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 CGI elements replaced outdated model parts, we added a wet road, layers of rain, lens flares and other foreground elements.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.”
How to bring the sunshine when the weather just will not co-operate? This is how we do it:
Marc Trautmann took the new compact crossover E-Pace on a week long shoot to the streets of London for its latest campaign. The brief called for a sunny, late afternoon atmosphere, but the weather refused to cooperate. This didn’t stop our post artist Pepê Alram from using his mad sunshine painting skills, and together the team transformed a gloomy day into a pleasant, bustling afternoon in the city.
We spent a week shooting in locations around Italy for Bentley, with photographer Graham Thorp and agency Keko London, updating classic Italian landscape photography to fit with the modern luxury of the new Bentley Continental GTI.
As we started work to create the perfect image above, it was clear that there would be some challenges along the road…photographer Graham Thorp waits for the briefest moment of sunshine. “Let’s shoot in the mountains, they said. The light and views are amazing, they said…”
Creative Director Iain Ross searches for a break in the clouds:
…but after extensive scouting (and a wait for the weather!) we’re up early and waiting for the light:
Awkward positions make for the perfect angle on those twisting mountain roads…
As workspaces go, you can’t complain:
That perfect low light for shooting needs some work for the post-production environment…
Talk to the monitor!
Beautiful sunset light on a perfectly curving stretch of road…
Setting up in the early morning – classic Tuscany landscapes:
Burning the midnight oil by the pool:
Some of the final results in print, in Harper’s Bazaar:
Sling your surfboard into the pickup and join us on location for our ten day shoot travelling across Oregon’s beaches, forests, deserts and mountains. We worked with John Roe and GTB on the launch campaign of the Ford Ranger, marking its return to the US market after seven years.
We had a Ford Ranger brought in from Australia with the same dimensions and wheel base as the new Ford Ranger, which we would later create in CGI for the final images. This helped greatly for lining up shots, and for the talent to interact with – especially for loading and unloading surfboards, bikes and so on. We had every kind of weather imaginable – sun, snow, rain and wind but thanks to the Lizard’s super fast capture, we were able to work quickly, even in the shortest windows of sunshine.
See how this shot was created in our “Making of” video here:
Next was a beach location. The photographer would first shoot the image with the stand-in truck. Then we would move the truck out of view and shoot clean backplates. In this way we could easily add the new CGI truck, and composite the talent back into the final image.
On set in a contrasting location – a very cold morning as we shoot the truck in the snow. With the truck driven away, Richard sets up the Lizard to capture a spectacular mountain backdrop.
While we were on the shoot, we talked about how it would be fun to put Bigfoot into one of the images, and we put him into a shot as a surprise for the client in the presentation. They loved it! So a couple of “Easter Eggs” made it into the final images and can be seen on the Ford site ..see if you can spot Bigfoot and Nessie! North American Product Communications Manager at Ford, Mike Levine, referenced them for people to find on his Twitter account here:
This was a fun shoot with a great bunch of people. We couldn’t resist setting up the Lizard for a 360 degree group shot. Introducing the Dream Team!
From left to right:
Jason Pachura – Location Manager
Brian Hug – Motorhome
Josh Nagy – Digital Technician
Richard Levene – CGI Supervisor
Phil Treece – DST (Car specialist)
John Kwiecien – Producer
John Roe – Photographer
Dianna Berggren – Production Coordinator
Nathan Garcia – Camera Assistant
Pete Thomas – Camera Assistant
Todd Ruthven – Creative Director
David Nonthaweth – Digital Art Director
The ultra-distinctive stylings of Bertone cars are epitomised by the angular Ferrari Rainbow. This astonishing wedge-shaped concept car from 1976 never went into production and the prototype remains concealed in Bertone’s private collection.
Through CGI we set out to bring it into a uniquely imagined world. Clemens began by sketching a deceptively simple series of shapes, exploring balance, colour and volume.
In the Recom Farmhouse London studio, we took Clemens’ initial sketches and began to work with them in CGI, turning the blocked volumes into architectural elements and experimenting with the placement of the car.
Gathering references for the concrete and asphalt. We spent time observing how the materials age, plants, water, sand and other natural forces work on the angular forms of buildings.
.Collaboratively, we created the monuments, making the abstract shapes work intriguingly but believably together. And we incorporated some pre-shot elements from Clemens – for instance, skies and figures.
Working closely at every stage with the photographer, we created the perfect setting and mood for this mysterious supercar. See how the yellow image was built up in this video:
The Mercedes E-Class with Nadav Kander for Antoni – a fascinating project creating an extraordinary car campaign. Strong lines, clear colours and striking textures combine with abstract architecture, surreal volcanic landscapes and of course the sleek refined lines of the flagship convertible.
