CASE STUDY – How two still images became a luxury apartment

WHEN ONE OF THE WORLD’S BIGGEST real estate developers chose director, Mark Stephen Williams, to create a film to showcase a new luxury development, there was a slight problem. 

Their marketing team had allocated a budget of just $30,000 and only had two low res architectural renders of their new concept.

‘With no actual building and no budget for VFX, we knew we needed to create a story. The development was next to Dubai’s Opera House, and without anything visual to really go with, it had to be about the music.

Mark Stephen Williams, Director

‘I listened to hours and hours of Opera searching for something dreamy and delicate. Once I found the piece, the spot wrote itself’, Williams said. 

In the film, shot entirely on green screen and composited over the two still images, a woman hears an aria sung in the distance and rushes to the balcony with her opera glasses to see where the voices are coming from. It’s a simple execution, yet making the two renders feel real was a challenge.

‘At the storyboarding stage I realised we needed more than two camera positions, so we manipulated what we had way beyond what we should have, given the low resolution of the images and even created some backgrounds from scratch.

‘We brought the composited imagery to life by adding glass reflections, blinking city lights and dancing waterfalls. It was all totally lo-fi, but looks big and grand,’ Williams said.

For the green screen, Williams chose a Red Dragon with Zeiss CP2 lenses, shooting in 6k RAW format to give the compositor images that could be manipulated easily in post as they are laid over the still images.

As a low budget shoot, Williams not only shot and directed the spot and sourced the music, he drove tirelessly around town searching for the one prop that would make or break the film: the opera glasses. 

‘We just didn’t have the budget for a prop master or the time to order from overseas. But, who on earth would have opera glasses in Dubai? I searched for day and days and found them in a collector’s warehouse about 80kms away at 11pm the night before the shoot. 

‘It just confirms to me yet again that serendipity really is half of any project’s success,’ he said.

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