The Director's Bureau with A52 Visual Effects Delivers New VW Commercial
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WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (Nov. 19, 2002) -- Visual effects and design company A52 today announced details of their visual effects work for The Directors Bureau and director Mike Mills for Arnold Worldwide's new 2003 Beetle Convertible ad campaign for Volkswagen of America, Inc.

The first of two spots in the campaign is a :60 entitled "Bubble Teaser" which debuted theatrically on Fri., Oct. 22. A52 also provided effects work for the campaign's "Bubble" and "Chain Reaction" broadcast spots (the former will break later this month, the latter in Jan. 2003). [an error occurred while processing this directive]
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In the first spot, Mike Mills filmed a young man’s mundane and isolated existence with scenes from his apartment, his cubicle at work, at the copier and standing in the window of a skyscraper. "Mr. Blue Sky" from Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra scores the piece, and the edit from Rock Paper Scissors' Angus Wall presents a striking portrait of this life spent indoors. At about :50 into the spot, the hero looks out the building's window and is frozen as he sees, on the street below, a convertible top being lowered. Though that's all of the car the "Teaser" spot reveals, supered-in text tells us that "The New Beetle Convertible" is "Coming Soon."

Working on the edit at Rock Paper Scissors and the effects at A52 helped Arnold's project team finish the spot quickly. "It was great to have A52 right next door to us while we were editing," said Arnold's senior vice president, assoc. director broadcast production and project producer Bill Goodell. "If we had a question about a shot or wanted something roughed in for the cut it was very convenient. We had a very tight schedule on this job and once we started conforming the first spot we had moved on to editing our second spot."

A52's project producer Scott Boyajan and visual effects supervisor and Inferno artist Patrick Murphy had a short list of tasks to resolve for the two "Bubble" spots, each of which produced fairly amazing looking shots that put the team's award-winning talents to the test.

One of those shots, which plays out over two seconds, begins on the hero standing inside a window and then pulls out far enough to reveal the entire cityscape around the building. "After talking with Mike Mills about the shot," Patrick Murphy explained, "we found that there was no way you could get one lens to do it. So we recommended that Mike shoot it with the amount of lenses needed to get from point A to point B, and then put zooms on each individual shot so we could get in-between and build a ‘nested zoom’ effect."

Soon, Murphy was presented with four separate shots, each taken with a different lens and each using a manual zoom, that needed to be composited together to create one seamless shot.

"Essentially, we had to stabilize all four zooms and then stitch all four back together and then put a new zoom on top. With each individual stabilized zoom, we had an image that was locked off on the screen, so that when the image zoomed out, we made it bigger. Since they actually shot a zoom with each of the lenses, I didn't have to blow the picture up to the point where it distorted, I just used their zooming footage in stages throughout my move."

The finished shot is typical of A52's work: Anyone who has in-depth experience with photography would recognize the impossibility of capturing the footage, but anyone else will just think, "that was cool!"

For their next feat, Murphy and the A52 team worked on the end shot, when the convertible top lowers, revealing the hero staring down at the car from inside the building as the car rolls away. "That shot was taken by a camera in the back of a car that was going over bumps throughout the entire shot – and it used a manual zoom-back. Also, the windows on either side of the actor had white plastic sheeting on the inside, so they were completely different from all the other windows," Murphy explained.

A52's team stabilized and retimed the shot, replaced the two windows, cut mattes on the camera move, retracked those matted elements back into the stabilized move and also composited together one "blue" telecine pass for the scene's sky with a "golden" telecine pass for the building. Also, the red stoplight was made green.

Besides performing all their work in 2K resolution to ensure all details in the imagery held up for theatrical presentation, A52's team also did other work to prepare the spot for theatrical release. "After seeing the first film print, we went back and made some contrast and saturation adjustments to the footage in Inferno," said Murphy. "We applied specific color-grade adjustments throughout the spot for each of the different types of scenes."

"We tried to build time in the schedule to make sure we had a print that accurately reflected our telecine," Arnold's Bill Goodell added. "It took a couple of go rounds between the print and the Dolby 5.1 surround mix to get everything perfect. Patrick and Scott from A52 were very helpful through the entire process and we were very happy with how it looked and sounded on the big screen."

Project Credits
In addition to Bill Goodell, the creative team for Arnold Worldwide also included chairman and chief creative officer Ron Lawner, group creative director Alan Pafenbach, vice president, associate creative director and project art director Don Shelford and senior copywriter Joe Fallon.

A52's project team was led by managing director Rick Hassen, executive producer Darcy Leslie Parsons and producer Scott Boyajan, and also included visual effects supervisor, Inferno artist and on-set visual effects supervisor Patrick Murphy. Production was overseen by The Directors Bureau's executive producer Lisa Margulis and also included line producer Oliver Fusilier, director of photography Joaquin Baca Assay and production designer Samantha Gore.

The team from editorial company Rock Paper Scissors was led by editor Angus Wall and included executive producer Linda Carlson and producer Dave Sellars.

The final mix for theatrical and broadcast release was provided by Hollywood’s Novastar; Lance Brown engineered the mix.

About A52

Established in 1997 as a home for the very latest high-end visual effects technologies and the industry's most talented graphic design artists, West Hollywood visual effects and design company A52 creates award-winning imagery for the world's most visually ambitious commercial and music video projects. The company's work has been honored as being among the very best throughout its marketplace, having received top honors from AdWeek, Advertising Age, Creative Review, Creativity, Shoot and Shots... and also having received AICP Show recognition for three consecutive years along with recent "Outstanding Commercial" Emmy, Automotive Advertising, BDA, Clio, British Design and Art Direction, London International Advertising, PROMAX and International Monitor Awards. For more information, please call Darcy Leslie Parsons at 310.385.0851.

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