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.

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

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

 

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

Making Of: BMW 7 Series, Full CGI with Alessandra Kila

“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.

BMW / Full CGI Client: BMW Creative Supervision BMW: Florian Hartmann, Julia Obermeier Concept & Art Direction: Alessandra Kila CGI Artist: Kristian Turner, Carlos Pecino, Anna Toropova Post Artist: Pepê Alram, Kate Brown, Riikka Eiro, Maria Luisa Calosso

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.

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

BMW / Full CGI Client: BMW Creative Supervision BMW: Florian Hartmann, Julia Obermeier Concept & Art Direction: Alessandra Kila CGI Artist: Kristian Turner, Carlos Pecino, Anna Toropova Post Artist: Pepê Alram, Kate Brown, Riikka Eiro, Maria Luisa Calosso

Client: BMW
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

Volvo with Tomek Olszowski

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 nose  adds 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:

Tomek Olszowski - Volvo

See the whole series on Behance here

Photography: Tomek Olszowski
Production: Piotr Stefański
Model: Natalia Michalewska
Stylist: Dorota Magdziarz
Make up & Hair: Magda Gontarczuk
Assist: Dominik Nowak, Adam Gocel, Tomasz Kret
Post Artist: Pepê Alram

Delorean with Tomek Olszowski

“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 .

See the finished series on  Behance.

 

See the whole project on our site and on Behance.

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

On Location: Nissan Juke

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.

Nissan

See the process here:

And the whole campaign on Behance here.

Client: Nissan Europe

Agency: TBWA/Paris

Art Director: Elisabeth Ribeiro

Assistant Art Director: Maude Muller

Art Buyer: Marie Moulin

Photographer: Nick Meek

Production: New Moon Productions

CGI Artist: Kristian Turner (daytime shot), Carlos Pecino (night time shot)

Post Artists: Pepê Alram, Ulf Cantignon, Christoph Bolten

Recom Farmhaunt

Recom Farmhaunt

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.

No horror movie is complete without a poster:

Recom Farmhaunt poster

 

CGI Artists: Luke Burke & Alex Bowen
Retouching: Federico Chiesa
Art Direction: Federico Chiesa
Music composition for animation: Federico Chiesa

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