“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.
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
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.
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.
Frame Magazine assigned photographer Thomas Brown and set designer Andrew Stellitano to create visual interpretations of four themes for their four latest issues – they always work in series for their covers, which they treat as an art project in themselves.
This way of working was an ideal fit for Thomas and Andrew, who enjoy the process of creating a thematically coherent series with colour and abstraction as the central concepts. The only stipulation that Frame made was that the images should be colourful, and there should be an environmental, spatial feel to the images, with architectural depth.
Having worked often together before, they took the initial proposal as a framework but built on it as the work progressed.
One of the most enjoyable parts of this project was the discovery of new ideas to try, as they arose from the initial concepts. It wasn’t all chin-stroking….there was a lot of laughter along the way, as these behind the scenes photos show – enjoy!
Nº 1 of 4: Doubt.
This was inspired by the idea of image as deceptions – thinking about the current geopolitical situation, fake news, the difficulty of knowing what is actually real.
“For the cover of this issue, we created a spatial experience that is all in the mind. The world seems to have flipped on its head, and nothing is as it seems. A tunnel that extends off into the distance is, on close examination, made out of a modular toolkit of materials” — Thomas Brown and Andrew Stellitano
‘Using wood, paper, watercolour, acrylic, glass, organic materials and glycerine, …[they] built a multilayered world that hovers between fantasy and reality. Aptly titled Doubt, it’s their first cover in a series of four’
Exploring the idea of temporality and events such as fashion shows that are hugely involved but fleeting. Flashes in eight different colours captured blocks falling around the static forms.
“Inspired by the speed at which the world is changing, we wanted to create a sculpture that is more than the sum of its parts and that can be captured only as a photograph. With our camera, we compress time.” — Thomas Brown and Andrew Stellitano
“Using stroboscopic lighting in combination with long time exposures the photographer captured moving elements around a static object, creating a feeling of impermanence.” — Frame Magazine
Nº 3 of 4: Environment.
Here, the duo considered the environment in conjunction with illusion and image-making. It’s full of opposites – bringing the outside inside, gravity defying rocks, objectifying the natural and slicing the outside into contained bars in the background.
“We were inspired by a Diane Arbus photograph taken behind the scenes at Disneyland. The image shows huge boulders on wheels against the vast Californian landscape – an artificial backdrop at second sight. It’s a spellbinding scene that puts our expectation of reality into flux. ” — Thomas Brown and Andrew Stellitano
“An outdoor environment that doesn’t play by the normal rules of physics. Rocks become easily transportable objects, and panels function as portals to an alternate reality” — Frame Magazine
Nº 4 of 4: Food.
For the final image, they chose the theme of food. Though it’s ubiquitous, it’s not often an environmental element. The can is revolutionary – its invention changed our relationship to food completely. Its reminiscent of a bitmap, modular, reactive with its simple silver surface which both renders it invisible and responds to the environment around it with reflection and distortion. The shallow water below joins the elements by rising to the right height to make the cans appear to unite, and the projection of Kyoto adds yet another layer of texture and colour.
Shallow water was just below to join elements
“Photography can be a wasteful business, but the contents of all the cans on this issue’s cover were either donated to food banks or turned into amazing corn bread, corn curry and corn fritters. We never want to eat corn again”
“To round off their series of four covers, designed to explore materiality and space [they] … chose food packaging as their medium. Stacked to form primary shapes, the tins create an intriguing landscape.” — Frame Magazine
Inspired by the 80s horror movies we love, and particularly by The Evil Dead, we decided it was time for us to star in our own Night of Terror. Of course we’ll need the right vintage of car, complete with wood-effect side panels.
Image one: The Axeman Join us as we willingly enter our own world of fear in the Making-of video!
[vimeo 237740867 w=640 h=360]
Now we’ll drive together from our small-town American home to a cabin in the woods…what could possibly go wrong?
Image 2: The Cabin
We built our movie-inspired sets in CGI using Maya. We were striving for a cinematic feel to the scene, so the environment is all-important – it becomes a character in the story that we’re telling.
With the layout of the shot decided, we added textures, and began work on the lighting.
For lighting direction we found a lot of inspiration from the photographer Gregory Crewdson. The exquisite lighting of his elaborately staged photographs, many of them taken at night, create a mood that connects the viewer to the story he is trying to tell.
We lit and rendered the scene in Vray and rendered volumetric fog for the desired atmospheric effect.
With final adjustments in Photoshop, the scene is set.
What will happen to us here? Will we stay together, sensibly turning our finely tuned monitors into security cameras, and using our Wacom styluses to defend ourselves? Or will we inevitably become separated in the forest? …Stay tuned….
It’s always one of our favourite experiences when someone turns up out of the blue with a really extraordinary project for us to work on – makes our mouse hands itch to start! – and this series, inspired by Dutch and Flemish paintings, was a truly inspiring collaboration.
Jonas Lord explores the culture of victimhood in various metaphorical visuals with staged surreal scenarios. Post Artists Pepê Alram and Maria Calosso at our London studio helped Jonas with the series – this was a great combination, with the team working very smoothly together in a real synchrony of vision and ideas.
Jonas describes the series in his artist statement below:
“The series begins with an image of baby tigers – the symbol of the east – on a chopping board about to be consumed by rapid westernisation”
“It then speeds up with an image of a woman’s body devoured by wolves on a dinner table speaking about consumerist scrutiny of the female form in our culture.”
“In one of the photos, a tied up woman is calmly staring at the camera–she’s chosen to be in the position of an objectified woman. It’s not to victim blame but to comment on how society grooms certain people to consciously take part in their own victimisation.
We desperately snap Instagram pictures of ourselves from the best angles in hopes to be admired which ties us up to the desperate daily dose of admiration.
In this photo, the men are also reduced to faceless stereotypes who turn into animals as they step on the chess board.”
“We desperately try to adhere to whatever beauty standards are on trend, which I explored in the pic with two teenage girls awkwardly posing while shaving their body hair. I juxtaposed them with sheep in the foreground the inspiration for which came from a feminist protest in 1969 where protesters dressed up a sheep as Miss America.” Do retouchers dream of electric sheep?
“Through these visual metaphors I was looking for ways to explore the manifold nature of victimhood. Do we choose to be victims? Are we groomed to be victims?”
We’re delighted that Jonas Lord approached us with his fascinating series and we’re stoked to work with this amazing new talent.
Photographer: Jonas Lord
Post Artists: Pepê Alram, Maria Luisa Calosso, Kate Brown / Recom Farmhouse