"VROOooom...HONK!...Beep beep!"

Edmunds.com is the leading web authority on new and used cars. So you would think that their employees would have cars on their minds a lot. But... LITERALLY?

tcs vz gator

Directed by Kinka Usher for Kaplan Thaler Group, the concept for this ad required that Edmunds "employees" have cars for heads. The simple solution, one initially thinks, is to do it in CG. Ha ha! Wrong! That's not simple. It's expensive and time-consuming! Plus, it'll totally LOOK C.G., and not have real shadows and lights playing interactively on it, and besides, there's not the time to do full 3D Modeling AND animation between the shoot and the air date! Okay, how about if they wear car models as helmets? Well, the problem there is...then you see a lot of their necks. Well, how about if we create exquisitely-detailed car models, put them on poles, and then match-move their path, position, and movement to a plate of the human actors doing it? Then we'll composite it in post!

Well, that wasn't a "simple" solution...but dad-gummit, it worked!


As they have several times before, Usher and his Producer Nancy Hacohen gave a call to the person and shop whom they knew could tackle the difficult creative and logistic specs of this task: Rick Lazzarini and The Character Shop. Here at TCS, we don't *just* do creatures, aliens, and animals. Characters is what we do, and if those characters need model work done, why that's what will get done.

However, modelwork is a dying art. The people who were expert modelmakers in their heyday have scattered, moved on to other things....and in some cases, off this mortal coil. Pulling together a team of expert modelmakers in the Southern California area seemed a daunting challenge, until...

Rick discovered a jewel. A Time Capsule. A company in Petaluma, CA, called White Room Artifacts, run by Don Bies. Working at the company, Rick found an assemblage of legendary, ex-ILM modelmakers, whose experience and skill level was beyond compare. A deal was struck; TCS would coordinate the Design & Build, interface with Usher, Agency, and Client, determine the actual scale of the models, supply shells and electronics, and support WRA, while WRA would handle the actual hands-on building of the models.

Some of the models were kit-bashed and Frankensteined, and only one was 3D printed. TCS learned on this project that "Rapid 3D Prototyping" is no such thing. For cars of this size (24 to 32 inches long), the lead time on any 3D printing machine was, at minimum 8 days. And spendy. "Heck, in 8 days, I can sculpt, mold, cast, trim, body-work, sand, block, detail, paint and polish a car body that size, and have it cost less!" said Rick. And so, it was primarily an old-school build.

With only 5 weeks to build, and Design Approvals on some cars coming later, Rick, Don, and the WRA crew had little choice but to get their hands dirty, move ahead, and leave the Technology Train behind at the station.

One of the more challenging aspects of the Design and Build was to come up with cars that were "anonymous". That is, with styling cues from the Sports, Small SUV, Sedan, Truck, and Small runabout genres, but without using key elements that would positively identify each car as being a certain model from a particular manufacturer.


Each car also had some sort of electronic and/or mechanical feature: working wIndshield wipers, headlights, flashers, turn signals, popping hoods, opening doors, etc.

The final push came when, at the show-and-tell the day before, a last-minute request came to see the *inside* of some of the cars. Previously, it had been esablished that the windows would be "ND", so you coldn't see inside them. Well, things change, and it turned into an all-night scramble to create see-through windshields and detailed interiors the night...and the morning...before the shoot.

In the end, the cars looked *beautiful*. Rick and Don each brought a Tech Crew member on set to keep the cars polished, dust free, and detailed for each setup. The actors would walk though their paths, donning green hoods and tracking dots, and then the cars would go through the same paths, adding appropriate head movements, turn signals, etc.

With the footage captured, Visual FX Supervisor Patrick Murphy and a52 tackled to job of compositing all the images together, as well as re-coloring some of the models, into the spot as seamlessly as possible.


Check out the finished ad on YouTube!

...and the "Behind the Scenes" clip as well!


Remember, The Character Shop can bring just about any animal, alien, creature, or character to life, using animatronics, puppetry, and a bit of talent and wizardy! Give us a call or email us at The Character Shop.

(805) 306-9441 lazzwaldo@mac.com



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