By Francesca Jarvis
Making the claim that ‘subtle’ and ‘visual effects’ can peacefully coexist in the same sentence in a CG-dominated visual media industry is a tough call.
With plenty of feature films, television shows and advertisements utilising VFX in an increasingly computer-driven society, it could be argued that the art of visual manipulation is not exactly synonymous with the intricate art of subtlety.
However, that is not always the case. James Rogers, a VFX supervisor for Australian effects, design and post-production house Postmodern Sydney, created all of the effects for a new television commercial to highlight road safety awareness.
Commissioned by the Australian Government, the TAC Victoria Shock motorcyle TVC features significant use of various forms of visual effects techniques, from 3D stabilisation to sky and head replacements, which are all combined in a clever, unnoticeable way.
"I guess what you don’t see is all the hidden effects all the way through because it’s a string of shots stitched together seamlessly," James says. "This whole piece is manipulated to make it look like it is shot all from the point of view of the motorcyclist." However, even the motorcyclist’s dashboard is created out of CGI.
The TVC itself follows a motorcyclist on a short journey, weaving his way dangerously through traffic, pedestrians and locations before his ride is brought to an abrupt end in a shocking crash."
The camera follows his journey, passing through cars, using the same camera technique used on War of The Worlds. Rogers says it was very important to be involved in the TVC preparations right from the start in pre-production.
And he is delighted that it is becoming common amongst clients to get his company involved with previsualisation before work begins. "It’s interesting how much pre-vis we’re doing at the moment. Agencies and directors are getting more used to it."
He adds that the TVC production pretty much followed every move made in the pre-vis, which proves how vitally important it was for allowing the whole crew to visualise and prepare for the shoot in advance.
Thanks to the VFX, the transitions were very fluid and crisp and the end was particularly daring. "We had to actually reconstruct and rebuild about 30 or so frames in the middle of the TVC," James recalls.
"For example, there is a scene when a girl gets on the bike. We had to fit a head replacement onto her body because she wasn’t in the right position. Otherwise, she would have looked too freakish.
"At one point, the whole scene is recreated in CG, but it is impossible to tell. This involved creating new trees along the side of the road and we had to rebuild the traffic light as a 3D traffic light because it was in the wrong position for the shot.
"On top of that, it wasn’t the right weather at the time, so we had to replace the sky too.…there were so many reconstruction shots that had to be made."
For the climax of the piece, which is a hard-hitting ending that needed to resonate with the viewer, the director had opted initially to use a stunt driven approach.
"The stunt didn’t actually go as planned, as often happens. What was supposed to happen was the bike was meant to slide along the road and the biker was meant to slide off as well.
"What ended up happening was the rider and the bike tumbled quite dramatically. Immediately you could see there was a pretty killer sequence you could create by just sticking a car in the sequence. So we shot a plate of the car in a similar sort of area and put the two plates together. It ended up being a very powerful finish."
This TVC is a perfect example of how CGI can be used simply and smartly to make a TVC deliver a very strong message, without making it obvious that the technology was used at all.