As the Chevrolet Volt moves into the mainstream American conscience, it is transporting its home base of Hamtramck, Mich. with it. MPC, teaming up with Director Nick Gordon and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, captures the rejuvenated spirit of this proud Midwestern town behind a flawless blend of photoreal VFX and documentary-style footage of the city.
Morning in Hamtramck, set to an original score by Black Iris, elegantly merges raw city imagery with the Volt assembly line. Unfinished Volt chassis chug along monster car carriers (skuks), through parking lots and down alleys as high school students and dogs run by. Hard hat-wearing workers tend to a line of nearly finished cars snaking across a busy intersection.
"Hamtramck is an honest, hard-working town with a highly skilled labor force that is proud to be building a cutting-edge American vehicle, and we wanted to capture the compelling, everyday motions behind that," stated MPC LA Managing Director Andrew Bell.
To underscore this authenticity, Gordon captured actual factory workers performing their jobs on the street. Caviar's Art Department created proxy structures for the talent to interact with, then MPC tracked those structures and replaced them in the footage with CG elements that met the factory equipment's detailed specifications.
As Gordon shot footage, MPC began modeling the factory equipment with great precision and detail, recreating AGV (battery) robots, welding robots, Volt chassis, skuks, and overhead support and transport structures. During the offline, the studio comped still images of the equipment into plates for Arcade Edit's Kim Bica. The studio worked closely with Gordon to review these plates, while MPC London concept artist Dave Gibbons offered alternative compositions. Once all the elements had been composited in Nuke, they underwent final passes in Flame to unite the disparate pieces and polish the shots.
MPC VFX Supervisor Carsten Keller worked closely with Gordon to determine how to merge the various stages of the Volt production line with the city scenery. "Nick and his crew were extremely accommodating of our VFX needs," noted Bell. "If an angle didn't make sense from a CG or compositing perspective, they could always come up with a solid alternative."
Even with this cooperation, the process of integrating Gordon's footage with the CG proved challenging. "This was not just stock footage," explained Bell. "Gordon has rare vision behind a lens, and we were basically laying our art over his art, which is difficult to do without one compromising the other. He used a lot of camera movement, creating scenes with very low-key texture. They were not at all glossy or plastic. We had to create imagery in this same understated spirit while still conveying the workaday energy and dynamism of this extraordinarily advanced assembly line."