Rolls Royce + The Mill

Rolls Royce + The Mill

Rolls Royce | “I Am Ghost”
The Mill is a visual effects and content creation studio collaborating on VFX, digital and design projects for the advertising, games and music industries. With studios in London, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, they partner with the world’s best agencies, groundbreaking directors, creative firms and visionary brands. Working with Daughter.Studio, Mill+ created this stylish spot for Rolls Royce and their latest ‘Ghost’ model. The Mill’s VFX team utilized Legacy 4K glass overlays from Lens Distortions. The slick spot moves seamlessly from one image to the next using clever geometric based design to depict various aspects of a highly desirable lifestyle, personifying the ‘ghost’ or essence of the car and its owner.
“I wanted something textural and emotive, not the normal approach to a car commercial. I was thinking title sequence beauty, seamless transitioning, moments of wonder… more music promo and fashion film.”
Mill+ Director FILFURY explains, “This was a dream project to work on – design elegance, rooted in geometric form, symmetry, and simplicity. This was the story of ‘I AM GHOST’. My desire was to hint at luxurious, functional design found within our owner’s life, and do this through a palette of clever reveals and transitions – matching vehicle form with architecture, objects, motion, and nature. All breathtakingly elegant and purposeful. I wanted something textural and emotive, not the normal approach to a car commercial. I was thinking title sequence beauty, seamless transitioning moments of wonder, more music promo and fashion film. The result is a dark sophisticated image palette with rim lit form. This was design lead, sexy and cool. Confident mark making through a beautiful celebration of the Ghost form. This isn’t design for design’s sake however, there is substance and storytelling.”
“The glass effects help add a touch of nostalgic feeling to what can sometimes be stark and crisp environments. They harp back to a photographic, lensic treatment many viewers feel more connection with.”
Mill Lead 3D Artist Dan Moller continues, “One of the main challenges of this spot was working out how to blend a large number of shots together; it’s about three-quarters of the way through the film before a hard-cut takes place. Through careful previz and shot development, rapid iteration with both rough 3D and testing in 2D we were able to find some quality solutions. By leveraging all our departments against this problem-solving process, from concept to motion graphics and design through to CG and 2D we were able to easily troubleshoot all problems put before us. A key challenge came in art directing the rolling highlights across the form of the Ghost. We rendered reflected UV passes, then rotomated gobo shapes over the top using STMaps in Nuke. These gobo sequences were then rendered back out of Nuke, plugged into the UV shapes in Maya and rendered back over the car. This resulted in a speedy and intuitive solution to the highlights problem through a slick collaboration between our 2D and 3D departments.”
It was important to Rolls Royce to differentiate the Ghost film from their other product films, primarily through an emphasis on colour. This became a particular focus for our lighting team to ensure this was communicated as effectively as possible, and also played into our post treatment in 2D. During this phase led by Mill 2D Lead, James Mac, lens elements were carefully selected to add both texture and colour to each shot, with those finishing touches truly elevating the film.’ Amongst them were glass overlay elements from Lens Distortions.
“The glass elements have been a long-standing consideration for myself when I need to add depth and layered chromatic dispersion to shots. They help add a touch of nostalgic feeling to what can sometimes be stark and crisp environments. They harp back to a photographic, lensic treatment many viewers feel more connection with. I also used the Legacy 4K glass effects to drive narrow focus effects through portions of the imagery, helping take the edge off the CGI elements,” James Mac said. “Virtually every project benefits from having Lens Distortions used to treat and layer the frame. They are my go-to textural footage,” he added.

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The Mill | Castrol EDGE “Clone Rival”
“The Castrol compositing team loved the Legacy set by Lens Distortions and wanted to use them to add a stylistic touch to the spot.”
The Mill is a visual effects and content creation studio collaborating on VFX, digital and design projects for the advertising, games and music industries. They partner with the world’s best agencies, groundbreaking directors, creative firms and visionary brands. They pride themselves on forming partnerships built on creative excellence and cutting-edge technologies.

With studios in London, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, The Mill boasts a creative culture of talented artists from multinational and homegrown backgrounds, nurturing innovation, flexibility and diverse ideas. VFX Supervisor Pete Rypstra shared a little glimpse into their project for Castrol EDGE which utilized our Legacy 4k glass elements.

