International visual effects facility Method Studios creates intricate VFX for Payload: Motorola’s latest mobile phone commercial
Award-winning visual effects group Method Studios was responsible for creating the complex VFX in this new spot for Motorola’s new Droid Razr model. The company got involved with the project in early September after being approached by advertising and design agency Mcgarrybowen and production company Biscuit filmworks with the brief.
Many of the original ideas for the spot feature in the finished product, however, the concept changed as the production process began. Method’s VFX producer Sascha Flick explains, “As we began to collaborate with the director, Noam Murro, his production team, and the agency creative team, the story evolved and changed from the original boards. Things like gun turrets, flying blades, car flips, and truck rooftop fights were eliminated, and items like stealth motorcycles, drone vehicles, spike-deploying bikes and box recovery scenes took their place.”
Along with building the product – the Razr phone – in 3D, Method designed and created the CG blade cage as well. The company also created the CG box and van ramp and touched every shot in the spot in terms of compostiting plates together and clean up. Additionally, the team changed all of the lights on the motorcycle from blue to white and also added logos on the side of the convoy vehicle.
To achieve all of these intricate effects, the team opted to use Maya for modelling, rigging and animation, a combination of Mari and Photoshop for texturing, Houdini for some of the spark and smoke effects, and rendered everything using V-Ray.
However, it was Maya that proved to be the most useful tool in production. “Our Maya pipeline for asset, rigging and animation publishing was our most vital tool in completing so many shots in a short period of time,” says VFX supervisor Sean Faden. ”It allowed our animators to quickly and efficiently share scenes with our lighters, and when a rig change was required, updates were easy. Payload had several different animated assets that all ran through this publishing scheme: the box with an articulated top, the blade cage, the van ramps, and the snapping wire cables.”
With so many animated elements came a complex lighting set-up, which the team worked out using their chosen renderer. ”The lighting on the phone and blade cage was achieved using V-Ray,” says Faden. ”Our team created a convincing prop using a combination of HDR photography from the set and carefully placed HDR images of silks and additional realistic set lighting assets. HDR photography only gets you so far… It takes an artist playing director of photography to place additional lights in a way to accentuate the details of the CG, and V-Ray allows for quick feedback as lighting adjustments are made.”