MINI: Beigeman Case Study
Director Franck Balson creates Blur’s inaugural all-CG car commercial for MINI and agency Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners. The :30-second spot showcases the versatility of MINI’s three different base vehicles and the many style options available. The project is Blur’s first car spot, and allowed the company to apply many years of experience creating action packed stories in a different industry.
BSSP and MINI raced against the clock. By the time of their director search the project had only eight weeks before the air date. The agency worked to convince MINI that all CG is the right approach to maximize the impact of the commercial, and set out to find a partner who could deliver a high-end product in a short amount of time.
Balson’s pitch focused on energy. It was a given that the cars must look great. The edit and the action should create visual interest. Also, in order to show that MINI has options the public is not very aware of, it had to visually delineate the three vehicle models. Franck referenced his layout and editorial work on Blur’s title sequence for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo to indicate how unexpected cuts and compositions can drive a message as well as long, single camera moves over interesting subjects.
The agency trusted Franck’s vision and experience to rely on the importance of editorial, something that could not have been evaluated before the project began. It was this trust that brought the job to Blur.
In order to speed up the process, Blur handled layout animation and editorial in the same department with the same artists. This is unique compared to the traditional previs-to-editor process, but it is how Blur approaches game trailer and cinematic work. Blur’s 3D layout artists are also accomplished editors in their own right. This efficiency accelerated the editorial process and the group achieved edit lock in the space of one week.
Blur also chose to apply the driving simulations in the previs phase in order to expedite the process. The idea was to get edit lock with 90% of animation complete so that the rest of the schedule could be spent on look development and final tweaks in the render and composite. The team used the Mad Car plugin for 3ds Max with rigs that matched the proportions on the three vehicle models. This allowed Franck to direct the spot as if it were live-action, not waiting for the driving simulation to be applied onto a roughly blocked previs cut.
Concurrent to previs, the CG team went to work creating the high resolution vehicles. Using the provided vehicle CAD data, the team created models that could be used in 3ds Max and rendered turntable views of each product for approval.
Once the models were approved, the team played with Vray’s car paint shaders and different compositing techniques to dial in the final look while leaving as much flexibility for agency and client changes as possible. This is a departure from Blur’s typical pipeline because in all-CG cinematics most of the look is established in 3D. Applied with environmental effects, the initial tests were promising and assured the agency and client of the final look of the spot
Upon edit lock, artists applied the high resolution models to the approved animation and applied camera and animation final touches to ensure the contact points on the ground appeared realistic. For Effects, the team created a growing ice and snow floor through which the Countryman vehicle drives. The snow required particle simulations and compositing to integrate it with the scene.
The final two weeks of the project focused on creating high fidelity renders and surgical compositing to bring out specific reflections on the vehicles, depth of field, camera shake and other fine details that make the commercial appear photoreal. Final finishing and versioning happened in a supervised Flame session with the agency.