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: “Vitruvian Man” for Barclays

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.

Final image:

And video animation:

Vitruvian Man on Behance.

Client: Barclays Private Bank
Agency: Ogilvy
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

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: 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

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

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

 

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