Cinematographer and VFX technical director Christopher Webb captured the essence of the BMW i8 with “i8 Illumination,” a 60-second film realized entirely with in-camera visual effects.
Webb and his team developed optical mechanics, specialty camera motion rigs and animated lighting units designed to evoke the power and momentum of the i8 while it remained completely stationary. “My team and I wanted to express our love of handmade visuals, which are at the core of our work,” Webb explains. “I feel that images created in-camera really speak to viewers and awaken the creative spirit.”
Webb and his crew spent about two weeks creating mechanical rigs and lighting effects projected onto movable screens. They also constructed large-scale moving LED units to sculpt animated light around the vehicle and send light into custom optics in front of the camera. “We wanted to create a sense of atmosphere and motion,” Webb says, “though we had no sets and the car never moved.”
Webb captured both moving and still images of the i8 with a RED Dragon 6K camera. A Canon EOS 5D Mk III was used for long exposure effects. Optics included older Nikon specialty lenses. Camera motion was achieved with gliders and nodal heads built by MYT Works and a motorized P+S Technik Skater dolly. The team also built custom rigs in-house and used motion control systems from eMotimo and Kessler. Animation was captured with Dragonframe stop motion software from DZED Systems.
“Although we storyboarded and did extensive testing prior, we kept a freedom to our process,” continues Webb. “Once we found our light and action, we all worked together to improve the performance.” Editor Jessica Schoen then completed the edit, using original music by Thomas Porter.
“It was wonderful to create a film featuring the BMW i8,” says Webb of the project. “It has a unique design aesthetic that is truly inspiring. I’m grateful for the opportunity to do this work using in-camera visual effects, and hope that it inspires others.”
Watch it and a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of “Illumination” below.