Entries in Bill Bennett ASC (1)


Computer Generated Reflections

When you're shooting cars—or shooting anything, actually, and come to think of it, when you're designing anything shiny, like cars, 
... furniture (my favorite Eames chair, here)

... or vases (I would kill for one of these Zeisel Fig Vases)—
it's all about the reflections. Designers are actually designing the shape of the reflection, in addition to the feel of the shape, on these kinds of products.
The above is a pretty cool car commercial for the Lincoln MKZ that my brother shot recently at the Calatrava museum in Valencia. The car is digital, and the way they mapped the reflections of the building onto the surface is pretty darned cool. Still don't really understand how it was done, even after reading Bill's shooting notes:
This is a Lincoln MKZ commercial I shot for Director Andrew Sinagra at Ntropic. Andrew was also the Visual Effects Supervisor on the project. The car we were selling was so new, it was not available to us at the time of shooting, so we shot a BMW 6-series as the stand-in car on location. The location is the huge Museum of Arts and Science in Valencia, Spain.

Then Andrew, along with Nate Robinson and his crew at Ntropic placed a CGI version of the new car into the various shots. We shot with Arri Alexa Plus, recording the camera pitch & roll, lens focus distance, lens focal length, and lens aperture to the imbedded Alexa shot metadata. They utilized this metadata in post to help fit the CGI components into the shots. We were constantly zooming during the shots, something without the frame-by-frame metadata, would have made the post very difficult to achieve.

We also recorded the light in the environment with a 4mm fisheye on a Red Epic, shooting straight up, mounted on top of another vehicle. After we did each shot with the stand-in car and the Alexa, another crew would drive the Epic camera through the shot to record the reflections that were later mapped back into the CG car surfaces. You will notice that the lens flares that we shot with the Alexa and Epic on location are blended perfectly with the CG car. The Alexa was mounted on a Gemini Crane, mounted on a Porsche Cayenne camera car from Camera Car Industries, with a Filmotechnics gyro stabilized Flight Head.

Things have come a long way since they shot the Dodge "Time" commercial 

which was an early use of digital design. I think it that case, though, the cars were real. I remember visiting the set for this one and saw they had the car mounted in the air on its side, completely masked off with tape (covering the car) so that they could shoot just the outline of the car (later they'd use that mask to strip in background, etc.). It was pretty cool to see a car suspended in mid air, sideways, about five feet off the ground.
But it's also pretty cool to enjoy a great building through the reflections in a digitally-generated car.