Award-winning Spanish film director and visual effects expert Gabe Ibañez has recently broken new ground with his most recent advertising campaign. By using the latest LED technology, the campaign was able to exceed the client’s expectations and be shot in a completely COVID-safe manner for the cast and crew.
As we all know, the global pandemic has greatly affected the production industry, with all usual procedures having to be reimagined for everyone’s safety. This has presented huge challenges, but with the right technology, it has also provided the much needed kickstart for Virtual Production to enter the realm of the norm.
Gabe Ibañez, known throughout his career for his ground-breaking visual effects, is leading the way, pioneering new technology so that the advertising industry can continue to produce creative and innovative campaigns.
Changing technology for changing times
The campaign for Spanish mobile network provider Yoigo required a location shoot in Latvia. However, given the current circumstances, taking actors to film on location would be unsafe and financially unviable. Instead, Ibañez decided to utilize a virtual production platform, which enables virtual and real-world elements to be projected on giant LED screens.
Only a small team traveled to Latvia, using drones to film the backgrounds. The backgrounds were then brought directly to the actors in the studio, where the shoot could be safely completed in line with strict COVID guidelines.
Ibañez explains, “This technological solution allowed us to divide the work into two parts: filming with minimal equipment in a remote country and filming on set with all the proper COVID measures with actors, art elements, and strong lighting control.”
The technology involved a 10K semicircular LED screen, 16 meters in diameter by 4 meters high, and 50sq meters of LED screens used to project atmospheric light reflections. The drone footage was shot using an ALEXA Mini with Leica Summilux optics. A GoPro Hero 9 was attached to the same drone to shoot the synchronized footage that would be shown on the screens for fill light. The campaign needed to show actors on a train, so the footage had to be shot as though the viewer was moving through the countryside.
Once the Latvia footage had been color-corrected, it was fed into the Disguise system, enabling the footage to be projected via the LED screens.
The result is incredibly realistic. The actors appear to be traveling through beautiful countryside, when in fact, they were in the studio in front of LED screens the whole time. Usually, a much bigger budget would be required to achieve the same results.
“There were times we forgot we were not in the actual location when we were looking at the screens on set, because it looked so realistic,” explains Ibañez. “The actors saw the locations and interacted with them. They are surrounded by giant screens that inform them where they are supposed to be. It really helped the performances.”
It also offered an immediate result for the clients. Filming in this way meant that the footage required very little post-production, so the clients could see the finished commercial much quicker than they would usually be able to.
At the forefront of cinematic advancement
Gabe Ibañez has spent his entire career pioneering visual effects and has gained worldwide recognition for his films. These include Maquina, which won the Special Jury Prize at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in 2007, and 2014’s Automata, starring Antonio Banderas, which was shown in over 20 countries worldwide.
Ibañez is also widely known for his ground-breaking commercial campaigns and cinematic work. When COVID presented new challenges, he knew technology was the answer. He couldn’t resist the opportunity to be the first to use a new system.
“Given the hyper-realism that our backgrounds needed and the short pre-production time, I decided to shoot it,” he says.
What’s more, he discovered this new technology was not only the answer to a current safety problem. It also created some truly striking visual effects, making this system more attractive to work with than previous solutions.
“Unlike how it is usually done, we worked with very bright lights, in broad daylight,” he explains. “The most common way is to work with very dim light levels, during twilight, but this project required shooting in broad daylight.” This would usually cause problems when filming with LED screens as the results could have a lack of contrast between light and shade that provide a realistic experience for viewers. It is only because LED technology has improved so much recently that these clear, sharp results were possible.
Ibañez is thrilled with the results of this new technology. “As a director, it allows you to find solutions for projects shot in chroma in a more natural way. The characters are somehow surrounded by the place where the story happens. The presence of post-production artifice is lessened, and for the actors, myself, and the clients, the results can instantly be seen.”
What next for commercial production?
The team at Ibañez’s production company, Altered.LA, is leading the way in providing COVID-safe production shoots for commercials in their current hubs of Los Angeles, Mexico, and Bogotá. Now with this new technology available in Spain, it allows them to expand their portfolio and open the door for ambitious campaigns to be produced at very competitive rates, which will shake up the industry considerably.
“These may be challenging times, but the film industry is creative and resilient with plenty of talent” said Marcos Cline, founder at Altered.LA. He added, “innovative solutions can be found even in the most difficult circumstances, as demonstrated by the success of Gabe Ibañez and his team with this campaign. It’s exciting to see where the industry develops from here!”
For more information about Gabe Ibañez and this pioneering commercial production, please contact Altered.LA.
For creative minds looking to expand beyond the traditional, Altered.LA offers an alternative philosophy which values the multi-disciplinary approach. We create visual experiences across all platforms and mediums which elevate the human spirit, enlighten, innovate, and further our cultural and artistic expressions.