“The movements of the light elements lent themselves beautifully to the effect we were trying to create.”
“The Mill worked with The Brooklyn Brothers and Director Jako of Annex Films to create the new Castrol EDGE Titanium Trial ‘Clone Rival’,” Rypstra said.

“We used a combination of multiple camera passes as well as using photo-real, full CG cars to give the illusion that there were two cars on the track. We were also asked to give the Clone rival its own distinct look to distinguish it from the real car.”

“The Castrol compositing team loved the Legacy set by Lens Distortions and wanted to use them to add a stylistic touch to the spot. In addition to that, we were looking for creative ways to create heat haze effects to ‘dirty up’ shots and put the camera amongst it all.”
“James MacLachlan, our lead nuke artist on the job, built a system which used a mixture of the various Lens Distortion elements to drive distortion and blur nodes in the script. In the end, we combined Optical flares, a particle system from the CG team, and the Legacy pack from Lens Distortions to create the apparitional ‘Clone’ Rival look,” Rypstra added.

“The movements of the light elements lent themselves beautifully to the effect we were trying to create.”

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Behind the Scenes // Audi R8 “Masterpiece”

Behind the Scenes // Audi R8 “Masterpiece”

Audi R8 “Masterpiece” | Behind the visuals of this impressive portfolio project

Chris Leclerc is a director and cinematographer based out of Los Angeles. Over the past decade, his work has taken him to 35 countries and 6 continents. Chris recently wrapped this impressive portfolio piece, and when we heard how some of our video effects helped shaped the project, we had to get the full story. Be sure to check out the VFX breakdown below.

What inspired you to put the time and money into a personal project like this?
I think as a director you have to constantly push yourself creatively in order to not get stuck. I happened to be visiting my folks in Wisconsin at the same time my friend Paul Theodoroff was just getting back from LA himself. He’s a really solid Director of Photography so when he called and said, “Dude, let’s shoot something,” I was all in and we started pulling together ideas. We knew the idea had to be simple, something we could shoot over a weekend with a small crew and lean resources.

I’d been itching to do a project where I could push the level when it comes to dramatic lighting and cinematic shots, just something fresh for my portfolio that would raise the bar another notch for my upcoming client work. I had just picked up your 4K Luminary and Light Hits effects packs, so they were top of mind when I set out on this project.

“… how we found our talent is indie-filmmaking at it’s best.”

How did you source your location, gear, collaborators, etc?
We were able to shoot it at friend’s place, and we borrowed the Audi R8 from a personal connection. We basically didn’t sleep for a weekend and worked our brains out. We rented the Lomo Anamorphic lenses and the RED dragon online.

The story of how we found our talent is indie-filmmaking at it’s best. We pulled together a few friends to make up the crew and one had a connection who we thought really looked the part for the talent and agreed to do the project with us. We were scheduled to start shooting at 9pm on Friday night. We were on set, all ready to shoot, and we were looking at the time. It was 9:30 and we thought, “I hope this guy doesn’t flake out on us.” Then it’s 10pm, and still no sign of our talent. So we were all freaking out.

One of our grips went on Facebook and literally contacted 20 of his friends. He finally got ahold of one guy who turned out to be an actor and a model and showed up on set by 10:30pm. He stuck with us till 4am shooting, which was awesome. We had a problem and everyone was really resourceful in helping figure it out. It was a great collaborative effort by our whole team.

I’ve been fortunate to have gotten to know some really talented industry folks over the past 10 years and I had some specific folks I wanted to collaborate with on this project. I already mentioned Paul Theodoroff, who was DoP. The project simply wouldn’t have happened without him. Good sound design is important for any spot, but in an ad for a sports car, you definitely can’t skimp. Zak DeVries really delivered there. I can’t say enough good things about Tyler Roth at Company 3 for the incredible color grade on this project.

Featured Posts

Rolls Royce + The Mill

Rolls Royce + The Mill

Working with Daughter.Studio, Mill+ created this stylish spot for Rolls Royce and their latest ‘Ghost’ model. The Mill’s VFX team utilized Legacy 4K glass overlays from Lens Distortions.

