To celebrate VIA Rail's 40 year anniversary, the Canadian national rail passenger service recently released a new spot titled The Future is On Board, developed by Cossette. The renowned Canadian agency invited three visual effects post houses to pitch for the spot, which was envisioned to be entirely computer-generated; Rodeo FX was one of the three VFX companies asked to pitch.
The original concept for the spot followed one shot of Canadian roads growing progressively larger and more congested before transforming to a single set of train tracks. Rodeo FX approached Cossette with their own take on the concept, adding a dimension of time as a nod to the 40 year anniversary. Rodeo FX proposed a progression through the seasons and time of day to mark the passage of time, a vision that resonated with the creative team at Cossette and landed Rodeo FX the project.
The greatest challenge in creating this plate-less spot was to make it hyper photorealistic. As all of the footage seen on the spot is CG – nothing was filmed for the spot – every detail had to be meticulously conceptualized and executed by Rodeo FX's artists. The artists based their work off photo references. The photographic direction for the spot was led by Rodeo FX.
In order to create the spot, Rodeo FX's team used 2D projections as well as 3D elements to create a parallax effect and give dimension to the assets. One of the more challenging assets of this spot is the traffic, particularly as more and more cars are added and the traffic halts to a stop. In order to create a realistic feel, the cars could not be completely static. There had to be small sporadic movements to mimic the way traffic behaves in real life. This also meant the break lights had to be responsive and light up accordingly. Rodeo FX built the traffic shots using Houdini and employing creative computing behaviour.
The final spot shows roads and major highways inspired by trans-Canadian examples. The city in the horizon in the final shot is a fictional city inspired by Canada's metropolises, meant to represent all Canadian cities and giving a glimpse to the future. This final shot was created in full CG, using set dressing for the semi-industrial neighbourhood and buildings. The city in the background is a matte painting.
Rodeo FX's Advertising team worked directly with Cossette on this project, no production house was involved.