Pennzoil Complete Protection

Client: Pennzoil | JWT Atlanta Studio: MPC

MPC NY worked hand-in-hand with JWT Atlanta to bring a fresh approach to showcase the Pennzoil Platinum synthetic oil in a visually new way. Inspired by the inherent innovation behind the product, JWT enlisted MPC to explore the concept of projecting 3D animation onto real vapor, tightly choreographed with live-action elements and captured in camera using motion control.

The all-new campaign, anchored by a 30-second spot, “Complete Protection,” also includes a 30-second fully CG “Gas to Bottle” spot directed by Estis - a beautiful visual journey through abstract particles that follows the curves that form the Pennzoil bottle. 

Creative Director David Estis and VFX Supervisor Ashley Bernes led the MPC team at every stage of campaign creation; collaborating with JWT through concept development, pre-viz and into post to achieve an entirely in-camera approach.

“The team at MPC has been very excited to create ‘Complete Protection’ since the first images appeared on vapor during the early live-action tests,” explains David. "The subtle nuances of the projected image on a real vapor cloud has a visual richness that is difficult to achieve with particle simulation, and the interaction between the car, projection, and cloud would have been next to impossible without an in-camera approach."  

The innovative and challenging nature of the visual approach drew on a wide range of MPC’s disciplines, with JWT and MPC collaborating closely to explore new techniques. Executive Producer Tim Dillon notes: “We are often being brought into the equation much earlier - to develop detailed pre-viz and define the visual techniques well before the shoot. We're now using projection and other interactive systems as part of our filmmaking toolkit.”


3D World Magazine, August 2014, Capturing Vapour FX Live In-Camera

CG Awards Nomination, Best CG Commercial Campaign, Pennzoil 'Complete Protection'

MPC took a multi-tiered process mixing pre-viz, test shooting, and projection to breathe life into every shot. Ahead of the shoot, MPC created CG elements which included the pistons, fuel nozzle and a completely CG Maserati Ghibli to match the live-action counterpart. A pre-viz was created and used on set to ensure the projection and live-action car performance aligned. “During the pre-viz, we started experimenting with camera moves, contrast levels, and different speeds,” noted Bernes. “And really, we all developed the narrative from there.”

The shoot took place over three days in Los Angeles at Firestone Studios, and the vast space presented a series of challenges. Due to the amount of windows, the team resolved to shoot at night to allow optimal light control. The extensive number of steel columns created another obstacle, which made precision-driving the true star of the shoot. Likewise, the scale of the space affected air currents, which meant vapor control became irrespective to test shooting, as each space presented variations.

MPC and Skunk used motion control cameras to capture dynamic, repeatable camera movement for the live-action car choreographed together with the practical vapor clouds. The camera team built a specialized bespoke rig for the projector to move alongside the Milo motion control system. The MPC team used the motion control data to align pre-rendered content with physical camera moves, allowing the animated projected content to appear at correct angles when seen on the vapor in-camera.

The vapor columns were the most difficult elements to create, but with the help of the talented special effects team, each shot was designed in a way that allowed for maximum control and quick reset times. Movable fog rigs and fans were placed in precise locations and controlled remotely to contribute to the highly complex shots. Projecting the CG animation onto vapor in the same physical location as the live-action car performance meant the lighting conditions needed to be balanced between the ambient and the powerful projectors being used for the CG content.  

The footage was then brought into the compositing pipeline, where the 2D team, led by Evan Schoonmaker, enhanced the projected elements and vapor clouds, removed smoke rigging, and crafted a visually arresting transition from the live action plates to an entirely CG pack shot. The grade, completed by Colorist Mark Gethin, helped to elevate each detail and conjure a beautifully dramatic mood throughout the campaign.