A week in Hawaii with Matt Komo

A week in Hawaii with Matt Komo

Get an adventurous perspective on one of the most beautiful states in the union and see how Matt uses our Luminary 4K glass overlays.

What’s New in Luminary for Video

What’s New in Luminary for Video

To better showcase the diversity of looks in this pack, we’ve organized it into curated categories, created some quick clips to make one of the most popular use cases (transitions) easier, and added a few previously unreleased overlays to really round out the mix.

Tell us about how you shot the car shots
One of the biggest challenges was shooting at dusk because you have such a limited window for the “blue hour”. We only had time for 1 or 2 shots per “blue hour”, so we got up early and shot at about 4:30am and then again in the evening. The toughest part was getting fog on the road since we didn’t have the budget for a massive industrial fogger. We just went to Walmart and bought a mosquito fogger and filled it with mineral oil. It worked great!
We mapped out a section of the road, had the PA’s fogging it, then we’d radio down to the driver and have them drive down. The other thing that was tough was that we couldn’t just drive down the road for an hour and keep shooting. We had to keep re-fogging one area, drive the car through, turn the car around, fog it again, and drive the car through. Take after take to get the look right.
It didn’t help that the Audi goes 0-60 in like 2.7 seconds (all the car people will probably correct me on that) and my Subaru, well, doesn’t. So we weren’t able to drive the car quite as fast as we wanted and ended up speeding up a lot of the shots in post. It turned out alright, but it’s definitely no Russian arm on a Porsche.

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“We used a flashlight to create of some of the in-camera lens flares, but we used Light Hits to really accentuate those and add the red color.”

So how were you able to get a tight shot of the character’s face with the lights whizzing by while flying down the highway?
The interior driving shots were something that we knew we’d have to experiment with. Again… no budget, we had to be creative. We used kino tubes and had some of our grips and PA’s just swinging the lights around the actor’s head, and we shook the camera while the lights were swirling around. We also turned up the shutter on the camera to help add some of the motion feel. You’d never know that we were just sitting in a barn at 3am shaking a camera and moving lights around.
How did you guys pull off that “fire down the exhaust” shot? Did you animate it?
I wanted to portray the power of the engine. We all know the classic shot of the pistons firing and the gasoline coming to the engine. I called an animation buddy, and he said it’d be too expensive. So I went to Home Depot in search of a more practical solution and came across the pipe section.
I thought, “What if I used hairspray and a little flame, and fired it down one of these steel pipes. I could use a macro lens on my camera and put a little piece of glass at the end to protect the lens.” So that’s what we did! We shot it in slow motion, at like 240fps on the RED. We were sitting in my apartment with the RED laying on the ground shooting hairspray down a pipe and igniting it, and we kept doing it over and over till we got something cool. I think the fire alarm went off a few times.
How did knowing what you can do with Luminary and Light Hits in post affect some of your decisions on set?
After looking at a lot of other car spots in pre-production, we noticed that in many high-end budget commercials, there are these subtle little flares and flashes that make the spot more dynamic. With Lens Distortions, I knew I’d be able to add the same effects in post-production, and not have to try and shoot that all in-camera. Going into production, I already had a couple scenes in mind where I knew adding a little extra piece of light with Light Hits or texture with Luminary was going to work well.

“During production, it was reassuring to know I could fine tune the look with Lens Distortions.”

When I was storyboarding the project, I knew I wanted a scene where the car turned on and seemed like it rumbled the whole barn. And to visually show that, we had this table full of tools that our grips shook really hard, and then in post, I used Luminary to add some extra movement to the shot to help make it look a little more dramatic.
Paul brought some interesting ideas to the table when it comes to color and hues. When the character walks into the garage (which was actually a friend’s barn), you see these awesome red highlights that contrast with the cool tones. One thing we noticed as we started shooting was how important the color red is to Audi’s brand, so we kept coming up with ways to tie that color into the whole spot.
I was messing around with Light Hits and I tried tinting them red to match some of Audi’s red, and it worked wonderfully. It was really simple to do in Premiere, just adjust the color, turn down the intensity, and add it to the corner of the shot. That part was all done in the edit, not in-camera. This helped create more consistency with lighting we used on set.
When we were shooting the interiors of the car, I knew I wanted this red light to be passing over the driver. We used a flashlight to create of some of the in-camera lens flares, but we used Light Hits to really accentuate those and add the red color. During production, it was reassuring to know I could fine tune the look with Lens Distortions.

