Featuring Uma Thurman and Christina Ricci, the launch spot for Paramount+ marks Kamen Markov’s first job at Framestore. In collaboration with Los Pérez and agency New Commercial Arts, Framestore has built a gorgeous new world in the 115-second spot for the launch of Paramount+. In the film, they give viewers a peek behind the iconic Paramount Mountain, as they follow Pete on his first day as a runner accompanied by comedian Jack Whitehall delivering coffees to key figures. Apart from actors Uma Thurman and Christina Ricci, starring in the piece are IPs such as Halo, Paw Patrol, Star Trek, and actors.
The team was led by Frametsore’s Kamen Markov, who was on set carrying out previs and technical planning, in his debut Framestore project. Kamen Markov said, “This is my first job as creative director for Framestore and it was exciting to land such a significant ad right from the start.” He collaborated with Framestore’s Previs team to work out the piece.
“We worked from storyboards provided by the client and built an animatic, realising the shots and improving on them in previs first. We used real-world references of planned shoot locations. The edit went through several rapid iterations, with the final IP not being locked at the time of previs. The show was a lot of fun to visualise and contained iconic shots and moments from the reimagining of the Paramount logo flying over the mountain to referencing characters or elements from Star Trek, Halo or Transformers,” said visualisation supervisor Vincent Aupetit.
The project involves pretty much every discipline of post-production, including compositing, CG, CG environment creation, digital matte painting and animation. Involved from the beginning, the team discussed in detail what was possible with such a vast piece.
Markov added, “The majority of the exterior plates were shot at Farnborough location, which we used as a base to create the magical Paramount land. Almost all the exterior shots required us to enhance the location with extensive CG set extensions, background mountains and sky replacements to create a world, consistent with the story. For practical reasons, the driving sequences were predominantly shot on a blue screen or with a precision driver and we needed to include in post-production several head replacements of Jack Whitehall.”
One of the most extensive shots the team worked on was the opening sequence which showed the famous Paramount mountain complete with the logo and stars hovering above. The team had a CG camera fly over it and onwards towards the never-been-seen before, the back side of the mountain. They then joined this journey to a live-action plate that they shot in the studio and stitched them together to create a fully CG 15-second shot.
“Work on the opening sequence started before the shoot and continued right up until the end. It’s a very long shot and had a lot of CG set extensions outside and inside the studio with CG trees, clouds and landscape. It’s easy to build something that is wide but when you get close to it you have to allow for close-up detail. You also have to account for the detail in the distance including the lightning, and everything has to smoothly transition, so we really had to blend everything together,” Markov said about the opening shot. The mountain was the hero of the piece and the team consciously included it as background in all the scenes.
Markov continued by saying “There are two stories being told, one is the story of Pete and his journey delivering coffees and the other is the story of what might be going on at the back of the mountain, behind this famous logo. For that reason, we always kept the mountain the hero of the piece.” The team crafted the mountain to ensure it was authentic to the logo and brand, this included building in detail that extended to include new stars and backgrounds. They also relit it to fit with the daylight scenes as opposed to the sunset ambience it had originally.
He added, “Some of the digital matte paintings’ (DMP) are really complicated. For example, the wide shot which shows our completely redesigned back of the mountain includes our DMP artists’ work of creating a landscape complete with buildings and the old roads connecting the different areas. We’re almost building a whole new world and a lot of thought went into it from the directors, especially how to connect the landscape up. Having Pete and Jack Whitehall drive through the forest was important because it connects up the Paramount mountain and the landscape with all the different studios located in the area.”
To enhance it further the team found the actual location of the Paramount mountain and took Google image scans of it to be used as a base structure, allowing them to sculpt it and add incredible levels of detail.
Markov further added “The lighting and look development of the mountain was a huge thing for us. A lot of procedural work went into creating the mountain, especially the snow and trees because it would take too long to do by hand.”
Another major shot included a Jeep passing a bridge. To achieve this, they built a miniature set and used a remote control car to drive over the drawbridge. They then shot Jack Whitehall and Pete in the car on a blue screen and composited the car on top, adding in an extensive background and cloudscape. “We get a nice interaction of the bridge wobbling and then we shot the bridge with the plate parking lot, before putting everything together. “This was all done at miniature scale using props and puppeteering for the Jeep’s crossing,” he said about the sequence.
Markov’s team worked with Framestore’s sister company, renowned colour specialists, Company 3 who created a playful grade.
Markov concluded by saying, “From an overall creative perspective, it was important for us to work hand-in-hand with colour grade. It’s where the picture is really finished, so we worked closely with colourist Steff Perry and essentially finished the film together. It was great to work with Los Pérez who had lots of fresh ideas. We also thoroughly enjoyed being involved in a channel launch campaign in collaboration with New Commercial Arts and it was a joy to bring this incredibly creative idea to life.”