The concepts contained angular modern architectural elements, contrasting beautifully with rough organic texture of the volcanic rock. Initially the idea was to have a modular set built that could be moved around the platform. However, this had a number of logistical and timing difficulties and so our Berlin team offered to create the elements in CGI instead. We were able to work directly with the art director in the studio to experiment with the utmost flexibility. In this way, we could perfect the shape and angles to match the layouts perfectly before the shoot began, whilst adhering to Nadav Kander’s input of keeping everything as simple as possible.
Testing the layouts and trialling different options:
Scouting for the perfect locations for HDR spheres in the volcanic island landscapes:
After Lanzarote, we took more backplates at this spectacular location on the Spanish coast. This was the view from the infinity pool – if you squint, you can just see Africa.
The crew assemble…
Only the topmost graduates of The Handsome Boy Modelling School can throw a towel off and jump in the pool with such verve and élan…
Our own modelling efforts are less professional.
Still, everyone looks better with a giant yellow head. You can just see the base of the cherrypicker beside the pool, to take the shot from a direct birds-eye view.
High up above in the cherrypicker
Up in the sky for the perfect angle
The Recom poolside cabana is fully equipped! Processing and checking everything will fit together perfectly.
As the car was top secret at the time, it couldn’t be photographed on location, and was shot at a secret platform on a closed set with high security. We lived for a few days in a gilded cage, not leaving the hotel with its three shooting platforms.
This was our work view for the week! We have to confess we much preferred the pool….
Once the car and backplates were safely captured, we began work on putting together the images. We set the car seamlessly in the volcanic landscapes, and refined the textures and shapes of the CGI architecture.
Photographer: Nadav Kander
Creative Director: Tillmann Gossner
Art Director: Patricia Scheder
Art Buyer: Valerie Opitz
Representation: Olivia Gideon Thompson at We Folk
CGI Artists: Sebastian Schierwater / Recom Berlin
Post Artists: Jonathan Clarke, Jonas Disch, Stephanie O’Connor, Jonas Braukmann / Recom Berlin
The i3S is the sportier brother of BMW’s electric compact car. For the launch, BMW wanted a strong real-life feeling – as if passers by had taken some snapshots. Shot over eight days in the streets of San Francisco, Andreas Hempel used natural light in urban situations, using a current model as a stand-in.
With the plan being to use as much natural light as possible, the preparation day started out rather worryingly…
However the next morning was much improved and the team assembles for the first shot:
Timelapse of setting up a shot:
Lunch break, San Francisco style
As each first day’s shooting is complete, with on-set support from our Stuttgart team, we prepare to work our magic!
Reference photos for wheel reflections.
More high-speed work
Getting on the the low down for the perfect angle…
A complex setup to capture a spontaneous moment…
Setting up the shot, preparing for the moment when the light is at the perfect angle
And – there it is! We swapped in almost the entire front plus a few other distinctive parts of the new model in CGI, and intensified the dark, shadowy look. See the full series on our site here
Photographer: Andreas Hempel
Creative Directors: Jan Grothklags, Falk Pegelow, Mark Räke
Art Director: Christine Behrendt
CGI Artist: Andreas A. Maurer / Recom Farmhouse
Post Artists: Jonas Disch, Laura Kißner / Recom Farmhouse
Inspired by the 80s horror movies we love, and particularly by The Evil Dead, we decided it was time for us to star in our own Night of Terror. Of course we’ll need the right vintage of car, complete with wood-effect side panels.
Image one: The Axeman Join us as we willingly enter our own world of fear in the Making-of video!
[vimeo 237740867 w=640 h=360]
Now we’ll drive together from our small-town American home to a cabin in the woods…what could possibly go wrong?
Image 2: The Cabin
We built our movie-inspired sets in CGI using Maya. We were striving for a cinematic feel to the scene, so the environment is all-important – it becomes a character in the story that we’re telling.
With the layout of the shot decided, we added textures, and began work on the lighting.
For lighting direction we found a lot of inspiration from the photographer Gregory Crewdson. The exquisite lighting of his elaborately staged photographs, many of them taken at night, create a mood that connects the viewer to the story he is trying to tell.
We lit and rendered the scene in Vray and rendered volumetric fog for the desired atmospheric effect.
With final adjustments in Photoshop, the scene is set.
What will happen to us here? Will we stay together, sensibly turning our finely tuned monitors into security cameras, and using our Wacom styluses to defend ourselves? Or will we inevitably become separated in the forest? …Stay tuned….