You can see more of Chris’s work on his website and you can also see more of Paul Theodoroff’s work on his website.

Explore the effects used in this post

Light Hits

Soft and simple. Light Hits is made from actual sunlight, and helps you quickly add a little extra pop to the corners of your shots.

Luminary

Luminary was crafted with fashion projects and luxury brands in mind and is filled with gorgeous overlays made from intricate glass elements.

Stranger Things // Title designers look to Light Hits for optical quality

Stranger Things // Title designers look to Light Hits for optical quality

Stranger Things | Title designers look to Light Hits for optical quality

We’ve been following the work of design-based production studio Imaginary Forces for a while now and were excited to see our Legacy effects pop up in some of their projects a few years back.

We were thrilled to learn recently that their team used our 4K Light Hits to give that extra something to the opening title for Netflix’s wildly successful new original series, Stranger Things. Imaginary Forces animator Eric Demeusy was kind enough to give us some background info.

“They’re the best ones out there.”

Demeusy said, “The goal was to make the titles look like they were made optically in the 80’s. We used a lot of subtle details for that and one of those details was Lens Distortions. We needed good, realistic flares that we could use very minimally to make it feel a little more natural and filmic. They needed to be real optical effects, so naturally, Lens Distortions was what we went with. They’re the best ones out there.”

“To get that kind of brief… is a designer’s dream!””

In an interview with The Art of the Title, Imaginary Forces Creative Director Michelle Dougherty describes her team’s initial conversation with the Duffer Brothers, “They referenced Richard Greenberg and all the greats that he’d created — The Goonies, Altered States, Alien, The Untouchables, The Dead Zone, just to name a few. That was great to hear because we understood where they were coming from. That was really refreshing — and pretty surprising — that these creators knew so much about title design.”

“After that call, they sent over some book covers that they liked, from books that they’d either read or seen as children. Most of them were by Stephen King, so we knew they were looking for something that felt ’80s and tapped into this nostalgia by using that typography. They really loved the simplicity of those covers, but also those Richard Greenberg titles. To get that kind of brief — to let the typeface set the mood for a show — is a designer’s dream!”

To learn more about Imaginary Forces, visit their website imaginaryforces.com.

Still frames courtesy of ericdemeusy.com

Explore the effects used in this post

Light Hits

Soft and simple. Light Hits is made from actual sunlight, and helps you quickly add a little extra pop to the corners of your shots.

VFX Breakdown // An Incredibly Imaginative Toyota Project

VFX Breakdown // An Incredibly Imaginative Toyota Project

Glenn Stewart is Head Of Design at Rotor Studios in North Sydney, which is a full service production & post production company that specializes in live action, CG, and interactive experiences.

One of Rotor’s recent projects for Toyota came to our attention as our 4K Light Hits overlays were utilized in a few of the scenes. We caught up with Glenn Stewart, who played Director, Art Director, Compositor, Matte Painter, and some other odd job roles, to get the details on this Toyota art contest and the accompanying commercial.

Watch the full commercial below followed immediately by a VFX breakdown.

Can you give us a bit of the background on the Toyota Dream Car Art Contest?
Started in 2004, the Toyota Dream Car Art Contest is currently in its 10th year, and is really about fostering children’s imaginations from all around the globe.
From Toyota’s Website:
“Toyota Dream Car Art Contest invites children from all corners of the globe to share ideas about the future of mobility by drawing their dream cars. We at Toyota believe in nurturing the creativity of the next generation of great inventors, thinkers and dreamers. Every great idea was born in the glimmer of a dream.”

“Every great idea was born in the glimmer of a dream.”

Once the contest closes and the 30 finalists are selected, Toyota flies the finalist and their parents to Japan for an event to award them for their designs, take them on tours of the Toyota factories and many more surprises.

