Working once again with Critical Mass, TJ was commissioned to create images for the new Nissan Leaf car launched earlier this year. A new car is always shrouded in secrecy and this was no exception. Critical Mass approached TJ to create two views of the launch vehicle from pre-release styling design data. We were able to work closely with the professional team at Nissan, North America, continually feeding back comments- despite the time difference, with materials and specifications for the vehicle.
The result- we delivered two final images of the new Nissan Leaf in a stylised outdoor location which was used for the US launch of the website, including additional digital promotional materials online and press packs. Importantly, the images were delivered as layered files giving the Critical Mass web development team flexibility for their layouts.
'Behind the scenes'
We were commissioned by Critical Mass to create two images for the Nissan Leaf, a new model, high security, zero emission automobile that was still in the preproduction/prototype phase at the time of the commission. The agency needed the finished files in just over one week; a very quick turn around for any project let alone one that required rendering a photo-realistic car and background from little more than some pre-production CAD data.
We received the pre-production CAD data from Nissan along with two reference photos of the prototype with which to compare the data and check for inaccuracies. From those three assets we were able to render a photo-realistic “Leaf” in an outdoor environment that we rendered from two different, client-approved angles.
Projects like this where you are creating the first ever visuals of a new product, especially a car, is almost always a balancing act between creating something that is visually captivating yet simple. It needs to have a bit of “drama” to draw you in, but simultaneously show you all the lines and details in an almost diagrammatical, “product-shot” sort of way. For pre-production cars these “first looks” or “pre-launches” have historically been done in photography and most always in a studio. This entire process is expensive and time consuming as there is usually only a few prototypes in existence that are photo-ready. Of those, they usually are missing several details like proper interiors, head and tail lamps, badges, grills, wheels, etc. that will be on the final production model and therefore need to be in the final shot but aren’t on the car you are shooting. There is also the issue that the prototypes are very expensive to move around so a crew usually has to travel to the vehicle. In the case of Nissan, they have photo studios at their factory in Zama, Japan (just outside Tokyo) where agencies and crews have to travel to in order to conduct these shoots. We eliminated all that.
By using CGI to create these “launch” shots from the pre-production CAD data we were able to render a “product correct” version of a car that most likely did not exist in such a state in the real world. Before a piece of a car can be built, it is first designed in a computer so even if the final re-designed tail lights have yet to be physically made, we can render them! Not only that, we were able to put the car into a believable outdoor environment and create two great shots in just over a week. We were able to accomplish this through our streamlined production pipeline that we call Real World Rendering™. This five step process enables our clients to have maximum flexibility with opportunities to give their input and feedback at just the right times so that projects keep moving forward. We don’t just produce a final image and then ask our clients if they like it; they are involved the whole way so that creative setbacks are minimized if not eradicated, and when we get to the end of a job, there are no surprises.
Following this process, Critical Mass was first given a complete angle study of the vehicle going around 360° from different camera heights and with different lenses. This enabled them to quickly choose which camera angle, height and lens they felt best represented this vehicle. We immediately began building and lighting our scene. The client wanted an outdoor feel to the lighting combined with the simplicity and definition of a studio shoot. In the real world this is a very difficult task to accomplish that requires equipment on location as well as quite a bit of post-production retouching. In CGI, however, all real world limitations are gone and the retouching is minimized. From there we were able to bring the first shot to life with the agencies direction creating the overall look, feel, and environment that they were after. Once the overall aesthetic was established for one shot, it was just a matter of moving the camera in 3D and re-rendering for our second shot. You can take one shot all the way to the end and then create another that takes a fraction of the time which makes for the perfect companion!
TJ was able to produce two great shots that were not only used for the “pre-launch” but continue to be used by Nissan to showcase the Leaf. They were produced in a minimal amount of time for a minimal budget and, compared to photography, accomplished things that were not feasible at any price.
PRE-PRODUCTION / AGENCY LAYOUT
PRE-PRODUCTION / EMBLEM DESIGN
PRE-PRODUCTION / CAR REFERENCE
PRODUCTION / CAD DATA DEVELOPMENT
PRODUCTION / MS2 BASE MODELING, TEXTURES AND MATERIALS
PRODUCTION / BACKGROUND OPTIONS
PRODUCTION / MS4 CAR COMMENTS
PRODUCTION / KINO STRIP LIGHTING OPTION