Making of Nissan Titanium


Bruce Baldwin - WhybinTBWA/Melbourne

"I needed somebody to drive a Nissan Navara through a pool of molten metal and I didn’t want to get burnt in the process. A combination of a slick photo and genius CGI produced an image that well surpassed my expectations."

Glenn Gibson - Blue Fish Productions

I just love getting these sorts of briefs. Bruce Baldwin sent me this layout for the new Navara Titanium special addition and I've gotta say that at first sight, I was not exactly sure how we'd actually execute it, but hey, that's the exciting bit and it's a big part of what I love about this industry.

We considered a variety of options first up from working with mercury (discounted) or using metallic paints and actually trying to simulate the environment in small scale with model cars and high speed flash to get the splash effects then shoot a real car to retouch into position. These approaches had merit although they were obviously going to be tricky (and messy) so we thought from fairly on that CGI would most likely hold the answer.

We'd heard of a few stills based CGI guys working with 'Realflow' software and we checked out the demo and concluded it was going to be very helpful to create 'The Spash' which we'd then bring into our usual software options of Maya or 3DS Max. Realflow software is a fluid dynamics program where you set up physical environments or scenes in 3D and then apply water movement within that scene. You can pour, squirt, slosh water in many different ways or as we did, we created a shallow pool of water into which we drove a 3d model car at various speeds. Realflow allows the liquids to react to the 3D objects within the scene in this instance creating a splash from the vehicle. We kept experimenting driving the vehicle into the water at different speeds and also adjusted the surface tensions and viscosity's of the liquid until it behave more like a thick oil rather than water.

It takes some time to run each sequence while constantly changing setting but we eventually created a splash that we were happy with. In Realflow the liquid 'or splashes' were all created as wire-frames and you'd run each simulation at a designated frame rate, creating 200 wire-frames in the 4 second sequence at 50 frames a second. Once we had a splash we were happy we would go through the frames and choose the optimal moment where the splash worked well. Bringing that frame into 3DS Max, we could then fly the camera around in the 3D scene to choose the exact camera position we wanted.

The wire-frame mesh of the splash is of such a high polygon count that it doesn't render well above as a still image but it's exactly what's required to then do all the scene visualisation and rendering in 3DS Max or Maya.

We ended up using splash wire-frames from two different versions where the car had been driven into the river on two different angles. One the car was turning left which created a bigger splash on the right and a reverse version where a bigger splash was created on the left. The mesh of the two wire-frames were combined and unwanted blobs and splashes deleted or moved to better positions. Most shots below show the early versions of the right side of the splash and are missing the splash elements behind the car which can be seen in the final versions. We really were amazed at the control Realflow gave us over the fluid dynamics as we changed liquid viscosity's and surface tensions etc to simulate a thicker liquid.

With the wire-frame mesh of the splash in hand it's then into our more usual CGI executions to complete the rest of the job. We went out on location and shot a 360º lighting map at a quarry on the Spheron HDR camera as we initially wanted a very subtle but real background environment. The quarry of crushed rock was just piled everywhere and just a dull grey valley with grey mounds all around. Subsequently we simplified the image down to just a tone for the background behind the actual 'river of molten metal as it had more impact but the lighting map was used in conjunction with a studio lighting map to control the lighting and in particular all the reflections on the liquid surface. In conjunction with setting surface properties for the liquids in the CGI software the building and/or creation of the lighting maps is where the majority of skill and craft come into play, particularly with such reflective surfaces like sheet metal or liquids.

I think the final image is a fairly awesome execution and all involved from both a client and agency level were certainly delighted. So, keep us in mind next time you've got that challenging brief that you just know is going to be one heck of a challenge.

Glenn Gibson - Director / Blue Fish Productions


We were still hopeful the client was going to supply CAD data of the actual vehicle which we'd incorporate into the scene but ultimately this was not possible. Accordingly we modelled a different vehicle into the scene and used it as a lighting reference from which we shot an actual Navara and retouched it into the splash scene.


Earlier version of 'the splash' above without lighting properties applied.

Above: Completed splash with CGI model car and lighting map applied. NOTE: The reflections of the splash on the vehicle which we were keen to have for authenticity however it was decided late in the project that the cleaner looking sheet metal of the car without splash reflections actually looked more dynamic and showed the product a lot better.

Above: Final version of splash and lighting with car photographed and retouched into the scene.

Billboard version of the final advertisement.


Making of video below