Commercial: Toyotown Corolla (Sporty Drive)

I normally don’t post the commercial work I do, and my reason for doing starting to do this now correlates to slowing down and appreciating just what the heck I’m doing.

I taught at a vfx/animation school once, and in that setting, I found it hard to quantify the things I did. I get through one year of multifarious subjects, a year of events, grading, failing, meeting, etc. It’s one big blur, and my memory being less-than-stellar, I’d forget all the details. Then one night, my wife and I started talking about the feeling of under-achieving despite feeling so busy. So we sat down to write our achievements, reminding each other what we had done.

I go through many projects, and I start one before stopping another, and so I’m not in the habit of sitting down and appreciating the end of projects. At the end of the year, it’s sometimes quite amazing to the see just how many I go through.

This commercial linked above, dubbed internally as Sporty Drive, was a 3-part campaign, and I was only involved in the first commercial. Three vfx houses contributed to the first commercial; two from NZ, and the main vfx vendor from Japan called VisualMan. It was shot in Queenstown, NZ with a Japanese crew and a local NZ crew. I was there along with two other vfx supervisors from the vendors to vfx-supervise the shoot  It was a great time; I hadn’t been to Queenstown before and the only thing that marred my work was the fact that I hadn’t been sleeping well (one night I didn’t sleep at all).

At the set of the airplane-forest shot; DOP at the top of the truck.

I would characterise the shoot as hectic as there were multiple locations that were hours apart, and we had only 3 days to shoot them all. Thankfully, I didn’t need to be in all of those locations and planned accordingly. vfx meetings were held late at night to discuss the storyboard; the director of the ad was not present, and only the DOP was the one heading the shoot.

The post-production side took 3 weeks, we 4 cg ops (that’s including me), and 2 flame ops. We ended up with 19 shots: a full CG sequence of cars racing around a fictional race track set in some dusky environment (originally based around the Speed Racer motif, but morphed into something else as time went by); a CG airplane sequence with a CG tunnel; a collapsing bridge sequence; and finally, some background replacements. Because the CG cars in the whole ad were going to be partly VisualMan’s work and partly ours, we shared the same CAD data and the same HDR. The bridge sequence was rendered in V-Ray, and the rest were rendered with Mental Ray on account of speed, as we predicted we were going to be up the wall in last-minute changes; we weren’t wrong.

Though this isn’t the first commercial I’ve led, it is the first that my current company asked me to ‘drive’, which meant to call (some of) the shots, and ‘direct’ as much as it was in my purview to do so. I enjoyed the experience very much. At the end of it, I felt very pleased at the results we got for so many shots, with so little time. Things, of course, could always be better, but I’ve been at this for so long — sounding like an broken record — that I know situations like these are never ideal. It is, however, much better to appreciate the intrinsic value of the nature of these sorts of projects and use that to learn and re-affirm my experiences.  Of course, I was even more pleased when I was told that on the weight of our work on Toyotown, that the director specifically wanted to work with us again on another of his commercials (ie Kirin Mets Gachapin) few months later on.

One of the main things that I enjoyed about the project was working with a Japanese team. Their culture has always been interestingly foreign to me, and I’ve always been eagerly curious to know how it would be like to work with them. Now I know, and I’m not disappointed; though there were many difficulties with the job, as most jobs do, I appreciated their sincerity, open-mindedness, and collaborative spirit; and the fact that when it’s work time, they don’t shut off.


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