Porsche's sweet ride
Lee Puznowski
Issue: May 1, 2012

Porsche's sweet ride

I’d like to start off with a little background on our company. Setup8 opened in mid-2011 by Roger Sparwasser, lead 3D specialist; Ivo Nieth,  our main guy for project management and all things client contact; and myself (Lee Puznowski) as creative director and all-around 3D/comper.

With our small in-house team and network of freelancers, we are able to remain flexible for large and small projects alike while keeping the costs at respective levels. To try and avoid making this sound like an advertisement for us, I'll just jump right into the nitty gritty. One of our clients passed up on a bid for the 2011 Porsche Event in Capetown Africa, which gave us the chance to work directly with Porsche. Although we were in the midst of setting up our company structure and workflow, we knew this would be a great opportunity. So, of course, we jumped at the chance.

After our first briefing and meeting at Porsche, it was clear that this would be a huge undertaking for us. An approximately 11.5-minute full-HD stereo presentation was required for the event. Our timeframe was approximately 2-1/2 months. The first thing that came to mind was all the structuring that would be needed as far as team composition and planning to get the right people on the boat...or car in this case. One main factor would cause this to be drastically minimized, the budget.  A very tight budget didn't allow for many resources; we would have to keep the team very small and efficient.  This was a tremendous challenge for us. 

As our creative director, I began with the storyboards immediately. My traditional background in the arts, as a graduate of the Kubert School, allows me to be very flexible in many areas. The briefing consisted mainly of a simple diagram of sales information with the various advertising methods planned for the 2012 Porsche 911 campaign. Our job was to make this interesting…somehow. We decided to take the viewer through the virtual 3D world of a sales funnel. Since the original diagram of the funnel was an important element required at the beginning, we decided to take that and build the 3D world and funnel out of it.

After the storyboards and look development were finished, we were ready to begin production. During this time, I had already begun with tests in Eyeon Fusion to try and create a certain look and effect. This is when I decided to make the leap and see how far I could bring the project within Fusion directly. I should probably also mention that this was the first project I had ever done in Fusion. About a year earlier, I had won a Fusion license through a VFX Challenge. Except for the occasional time playing around with it, I was a Fusion newbie. So why take the risk and use a program I had not yet familiar with? Speed was the main reason. Not only could I shorten the process of development to final product, by keeping it all in one program, but I could also speed up the render process dramatically. This was an important factor for us since we had no in-house renderfarm. Sending everything out to a renderfarm for the entire project using Chaos V-ray would have put us well over budget. The key here was to be as efficient as possible to keep within the budget. 

The extensive shader system in Fusion helped a lot too. Although no raytracing engine is available, most effects could easily be simulated through things such as the Reflect Material, which was used heavily, to give the objects a nice surface reflection. The particle system was also very useful to achieve unique effects. Overall, the speed of the renders was one of the most important factors. The OpenGL renderer saved our “arses” many a time for expected and unexpected revisions/corrections/extra wishes and tight deadlines during the production phase. Getting renders at speeds of just a few seconds per frame at full HD would be unheard of any other way. 

Roger, our 3D lead who has many years experience in all areas of Autodesk 3DS Max and V-ray, setup all the 3D components of the last scenes starting from the interior Porsche Center to the outside environment cityscape with a London-like feel. That was approximately three minutes of animation where the camera flies through the Porsche center populated by 3D characters and out through a brief flight through the city and back into the Porsche Center. The first part of the animation was entirely animated/rendered/comped in Fusion. 

A typical large production process with all the stages (3D, animation, lighting, etc.) would have surely allowed for a different result to be achieved but never at the allotted budget. Surely not with one person doing approximately 80 percent of all the work either.

And of course the obligatory question: If we could have done one thing differently... I would say rather if we had more time I would have liked to have put a bit more “love” into the particle animations. I know one can achieve very nice particle movement/secondary movement/etc. in Fusion. Although, we did manage to make a particle dragonfly fly around a room into a TV, if that counts for anything!

The Pigsfly forum and VFXPedia were great sources for tips and tricks. I'll use this as an opportunity to give a shout-out to all the great folks there.  The client was very pleased with the results. Of course having the newest update to Fusion would have allowed for some very interesting effects in the volume lighting area. Which reminds me, I'll have to get on my boss to finally get the update...

Currently, we are working in many areas at the moment. From architectural to medical animations, product visualizations, and anything else that challenges us to grow and learn. For me personally, one of the most important attributes of working in such a field is the ability to learn. This, above all, will help one to excel. The tools are pivotal to making that journey a lot easier. They are not “just tools.” Being flexible enough to learn anything that is necessary for a job is key.

Lee Puznowski is a Creative Director with Setup8 GmbH (www.setup8.de), based in Bad Soden am Taunus, Germany.

"Images courtesy of Setup8. Copyright 2011 Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG"