Let’s do the time-warp


Even though it’s been around since the “80s and, some would argue, the early 19th
century, the Bullet Time technique continues to stir up “oohs’ and “aahs’ in

Who hasn’t at one point done an impression of Neo in The Matrix, arched back and
frozen in time as bullets stream by and cut through space? Liars, you all have.
Why? Because it just looks so damn cool. And the same can be said of the new
Standard Bank “Moment in Time’ advert, which uses modern filming techniques to
create the same surreal effect.

Produced by Velocity Films for TBWA Hunt Lascaris with director Adrian De Sa
Garces and producer Karen Kloppers at the helm, the ad features characters who
move within a fixed scene. What really draws you in as a viewer is the detail –
splotches of liquid galloping through the air pre-splatter, puffs of smoke on the
brink of dispersing, a mid-cheek sweat bead clinging to a statuesque actor’s face.
On productions such as The Matrix this effect was executed by using a whole lot of
cameras which took a single photograph of the action at the same time. These
individual shots were then sequenced and stabilised digitally to produce a smooth
depiction of a moment frozen in time. The same effect however, can be recreated
using a single camera mounted to a crane which moves through the action. In this
case the ad was shot between 50 and 100 frames per second with a Red camera
which was fitted to a Supertechno crane.

Upstairs Post Production assembled the offline edit and BlackGinger, did the online
and VFX. The ad features various scenarios in which the majority of the characters
remain still while a select few move in and around them. The way this was
achieved was having cast members stand posed and completely still while the
director queued specific characters to carry out their respective actions – a
gruelling test of patience and performance. BlackGinger visual effects supervisor
Marco Raposo de Barbosa says, “Some of the cast had props connected to support
rods to help them hold their position. These were later painted out. The “frozen’
nature of the shot was then enhanced by adding suspended objects and frozen
elements created in 3D.’

Collaborating with director De Sa Garces throughout the process, the large post-
production team worked together closely on different aspects of each shot. “Once
the raw (ungraded) plates were received, they were 3D tracked to generate
matching CG cameras for each shot,’ says Raposo de Barbosa. “We also generated
several props for the shots that they were not able to add on the shoot day.’
Concurrently, the steam, fire and liquid effects were simulated. Says Raposo de
Barbosa, “To get these to look realistic, they were generated as moving simulations
using real world dynamics. We then picked a single frame of the simulation and
placed it in the correct place in 3D space for each shot. At the same time we
rotoscoped all the shots, which required elements to be behind foreground parts of
the plate.’

Using HDR images and set reference pictures each element was shaded and lit to
match the plate. They were then rendered along with shadow and reflection passes
and layered together to create the final images.
All work was done as 16-bit float images, maintaining the full range of image data
and allowing maximum latitude throughout the process. Raposo de Barbosa explains
that industry leading tools and their strengths in each respective field were used to
achieve the slick final product. “We used PF Track for 3D camera tracking with
object modelling done in Modo. The visual effects simulations were done in Houdini
as well as all our lighting and rendering. All the elements were composited in Nuke
with the colour grade and final packaging done in Flame, making use of mattes
generated from the compositing team and allowing for last minute finessing of the
entire ad.’

Effects such as this are massively underestimated, and that’s the magic. As the
viewer you have no clue that behind the smooth succession of pictures which
appear on screen is an army of creative thinkers, tech specialists and production
pros making a mountain of work and meticulous planning seem effortless.

Written by Carly Barnes


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