Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s… Oh. It’s a plane. Taking its cues from the current crop of ‘realist’ super heroes, the new blockbuster Virgin Atlantic spot stars a hyper-powered cabin crew. The ad follows this league of extraordinary gentlemen (and ladies) from childhood to adulthood, as they use their abilities to ‘fly in the face of ordinary’. Director Antoine Bardou-Jacquet and 3D supervisor Jim Radford let us know how the project developed from an idea to a cinematic end shot…
LBB> Antoine, what was the initial brief from the agency and what were your initial thoughts? What appealed to you?
ABJ> They wanted to make a fake trailer that could look like a convincing big Hollywood blockbuster, which is something I really loved. At the same time the film had to keep the quality, the glamour and the fun of previous campaigns.
LBB> What was the pre-production process like?
ABJ> It was complicated. We had a very short prep time for a film that featured a big cast and lots of locations.
LBB> What was the shoot like? Did it differ from other shoots?
JR> The shoot took place over seven days, on location and at the studio in Cape Town. In addition we shot night exteriors at London Heathrow as backgrounds for the upper class departure scene – the talent had already been shot on green screen in Cape Town. Antoine trusted us to shoot these with DP Andre Chemetoff which was great.
As with any large project, good pre-production planning is essential. Obviously decision making on a per-scene basis will always occur on the day – filmmaking can be an unpredictable process. But from our perspective, the shoot proceeded without any hiccups or surprises – we’d like to think that was partly due to our own planning! Despite the free flowing shoot, the week was intense. Every day featured a new location, definitely making for a more interesting shoot.
LBB> What were the most challenging aspects of the shoot and how did you overcome them?
ABJ> The budget and the timing. Also Virgin didn't want to go too far with the superpower of the crew members. The gifts had to be spectacular but believable. There could be nothing like flying, lifting cars or shooting lasers with their eyes. Also shooting kids is always a challenge – especially when they only speak the African language Cosa!
JR> What makes Virgin Atlantic ads so enjoyable for us is the range and breadth of content in the films. Rather than specific elements, it was the overall number of VFX shots within a short post time-frame which was the main challenge. That was coupled with the obvious need and desire to create stylish, seamless shots.
The project involved a wide range of VFX – multi-pass compositing, full CG, green-screen, de-rigging, digital matte painting, hologram graphics, and miniatures – the perfect kind of job for us.
A good team and good planning are very important, especially on jobs where we might not have much time to get a shot right. Throughout, we received prompt and clear feedback on shots from both Antoine and creatives at RKCR/Y&R, Pip Bishop and Chris Hodgkiss – this really helped keep everything focused and moving forward. Our Bangalore studio also helped out enormously, with both CG build and 2D prep & cleanup.
LBB> Jim, what was it like working with director Antoine?
JR> Antoine has a very artistic eye and is definite about what he wants from a shot. He’s very inclusive, both on-set and in post, which obviously helps communication greatly. His sharp sense of humour means there’s never a dull moment! We definitely look forward to working with him again soon.
LBB> And Antoine, what did Jim and MPC bring to the final production?
ABJ> The guys at MPC make things easy. Each time you have a problem you just have to turn to them and ask "can you fix that?" They also did a very good job artistically and in a very short time.
LBB> Did you work closely with Virgin Atlantic to ensure consistency with products, such as the hologram of the chair? If so, how was that relationship?
JR> We received CAD files of the chair from the client, which we then prepared for animation. Accurate detail was important, especially when highlighting that the chair could unfold to a horizontal position. We also created the Airbus A340-600 plus livery for the take-off shot.
Thanks must go to agency producer, Jodie Allison, for liaising with the technical and marketing departments at Virgin. She was constantly on hand to supply us with the information we needed for things, such as the chair and plane, at short notice.