With A Twist Takes Nissan’s New Supercar for a Spin

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DETROIT—A new 2-minute interactive cinematic featured on Nissan’s website delivers a breathtaking view of the automaker’s sizzling car of the future, the GT-R. It also offers an intriguing glimpse of what might very well be the future of car advertising. The high octane cinematic, created by With A Twist Studio for Long Beach, California agency The Designory, follows the sleek, silver sports car as it muscles its way through a racetrack, farmland, a city and a towering mountain range under varying weather conditions. At key points in the narrative, the viewer has the option to put the brakes on the action and pull up a 360-degree, 3D view of the car for closer inspection. It’s a thrilling demonstration of power, design, engineering, and speed—and all the more so because none of it is real. The car and each of the spectacular environments were entirely produced in CGI by With A Twist Director David Burton and his team of Visual Effects Artists. For With A Twist Studio, which has created Visual Effects for television commercials for such car brands as Pontiac, Chevrolet and Buick, this was a great opportunity to produce a piece of advertising media in its entirely and play a key role in shaping the narration. “It is groundbreaking to do full-on motion without shooting any locations,� said Burton. “We wanted to showcase some of the incredible features of the GT-R and highlight its ability to perform in a variety of driving conditions—and create an experience that enthusiasts will find very entertaining.�

There really was no alternative to producing the GT-R in CGI as a complete, final version of the vehicle, which will begin turning up on showrooms worldwide later this year, had not been fully built. Burton and his crew worked from CAD (computer-aided design) files used in the production of the real car to fashion their CGI replica, accurate down to the smallest detail. Initially consideration was given to shooting the background environments practically, but Burton suggested that CGI was a better alternative for that as well. “CGI environments were a good choice for practical reasons, because time was short and it gave us more creative flexibility,� he said. Executive Producer, Pam Hammarlund noted the CGI allowed them to capture images that would either have been very expensive or impossible to shoot in the field. “We did helicopter shots as well as shots from below the car,� she said. “To do that practically would have meant digging a trench deep enough to hold a $200,000 camera in and keep it from being destroyed. Rigging the camera alone could take half a day.� As the cinematic is intended to be seen by car buyers worldwide, the CG approach also meant that the environments could be made to look generic rather than tied to a specific location. “We didn’t want the racetrack to look like a NASCAR site,� Burton explained. “CG allowed us to make the environments appear however we liked.� With just five months to produce 120 seconds of full frame animation, comprising 77 shots, four distinct environments, VFX such as rain, snow and blowing leaves; and a CG model of the car photo-real down to the digits on the tachometer and stitching on the seats, With A Twist had its work cut out. The production required increasing of the company’s staff and a substantial addition to its computer processing and rendering capabilities. Because the GT-R was new some details of its design and construction were still being fine-tuned while the cinematic was being produced. As a result, the animators were obliged to continually tweak their model. “We would periodically receive updates because a light had been changed or the ribbing of the upholstery had been altered, and we would update our model,� explained Modeling Lead, Paul LaFond. “Each time we made a change, it had to ripple through to every shot in the cinematic.� Weather-related effects were among the most challenging aspects of the animation. Having a studio in Detroit proved fortunate as it gave animators a chance to conduct practical tests involving both rain and snow. Artists studied how tires form tracks in snow and used that to create a particle simulation that realistically duplicated the effect in CG. Every element in the background environments, from street lights to fir trees, is fully rendered in 3D. That accounts for the cinematic’s uncanny depth and realism, but it also taxed With A Twist’s physical resources. To handle all of the number crunching, the studio added 144 nodes to its render farm and acquired a new, 6 terrabyte high capacity Apple Xserve server to hold all the data. “A fully animated 30-second television spot might comprise a few hundred gigabytes of data,� noted CG Supervisor, Brandon Bartlett. “This project ended up topping 2 ½ terabytes of data.� The approval process was also complicated. Each phase of the production had to be reviewed not only by the agency and Nissan’s North American affiliate, but also by the company’s headquarters in Japan and its affiliate in Europe. To accommodate all parties, With A Twist used their online project management system for posting work in progress. “We do a lot of work for agencies and clients out of our region and are set up to work with multiple clients in multiple locations,� Hammarlund said. “Our online approval system really shined on this project.� Photo-real CG is a natural solution for car advertising where new vehicles are often not readily available and there is often a desire to show the product in a variety of locations and from every conceivable angle. But Burton believes that an all-CG approach could work for many types of advertising. “It opens the floodgates to a new kind of storytelling,� he said. “It can be applied to games and to transportation products such as aerospace and motorcycles. We see a lot of opportunities to tell this type of story.� The cinematic can be viewed at:


With A Twist Studio has locations at 1713 Lincoln Boulevard, Venice, California 90291 (310)210-4802, and 1773 Star Batt Drive, Rochester Hills, Michigan 48309. For more information, call (248) 844-0044 or visit





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