The Little People
Swisscom, a leading European telecommunications company, created a series of adverts based upon the theme of miniature people working inside electronic equipment as if the people were doing the work not the technology. Take4D was the backbone during the pre-visualisation and shooting stages of these projects.
The two commercials:
The Perfect Pipeline
Real Time Virtual Studio – Live Augmented Reality On-Set
Stories (www.stories.ch) was engaged to create these adverts and wished them to be a single continuous camera movement in one take from start to finish; no edits; everything was to appear as if it was “in-camera” on a single pass. The camera moves from one device to another exposing the tiny people working inside them.
All foreground elements (phones, computers, television, and furniture) were computer generated using 3D photo-realistic rendering to such a high quality that they appear indistinguishable from the other real human elements and the background plate. It was decided very early on that motion control was the best way to shoot these adverts and Stories called in Motion Control Camera Co (www.motioncontrol.co.uk).
These adverts needed to be planned meticulously in advance to ensure that each element (scaled people) could be seamlessly incorporated into the one single take of the background plate footage.
Richard Widgery was engaged to work with Stories’ director Tobias Fueter, VFX supervisor Denis Spycher, and lead animator Roman Altenburg, to plan the camera movement using Take4D ensuring that when scaled, the move was still within the physical capabilities of the motion control rig. This preparation was an iterative process that was done over a week working remotely in three different countries via the internet using Skype conference calling and FBX file sharing.In a world first, all the miniature elements had to sit within a single continuous take for the whole advert – no margin for error since there would be no cuts or break in the single shot. What made this particularly challenging was the very small scale of the miniature people. The sections of the shot when the miniature people were visible needed to be scaled up to their real world size in order to shoot the live actors. This in some cases called for a 1000 times scaling of the camera movement to be applied (1.5mm people scaled back up to 1.5m).
After the main and the scaled segments of the camera movement had been signed off as working on the motion control rig, shooting could begin in Bucharest, Romania. Richard worked with Motion Control Cameras on-set to calibrate and align all camera movements to the physical sets and run Take4D in Live Virtual Studio mode to provide real time visualisation of the CG elements against the live camera for the director.
The ring tone of a telephone is actually a 3mm tall woman playing a xylophone rather than an electronic musical device.
The woman is inside the earpiece of the telephone. The camera starts on the woman and pulls back, out through the (CG) phone into the room.
There were two different woman and rooms, one for each advert. The first was a living room showing domestic products such as TV set-top-boxes, the second was an office showing more business appliances such as telephone systems.
Network Cable People
From the phone, the camera moves down and over to a laptop which has a network cable attached. The camera passes directly through the center of the cable showing miniature people pushing images toward the computer – representing streaming a movie over the internet.
These people are only 1.5mm tall and tested the accuracy of the motion control rig (which passed with flying colours).
On the left you will see Take4D being used on-set in Live Virtual Studio mode on a laptop. The motion control axis data is being stream into Take4D via RS232 from the rig in real time. This is used to generate a virtual 3D camera. A 3D model of the set including the network cable and representation of the miniature people has been also been imported into Take4D. The background plate video is captured from the film camera and mixed with the 3D camera live. In this example you see the camera passing through the (non existent) network cable live on-set. It was extremely impressive to see the repeatability and accuracy of the rig as it passed through exactly the same place in the network cable every time (estimate <0.1mm repeatable accuracy).
This virtual studio technique was used throughout the shooting of these adverts and was an essential tool for the director to be able to place set pieces and line up shots.
Mobile Phone People
From the network cable, the camera moves down and past a mobile phone. As it passes by, the side opens up to reveal Rocketman inside. Rocketman represents data traveling at high speed from one device to another.
Rocketman in this case was only 15mm tall so the camera move needed to be scaled up 66 times. One challenge here was the speed at which the camera passes the phone. Too high and the motion control rig would not be able to keep up with it when it was scale up, too slow and it would not be dramatic enough for the shot to work. It was decided to actually shoot this at half speed to enable the rig to fly past even faster and to give a slightly undercranked feel to the motion of the actor’s movements.
Another difficulty was the fact that the camera descends from the network cable into the phone fly pass. This descent, whilst small in the real world became very significant when scaled up. Take4D tools were used to find the optimum curve into and out of the shot using all of the rigs reach, acceleration and velocity capabilities.
Again on the left, you can see Take4D in Live Virtual Studio mode, this time using the built in chroma-keyer to enable the director to place the actor in the scene and ensure nothing pokes through the top of the phone.
Set-Top Box People
This is where the two adverts differ. In the living room version, the camera then moves over to the television and set-top-box. In the office version, it turns back around to look at a woman sitting at the desk.
The office version was very simple since there were no more miniature inserts. Take a look at the picture to the left. Everything other than the background set and the woman are computer generated (the table, laptop, phone, lamp…) – very nice work by Stories.ch.
The living room version presented a different challenge. The planned move could not be shot. The miniature people were 30mm high requiring a scaling of 33 times. However the shot was too large; from the moment that the people first enter frame to the end of the shot, when scaled up and recorded at half speed, would require 100 meters of track, a reach of 40 meters, and the rig to travel down the track at 15 m/s (not possible with a Milo).
Take4D has special tools to handle this kind of shot. It can modify the camera move whist maintaining the correct perspective to a size and speed that the rig can handle and then generate new data to help compositors reposition and scale the 2D plate back into its correct position during post production.
Again in the picture to the left, everything except the background set, chair, miniature people and dog and computer generated.
The Director used Take4D as his main monitor for much of the shoot as he could see the CG elements live on-set. Here you can see a good example of why – note the chair and the dog – the photograph of the monitor was taken during a rehearsal and he was able to spot that the chair needed to be turned around and could find exactly where to place the dog.
Below that you will also see Take4D in Live Virtual Studio mode, this time chroma keying the set-top-box back-in against the live video image (laptop on left of shot – normal video signal on monitor on right of shot). As always this virtual camera is being driven by the motion control rig in real time, so what ever the rig does, the director can see how it works against the 3D virtual set.