Building the perfect stage for the super cool L100 concept car was an exciting task for our Sofia based studio Recom Blacksmith, that also specializes in full CGI environments. The goal was to create a believable salt desert with a very specific mountain range which photographer Uli Heckmann was envisioning.
Starting with a foreground detail and a base pattern, small rocks were scattered to create a more realistic salt lake effect.
Eventually, the patch was used to cover 40 square km which was a breeze using Clarisse. The scene was then optimized and reduced from 28 quadrillion polygons to a mere 4.5 quadrillion.
The next step was adding the water by cutting into the geometry. The position and shape of the glassy, shallow puddles remained flexible to be able to react to feedback from the client.
For the mountain range satellite data came in handy to build and match the photographer’s imagined scenery.
Creative Lead: Uli Heckmann
Coordination: Tim Michel Producer
CGI: Ivo Stanev / Recom Farmhouse
Post Artists: Christian Schemer, Daniel Seiler, Frank Hoppler, Fabian Stehle / Recom Farmhouse
Supervision: Thorsten Jasper Weese / Recom Farmhouse
“Through the mechanical and perpetual movements of diamonds, malachite, tourmaline and pearls the viewer is taken from a rational state of mind to a trance-like hallucination where both image and colours react to the altered state of mind. Jewels are real, but they are also a sub-conscious reality that exist as a state of desire in our mind.”
– Alessandra Kila
Follow Alessandra Kila into a world of hypnotic machines that enthrall through their perpetual movement. Working closely with our London studio, a triptych of full CGI videos evolved, each featuring a piece of Chanel jewellery functioning like an entrancing device: a necklace oscillates like a pendulum, a ring repeats the pattern of a spinning machine and a bracelet echoes the circular movements of a gyroscope.
How we made it:
Starting with a moodboard of references drawn from architecture, fashion, textures and art, Alessandra Kila created a world with a highly curated and very distinct slant on Art Deco.
The jewellery was recreated in CGI from the original pieces, with great attention paid to the texturing of surfaces and the properties of the precious stones. Detail is everything…
For the animations Alessandra and our 3D artist Anna Toropova tested and observed the movements in real life before imitating them on screen. For instance, repeatedly dropping and filming a pearl or a ring, then replicating its motion in CGI.
At times that meant working frame by frame to achieve the most realistic flow. Clay renders below show the careful, precise progress of the work.
The simplified set design and colours subtly harmonise with the Art Deco style of the jewellery pieces.
The sets are particularly inspired by ideas around vitrines and the display of precious objects.
Glitchy psychedelic interruptions jolt the viewer from their reverie, creating dramatic dissonances.
Initial tests show wild experimentation for colours that have just the right qualities.
The final colour grading and sound design pull all the pieces together – blending these two aesthetic worlds.
Director: Alessandra Kila
Concept, Look Development: Alessandra Kila
Full CGI Motion and Stills: Recom Farmhouse
Editor: Zoe Alexandrou
Music Composer and Sound Designer: Manuel Pinheiro
VFX: Alessandra Kila
Compositing: Felix Baesch / Recom Farmhouse
Modelling: Tanguy Koutouan / Recom Farmhouse
Texturing and Shading: Joe Carney / Recom Farmhouse
Animatics and Lighting: Anna Toropova / Recom Farmhouse
Color Grading: Christoph Bolten / Recom Farmhouse
Still Retouching: Aljaz Bezjak, Maria Luisa Calosso / Recom Farmhouse
Tomek Makolski collaborates with Recom Farmhouse to create full CGI staging for an evocative slice of 80s Vegas life.Bored but ultra-glamorous, she stalks her enclosed world of a motel in purest yellow. The images are drenched in intense pastel yellows and blues, but below the surface gloss of this sunny palette, there’s tension in these moments out of time, a sense of detachment, drift and dream.
Why this solitary intermission in her life, just killing time?
Subtle cues in the setting hint at an ambivalent celebrity and faint, atmospheric menace.
A Look Behind The Scenes
We were delighted to collaborate with Tomek to bring this idea to life.
The model photography was already complete, so we began with her character, working collaboratively to imagine a setting for her that would be right for her aesthetic…stylish but faintly gritty.
With a huge variety of movements to choose from, we chose those that contributed to the atmosphere we are trying to build – strongly defined poses with interesting shapes – and built an environment for this character to inhabit.
