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How Drip Set a New Benchmark for Virtual Slo-Mo


Drip director and partner Tyler Bowditch talks to LBB’s Josh Neufeldt about achieving 480FPS syncing for a new Sleeman spot, and what this means for the industry

How Drip Set a New Benchmark for Virtual Slo-Mo

There’s something uniquely special about food and drink spots. Yes, like all other ads the end goal is to achieve consumer buy-in, but, in the case of food and drink campaigns, this must be done by making a product look delicious. 

For drink ads everywhere, however, overcoming this challenge just got a bit easier. Recently, Drip Studio, out of Toronto, Canada cracked the code on shooting high speed on a virtual set. Where traditionally, high-framerate liquid shots were hard to achieve (due to the near impossible challenge of keying them from chroma backgrounds), with the help of Immersion Room and Mars Moco, Drip managed to achieve 480FPS syncing with Unreal Engine on the LED volume. 

This is a significant technological step for all campaigns which want to feature pour shots. According to Drip director and partner Tyler Bowditch, never before has this been possible with slow motion and liquids - without the use of CG. “This opens the world of pour shots up immensely,” he adds in a press release. “Now you can do things like change the environments or time of day throughout a single pour shot, or shoot 10 different locations in a day without a single unit move or recalibrating your motion control system. With this new workflow, the constraints of slow motion productions start to melt away. It opens up a new world of possibilities for shots and scripts that wouldn't have been possible with just a translight or even a set build.”

Showcased in the latest spot for Sleeman, LBB’s Josh Neufeldt sat down with Tyler to talk about how this new technology brought the beer campaign to life. 

LBB> Leading up to this campaign, had you figured out the 480FPS syncing? If so, when did you accomplish this feat? 

Tyler> A lot of this project came from a chat we had with Mike and Matt at Immersion Room. We’d been discussing the limitations of virtual production and some workarounds they’d been using, and theorised that we could get up to 240FPS. They tested it on their LED volume, and sure enough 240 was possible - which obviously meant we should keep pushing. 

Leading into the shoot, we were unsure if 480 was possible, but we were eager to try. As such, we scheduled the shoot to allow for lots of test/troubleshooting time.  

LBB> What was the collaboration like between yourselves, the Immersion Room and Mars Moco? Can you tell us more about how work was divided and conquered?

Tyler> Immersion Room is leading the way on a lot of this tech - they’ve got a really solid team with some really creative solutions for tech obstacles. It was all of us working closely together from start to finish.  

LBB> High-framerate liquid shots are notoriously difficult. Can you tell us what achieving this benchmark means, both for the studio, and the industry?

Tyler> I’m excited about this, because it opens up all sorts of possibilities to creatives. There are scripts waiting to be written that just couldn’t have been shot previously. On top of that, the added control and repeatability you gain by being able to do these things in-studio really cuts down on the amount of time needed to execute these shots.

LBB> Before this project, how long had you been trying to accomplish 480FPS syncing for? And how did you react when you finally succeeded?

Tyler> I’d been trying to find a production partner for a project like this for over a year, and every other LED volume team I talked to told me it was impossible. I even got an estimate from one post house that we were five years away from this being possible - but with the Immersion Room team, we figured it out in just a few days! Seeing it all come together and actually work was awesome - the whole team was very excited, but honestly, I was probably relieved more than anything.

LBB> Is the shooting technique one that will be easily replicable for future projects? Will this represent a signature tool in Drip’s arsenal for future campaigns?

Tyler> We could redo this with very little pre-production time with just about any liquid/container/product. Liquid/slow motion has been at the forefront of what we’re doing since the beginning, and though I wouldn’t call this a signature tool, it's definitely a really nice tool to have.  

LBB> A memorable aspect of the ad is the simple variety seen within the shots of beer. What’s it like to work with beer? How did you go about achieving so many unique shots and angles for the final cut?

Tyler> Working with beer has become pretty normal for us. However, there is a lot of nuance to it. Different types of shots require different amounts of carbonation, different temperatures, and different scales of prop/pour. Myself and Hugh managed to shoot all of the beer macro shots with a single light in a couple hours. We’ve got a couple 10 and 20 gallon glasses I had fabricated, which I keep on hand for working with beer specifically. As such, we did these shots in those oversized glasses so we'd have more control over the movements.

LBB> What was the timeline like for this project? How long did it take from start to finish?

Tyler> Though I’d been trying to do this for over a year, the actual time from our first chat to shooting was only about three weeks. We shot for two days - including our testing/troubleshooting time - and if we were to go back with what we know now, I suspect it could be done in a day.

LBB> What were the production process and post-production process like?

Tyler> Pre-production was a breeze compared to traditional productions. It’s great to be able to sit down with an Unreal artist and rearrange a bar scene in minutes. Post was also pretty normal and easy - the amount of control you have really makes it so there isn’t much to be done aside from traditional cut/colour/audio. For this project, we had a really good team consisting of School (editor Lynn Sheehy), Artjail (colourist Clinton Homuth), and Boombox Audio (Chris and Drew). I have found that you definitely need a strong colourist on virtual shoots though, as the footage can start to show banding from the screens if adjusted in the wrong ways.

LBB> Do you have any memorable lessons learned from this new campaign?

Tyler> Really, this was about as smooth a project as you could ask for.  I wish I could say it was really hard and I learned a lot, but really, it was more just confirmation that the ideas we had actually worked.  

LBB> What challenges have you faced during this project? How did you overcome them?

The only challenges were troubleshooting the wall framerates. Motion control was a big part of this, as we could track the movements at 10% speed and render the footage at 10% speed, and then play it all back 10 times faster and in sync. This was paramount in helping us overcome limits in Unreal. 

LBB> What has the initial response been like? 

Tyler> People really like the spot. I’ve been getting a bunch of ‘how did you do this’ emails which are always nice.  

LBB> Is there anything you’d like to add?

Tyler> I really just hope that people understand the doors opened up by this, and I hope to see some boards come across my desk that three months ago, I would have said were impossible.  

LBB> Will you be sharing this technique with the world any time soon?

It isn’t so much a single technique that we’ve got under lock and key or anything like that, it's more of a collection of things being used elsewhere put together in a creative way. I’d love to show people how it’s done, but you’ll have to hire us for your next project to see!

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Drip, Mon, 03 Oct 2022 15:34:39 GMT