Cannes Lions


THE MILL, London / DIRECTV / 2013






The file originally submitted is a WIP, final version will be supplied asap before April 30th.

DIRECTV ‘Car Chase’ provided a killer opportunity to make a classic movie car chase scene. What makes this assignment particularly unique, however, was that this chase takes place on the floor of a New York City bus.


This project was challenging from a VFX perspective because the cars were shot in a traditional manner in order to capture talent interaction with vehicle and real world energy of cars squealing out of control. All car stunts were performed practically, in an open parking lot, on a bright sunny day in Los Angeles.

When it came time to create the bus environment, the VFX team had their hands full. It was at first a design assignment, whereby the bus had to be imagined from back to front. The VFX team constantly had to ask themselves where the stunts may have occurred on the bus floor and build their bus layout accordingly. For this reason, an entire replica of a New York City bus was constructed in Maya. The stunt choreography, as put together in the edit, was mapped out across this bus replica. A schematic of the bus was generated from bird's-eye view and the stunts were drawn out along the floor. The team then placed CG cameras along the floor tracking perfectly to the live action stunt cameras and rendered the bus environment as it would have been captured by the stunt camera on location.

After the bus was created, the practical cars had to be lit as if they were shot inside a bus, meaning directional lighting was forced onto the cars which were natively lit top down on a bright sunny day. Shadows cast by the bus architecture were created on the ground and light interaction was composited onto the vehicles as they traveled along the ground, in and out of these shadows.

Of course, what's a bus without passengers? Since the cars were shot practically, there was no way to shoot them interacting with life-size human passengers, so the VFX team had to shoot passenger elements moving in a way that made sense for any given stunt performance. If a car swerved from left to right, for instance, a foot was imagined screen left as impetus for this stunt maneuver. Again, the bus schematic was used to place bus passengers throughout the bus, and their movement was drawn out to interact with the car stunts accordingly. Once the choreography was established, extras were shot acting out this choreography. The team placed 5D cameras on the ground and using DragonFrame, positioned them so they matched the live action stunt cameras and captured the appropriate perspective on any given bus passenger.

The passengers along with the cars were then composited into the CG bus. Houdini made atmospherics were added to enrich the environment. The team created dust and debris that kick up throughout the spot and smoke which periodically peels off from the car tires. The most notable effects animation can be seen in the spray of dollar bills strewn about from the hero car sliding around a passenger's feet. Pure cinema.

When the VFX team finally had everything in place, a slick grade and some film grain was placed on top to glue everything together. In the end, this incredibly challenging assignment resulted in a very memorable piece and one that's simply fun to watch!

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