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Since its inception, Santa Monica and Melbourne-based VFX studio Luma has developed a robust workflow for crafting extraordinary visual effects for both advertising and film. Luma applies that artistry and process to the VR realm with the immersive guest-centered virtual driving experience, “A Drive Through Time,” for Infiniti, which launched August 15 at the Concord D’elegance during the 2015 Pebble Beach Automotive Week. The landmark project was created with Infiniti’s creative agency of record CP+B and media agency of record OMD, along with production company Tool of North America.
For Infiniti, the Mixed Reality Creative Technicians at Luma developed bespoke technology to support the unique demands of this medium. While many traditional techniques still apply, such as asset creation and lighting, areas such as animation and compositing has to be approached in a brand new way. VR animation must be persistent because of the 360-degree stage where no action is out of frame. In addition, when compositing spherical images where the fish-eyed warping of a latlong image is extreme, new workflows need to be established.
The Dream Road experience at the Infiniti Pavilion transports guests to the driver’s seat of the new Q60 Concept model, allowing them to virtually experience the performance of the next generation coupe on some of the world’s most exhilarating drives including Italy’s Stelvio Pass and the stunning Atlantic Ocean road in Norway.
To achieve this, transition mattes were created within Nuke’s 3D space and output back to the master composite through a 360-degree stereoscopic lens. Custom tools were developed in-house at Luma to allow for seamlessly stitching multiple 8mm captures from the location and placed into a single master spherical movie. This movie was then stabilized and used not only as the backplate in VR, but also to inform the dynamic lighting and reflections for the CG car and driver.
In a second VR experience, automotive enthusiasts are invited to a guided tour of the breathtaking design of the QX30 Concept in From Pencil to Metal. Beginning with the very first pencil sketches drawn in thin air, viewers will experience the QX30 Concept design story unfold around them in three-dimensional space, moving to CAD files, clay modeling, and lastly, the final model.
From Pencil to Metal offered an exciting opportunity for the Luma artists to flex their creative muscles. Translating the process of building a car within a virtual space needed to be both grounded in reality and poetic. Multiple techniques were applied to achieve the variety of required materials and effects along with an ever-evolving sense of design to the VR experience.
Working at 60 fps and rendering at 4K for both demos led to a monumental amount of data to be processed throughout the entirety of the project — a testament to Luma’s in-house capabilities especially considering the extremely condensed timeline.
The final result is two VR demos that push the boundaries of the medium and provide the user with a fully immersive experience. Guests visiting the Infiniti Pavilion will receive a complimentary special edition headset inspired by Google Cardboard so they can download the free Infiniti Driver’s Seat VR mobile app and relive the full experiences at home. In addition, both “From Pencil to Metal” and “Dream Road” short films will become centerpieces of the first-ever YouTube 360 automotive advertising campaign — an industry first.