
Lieke completed the atmospheric music and sound design, with the sound of the engine as an integral part of the story.
The colour grading by Christoph at Recom Farmhouse was the final touch, enhancing the feeling of being out of this world and bringing the shots together as a coherent whole. The challenge was to harmonise footage shot in with different lenses, lighting situations, and wildly varying weather conditions. Fine-tuned and polished with painstaking care, the united piece flows flawlessly as a story of a perfect day’s driving from dawn till dusk.”