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.

Making of: Audi Q8 with Ben Stockley

Audi Q8, photographer Ben Stockley, retouching by Recom Farmhouse

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: 

Audi Q8, photographer Ben Stockley, retouching by Recom Farmhouse

 

Audi Q8, photographer Ben Stockley, retouching by Recom Farmhouse

 

Audi Q8, photographer Ben Stockley, retouching by Recom Farmhouse

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.

The Cinemagraphs


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:

In Situ:


The campaign is currently on display on digital billboards across the UK.

Client: Audi

Agency: BBH

Photographer: Ben Stockley

Art Director: Raymond Chan

Copywriter: Simon Cenamor

Post Artists: Kate Brown, Pepê Alram, Riikka Eiro, Aljaz Bezjak, Maria Luisa Calosso, Nuria Segura

Animation: Aljaz Bezjak

Agency Producers: Adam Overton, Aine Donovan

Photographer’s Agent: Siobhan Squire

 

Mercedes with Tomek Olszowski and Bartek Hlawka – Behind the Scenes

Client: Mercedes Benz Photographer: Tomek Olszowski Post Artists: Aljaž Bezjak  , Maria Luisa Calosso, Ulf Cantignon

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.
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.

Travelling.
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.

Stills shoot.

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!

 

Video shoot.
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.”

 

Client: Mercedes Benz Photographer: Tomek Olszowski Post Artists: Aljaž Bezjak  , Maria Luisa Calosso, Ulf Cantignon

See the full series on our site here.

 

Client: Mercedes Benz

Stills:
Photographer: Tomek Olszowski
Production: Piotr Stefanski – Studio Tecza
Post Artist: Aljaž Bezjak, Maria Luisa Calosso, Ulf Cantignon / Recom Farmhouse
Assistant: Adam Gocel

Film:
Direction: Tomek Olszowski
Director of Photography: Bartek Hlawka
Colour Grading: Christoph Bolten / Recom Farmhouse
Music: Michal Przybylski “Lieke”
Chase Car: Karol Szymanski
Production: Piotr Stefanski – Studio Tecza
Assistants: Adam Bonarski, Adam Gocel

 

 

Grow Up Campaign for Mercedes Benz with Alice Moitié – In Situ

Mercedes-Benz_Grow-Up_001

Grow Up” is the most extensive content creation in Mercedes-Benz’s history.  Produced by Antoni, it’s a groundbreaking campaign centred around five short films. With young stars like rapper A$AP Rocky, the films tell a story that completely revolutionises the image of Mercedes-Benz, with the car becoming a natural ally for millennials in their journey to adulthood.

“Our competition isn’t ads, they’re real films, real TV shows. Stealing four minutes from the time people would be watching their favourite show on Netflix is a tall order, so we tried to be honest with ourselves with what people might actually be interested in.”  – Veit Moller, Creative Director (LBB editorial interview) 

For the accompanying stills, we worked closely with CD Veit Moeller and young photographer Alice Moitié  – printing and re-scanning, adding grain to create a strongly analogue film look, with CGI elements helping with the practical aspects of a worldwide campaign.

The campaign’s media locations are as bold and eyecatching as the rest of the execution, with colossal end-of-wall murals featuring single shots montages from the campaign, and big bold statement cubes in high traffic areas.

 

 

 

 

The shots were also a big success across digital media, showcased on the innovative website and shared widely on social networks.

Ipad Mercedes

The campaign has drawn wide praise for its radical approach

“Mercedes-Benz’s Most Ambitious Marketing Project Yet Is All About What It Means to Grow Up Tackling the evolution of luxury … and, well, life” – Adweek (Ad of the Day) 

“Mercedes-Benz’s Biggest Content Campaign to Date May Make You Think Really Deeply About Your Life”- Ad Age (Editor’s Pick – Creativity) 

“It’s hard to make a good car ad these days. Audiences are bored of the slick fare they are usually offered, and yet most clients still really, really want that shot of the beautiful new vehicle driving around the cliff edge. In this new set of films, those scenic shots are there …nestled in among a set of stories that are intriguing, and at times a little darn bleak….These new films make a welcome addition to the car-ad-as-short-film genre and sure beat the average shiny car spot.” – Creative Review

Also featured by Hypebeast, Campaign and High Snobiety.

Client: Mercedes Benz
Agency: Antoni
Creative Director: Veit Moeller
Photographer: Alice Moitié
Post Artists: Jonas Braukmann, Thomas Saalfrank, Julia Ackermann, Daniel Mattes, June Lee, Stephanie O’Connor / Recom Farmhouse
Art Buyers: Emanuel Mugrauer, Valerie Opitz, Marjorie Jorrot
Production: Iconoclast Germany

See our selection of the campaign images on recomfarmhouse.com

Mercedes - Grow Up wit hAlice Moitié

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