A sense of place is central to creating realistic environments, even though we didn’t want to without being too explicit about the location. We settled on suburban Las Vegas as having the right combination of motel style that we needed to stage the scenes.
Searching to find a sweet spot between surrealism and reality, we created a realistic motel, and turned every part of yellow to add a jolt of unreality, as well as giving a stylishly minimal feel to the detailed environments.
Smaller cues such as her face in the poster on the wall, or in the magazines ,add to an almost subliminal sense of displacement.
It’s also a time capsule of 80s elements. The styling of the model had already been carefully considered – her sun visor, big hair channeling Faye Dunaway, the cut of her swimsuit – so we chose props such as the vending machine to enhance the feeling of a shift in time.
Tomek already had a moodboard of references, and we expanded on this with contemporary details for all elements – whether integral parts of the set like breeze blocks or railing designs, to objects like towers of cards and an oversized phone.Items like a baseball bat or broken glass contributed to the faint sense of unease, and the feeling of depth and difference in focus enhances the dream-like feeling of the series.
We wanted to use a different, more stripped back workflow on this project. The images were begun in Unreal, the CGI finished in Blender, and then composited and graded in Capture One.
Everything is CGI in the images except the model and the sun lounger – and in fact we we recreated the sun lounger in CGI for a seamless match between the real and the virtual.
We began the project in Unreal, so we could adjust all the elements of the set with maximum interactivity. In Unreal, we matched the lighting and angles of the CGI environment to the original model shots, and tested colours and props at lightning speed.
Instant feedback at high fidelity allowed us to be adventurous in art direction…moving the model around the set without the need to wait for renders. It’s a great platform for experimentation and taking chances.
With the creative decisions made, we moved the project into Blender for the last stage.
This meant we could render the final CGI environments in a high enough quality that we could go directly to compositing and colour grading – an interesting exercise for us to see how far we could push pure CGI.
Finally, we added the model in via Capture One with minimal colour work – just minimal grading to balance her correctly into the CGI backplate.
We hope you enjoy the way this collaboration blurs the line between fantasy and reality…we’re proud to have made the dream real.
Soundtrack: We recommend Bananarama and Fun Boy Three: Our Lips Are Sealed
Although, it’s up for debate whether we escaped our most vicious foes after all. I suppose we may have “overlooked” remote work being as debilitating as it has been. With New Yorkers primarily still working from home, and the fun months of banana bread making behind us, we face the difficulty of living in The Recom Fearhouse. Conference calls disrupted by barking dogs, spilled coffee from tripping over children’s toys, ordering pizza in a trance of perpetual snacking…
…not getting enough time to play may have made us all a little “dull.”
This essence of insanity from too much vacationing at home was manifested to match that of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, a cult classic, and a Recom NYC favourite. An avid appreciation for the film spurred numerous easter eggs and tie-ins to the 1980 hit.
A closer look will reveal all… BUT BEWARE! What you see may frighten, perhaps even scar you!
Unable to view the Overlook Hotel in person, we recreated it in CGI from movie references. We matched the lighting, props, and composition from those of the screen grabs.
Once our foundation was set, our team of horror fans began compositing items from our home offices into the scene.
We embellished the truth a bit, making the “real” Recom Fearhouse from children’s toys, cold coffee, and stale pizza to sell that aspect of homegrown insanity. And ya know, a little whiskey for… improved focus… hehe.
Once we’d decorated the room with our aromatic décor, it was time to collect our sheets of sprawled paper with our twist on “All work and no play.”
Of course, the typewriter alone wouldn’t be enough of a tribute to the pop-culture, trendsetter source material. Pulling out our digital pocketknives, we carved the famous “Redrum” into our tabletop, and we placed them right beside our matching twin VW’s Beetles. Our twins are still in one piece, though…
Maybe next year we’ll dust our Fearhouse Mobile off and see where it takes us. Hopefully somewhere quiet…
Creative Direction: Richard Levene, Steven Orts, Andrew Coleman, Robert Russ, Luke Burke / Recom Farmhouse NYC
CGI: Luke Burke / Recom Farmhouse NYC
Retouching & Editing: Steven Orts, Andrew Coleman, Robert Russ / Recom Farmhouse NYC
Sound Compilation: Robert Russ / Recom Farmhouse NYC
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
Moon Images: NASA
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, Adora Makokha at Kobalt Music.
‘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!
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.
Client: Barclays Private Bank
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
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
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.
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
“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