How did the concept and story for this come together?
Having worked on this project last year, we knew the focus would always be on imagination and creativity, but moving forward we also knew we wanted a little bit more diversity, plus one more scenario (making for four vignettes total).
In early July, the clients from Toyota Japan visited Sydney for some meetings so we could collect their initial thoughts and bat around some ideas with them to get started.
After a few weeks of pulling references and solidifying concepts, myself and Scott Bradley  (one of the directors and owners of the Rotor Studios) travelled to Japan for 3 days of meetings with the clients. This is where we really fleshed out the four storylines plus the fantastical vehicles in them.
In the weeks heading into production, those storylines became fully refined via concept art and storyboards to really set us up for the shoot.
With a heavy mix of CG elements and FX composited into live action scenes, there obviously has to be a lot of coordination in pre-production and production. Walk us through your process there.
Luckily we’d had enough experience by that point to really get our heads around a project of this size and know how to approach most things, although there were always a few situations of “how are we going to do this?”
 Ordinarily, we would have previs’d each of the scenarios to get a sense of movement and camera, however we didn’t have enough time to do that. So instead we just had to combat this by really getting our storyboards right and hoping I’d had enough conversations with our Head of Post Production so on the day we shot exactly what we needed to shoot. Working out our methodologies for each scenario and shot was paramount.
Ryan Thompson - Cinespace - Exporation
Ryan Thompson - Cinespace - Exporation
What did your post-production workflow look like on this project?
Well as soon as the shoot was finished we were straight into the offline edit and stitching it all together in Premiere. We were lucky the client was so easy going on this as they never had any comments regarding the edit decisions (but there was a last minute trim which was easily enough resolved) so we could get straight on to the visual effects.
Shots were named and distributed to our talented artists, who by that point had begun to model the vehicles based on the concept art. That was probably our biggest back and forth with the client, as they had quite specific ideas about what they wanted, and with some last minute additions, some of the designs weren’t finished being modelled and textured until right before they needed to be rendered and delivered.

On the 2D side, cleanup and roto was done by a couple of artists in After Effects and Nuke, and with the matte paintings we were lucky to collaborate with a great artist in the USA, who handled the key backgrounds, with myself filling in some of the smaller gaps.

On the 3D side of things, 3D tracking of live action plates was done in Synth Eyes, with animation and modelling being done primarily in Maya, texturing in Mari, and rendering with Arnold.

Given the quick turnaround of the project and the small team we had on this, there were a few over night stays in the office along with plenty of RedBull.

Once all the elements were finished and rendered, we composited all of the shots in After Effects, with the final grade being doing in DaVinci resolve.

Ryan Thompson - Cinespace - Exporation
Tell us a bit about how you came to use Lens Distortions and the effect you were going for. 
I’d known about Lens Distortions for a few years, and had myself bought the Legacy pack a year or so back. When the Light Hits pack was announced, I kept it in the back of my mind for when I might need to use it on a project.
By being real elements, the Light Hits overlays had such an organic quality that really lifted the final comps, something that was so much more difficult to achieve with purely CG flares.
When compositing in 32bit, light takes on a completely different quality and Light Hits really added such a subtle and naturalistic texture with it’s minute colour variations and luminance spread that we ended up with a better end result.
As filmmakers, we’re always looking for sources of inspiration. What are some of your favorites?
Vimeo is quite obviously the go to place for anything visual and motion related, however I also really rely on Designspiration and Pinterest. Pinterest in particular I seem to be using more and more as my go to place, as I tend to draw so much inspiration from photography and design, and that’s a great resource for both.
NoFilmSchool is a great filmmaking site and I’m a sucker for a good VFX breakdown so i’m often trawling sites like FXGuide for articles and behind the scenes tips that I can help apply to the next project.
To see more work from Rotor Studios check out rotorstudios.com.
You can see more of Glenn’s work on his personal website, kozu.tv.
He currently uses 4K Light Hits and 4K Legacy from Lens Distortions.
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All images and video courtesy of Rotor Studios ©.

