An interview with Andreas Wesa, Senior CG Artist, Edithouse.
Established as a post-production company in 1996, Edithouse has become a complete studio, handling everything from initial pitches to filming, animation and music. Fellow Gothenburg resident Volvo called on the company to create the launch film for its Concept XC Coupe - but creating the launch film stretched the 13-man team to its limits.
“We had a big challenge in front of us,” says Andreas Wesa, Senior CG Artist at Edithouse. “It’s an exciting time for Volvo Cars with a whole new platform, and for this project we wanted to push our work to a new level. But to be able to complete the film on such a tight schedule required a jump start.”
Fortunately, Chaos Group was on hand to help. “We contacted Megafront, our V-Ray reseller, who recommended a two day session with V-Ray specialist Rusko Ruskov from Chaos Group. He helped us to fully understand V-Ray and gave us valuable knowledge that helped us with the project at hand, together with some tips and tweaks regarding the different scenes we had in the movie.”
Proxies became key to economizing the production of the short. The interior of the car was created as another scene with the shaders set up as a V-Ray proxy, as was the rocky landscape which forms the backdrop. This minimized geometry calculations when it came to rendering, while the body of the car remained a normal mesh, with extra high-res renders for those seductive close-ups.
Meanwhile, a specialist freelance photographer - Daniel Jonason – was employed to create the rugged landscape. Jonason ventured into the countryside surrounding Stockholm to capture stony textures, then created displacement maps to match them. Edithouse took these models and deformed and patched them to create a realistic but bespoke wall of rock.
The star vehicle itself made use of V-Ray’s car paint, which simulates the colour, reflection and glossiness of an automobile’s paint job. “It took some time tweaking the coat settings in order to get the right feel to the material,” says Wesa. “But overall the V-Ray car paint is pretty easy to use.”
Edithouse’s experience in practical filmmaking paid off when it came to lighting the car. The director wanted the look of studio lights in a way which wouldn’t feel unnatural in the short’s outdoor setting. “The lights that illuminate the cars are all V-Ray rectangle lights with a ramp as a texture applied to them,” says Wesa. “We did use an environment HDRI of a forest to give some natural feel to the reflections, but didn’t use it as a light source.”
For the final touches, Edithouse used many render elements in conjunction with Nuke for composition. “We used all the basics: diffuse, reflection, reflection filter, refract, refraction filter, specular, global illumination, lighting and V-Ray dirt,” explains Wesa. “These elements together with the sampler preview are great for analysing the render quality and to minimize noise. Other elements we found very useful were the data elements; normals, Z depth and world position pass.”
The short includes bullet-time style portions, with the action paused while the camera moves. The “frozen” elements of these shots, such as the snowflakes and splashing water, were placed using a point cloud in Nuke to position them in 3D space. And to accentuate the car’s lines and panels custom passes were used with ramps in red, green and blue.
It’s in the composition the magic happens.
The result is a dramatic and beautiful film which convincingly envisages the latest innovations by Volvo. Edithouse is proud of the finished piece, too. “Our latest productions for the new concept cars have been very successful,” says Wesa.
Learn more about Edithouse at edithouse.se
Interview taken in 2014