Features

  • Includes 30 curated clips
  • Encoded in ProRes at a frame rate of 23.98
  • Available in either 4K or 2K
  • Each Light Hits is between 3-28 seconds in length
  • Compatible with Premiere, Final Cut X, Avid, After Effects
  • 4K Download size: 6GB
  • 2K Download size: 1.8GB

Behind the Scenes // Eye of the Storm

Behind the Scenes // Eye of the Storm

When Utah based synth pop artist Garrett Garfield needed a music video for the single from his first EP, he turned to his longtime friend and collaborator, Aaron Sorensen. We were really impressed with the final version of “Eye of the Storm,” which uses a lot of unique glass textures and lighting effects, including Lens Distortions. We reached out to Aaron to get to know more of his story and how this project came to be.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your experience, and what you do. 
Ever since I was a kid I was always making videos with my friends. At the time I could be found on my parents computer literally exporting every frame from iMovie and importing them into Photoshop to paint each one. Over the years I made my life easier and learned After Effects, Cinema 4D and currently Houdini and Nuke.

Now I’ve been working as a VFX artist for 6 years professionally on a variety of projects. And recently had the opportunity to Direct and VFX supervise a Game Of War commercial.

Walk us through your creative process a bit. What inspired the concept and story for the video?
The song is very poppy and is about embracing the storms of life and dancing through them. From the get go, I knew how I wanted it to look. A storm chasing a girl, abstract lighting shots, shooting through glass elements and so forth. I came up with a simple story of a girl that is trying to escape the storm and finally realizes she must accept it. Garrett was representing the storm.

What did you live production rig consist of?
Our budget was really small and I was more doing it for the passion of the song and the video. But after we totaled how much it would have cost paying everyone that helped, it was around $10,000.
We shot on the Red Epic and Dragon with Ziess Cp2 lenses and a movi rig. We had a lot of friends and family donate there time and talents to make this all happen.

Walk us through your post-production tools and workflow.
We edited the video in Adobe Premiere, after which I took a couple shots into After Effects to create a “hero” shot to get a look a feel for the video. Once we locked the edit I spent around 2 full weeks tracking in mocha, painting clouds in Photoshop, compositing and coloring everything in After Effects.

Any scenes that were particularly fun or difficult to create? 
One of my favorite shots I did was of Garrett dancing in slow motion while surrounded by the storm. It was pretty simple but turned out pretty cool! All I did was scaled him down to make the shot looked wider than we could have filmed. Captured a frame, brought it into Photoshop and started to paint a bunch of clouds. I broke up the clouds into different layers and then using the liquify tool in After Effects I animated the clouds slowly moving. Then composited a couple lighting strikes from stock footage and that is it 🙂 Turned out pretty cool!

You took full advantage of our Legacy video effects. Can you tell us a bit about how you used them in this project?
In camera we had shot a lot of glass effects, so while editing I started to notice we were lacking that same effect during any VFX sequence. That is when I found Lens Distortions to be really handy! I saw an ad for in on Facebook around the time I was editing and thought “No way! This is perfect for this project!”  And it was the perfect tool to help me really sell the visual effects. I had a lot of people ask me how I composited VFX behind glass distortions. Dirtying up vfx and adding Lens Distortion makes them feel much more organic and believable.

  • Before-Garrett Garfield
    After-Garrett Garfield
    Before Garrett Garfield After
  • Before-Standing
    After-Standing
    Before Standing After
  • Before-Running
    After-Running
    Before Running After

What’s next for you? Any exciting projects coming up?
Currently I am working on a Game of War Commercial I directed! It is my biggest client yet. I was really excited when they liked my work and pitch for the commercial. I have a long road ahead of me with the visual effects on this project but it will definitely stretch me.

As filmmakers, we’re always looking for sources of inspiration. Where do you look to be inspired?
I am constantly on Vimeo getting inspired by other people work. Particularly Salmon Lighthelm, Dan DiFelice (at The Mill), joseph kahn (music video director) and many more. Outside of watching more videos for inspiration I listen to a lot of ambient soundtrack type music, going for a drive and talking with people about life has definitely given me inspiration.

You can see more of Aaron’s work at vimeo.com/aaronsbot.
 ⋅
Aaron currently uses Legacy from Lens Distortions.

Dirtying up the VFX and adding Lens Distortion makes them feel much more organic and believable.

Aaron Sorensen

Filmmaker