Istanbul-based MGX Studio used virtual production to create ‘Strepsils Defence’, a TV commercial advertising lozenges to a national audience. BroadcastPro ME speaks to Project Manager Mete Mümtaz to learn how the ad was made in just three weeks.
Advertising always calls for fresh ideas and innovation, but when working with a world-famous brand that’s been around for 65 years, your thinking needs to be on a whole new level. That was the case when MGX Studio began work on a new commercial for Strepsils, throat lozenges manufactured by Reckitt. To breathe new life into a classic brand and showcase the benefits of its product, the MGX team decided to shoot the entire commercial in its state-of-the-art virtual production studio powered by Disguise, reportedly the only one of its kind in the country.
Created for the Turkish market, the ‘Strepsils Defence’ ad tells two stories, one of a young man on a subway and the other of a young woman at a birthday party. Both are anxious about their health in these crowded environments, until a Strepsil relieves them of their worries. Traditionally, to make such a concept a reality MGX would need to shoot at two separate locations, each with its own cast acting in busy public spaces.
“Capturing the whole commercial in real locations would have increased the number of shooting days and required extensive night shots,” says MGX Studio’s Mete Mümtaz, Project Manager on the commercial. “From early on, we aimed to use virtual production instead. With it, we would be able to shoot in just one day, avoid nights and prevent the team from working long hours.”
Luckily, both Reckitt and ad agency Havas Istanbul recognised the advantages of the virtual production workflow. Before long, MGX was given the green light.
To bring the commercial to life, the MGX team began by taking two weeks to pre-plan the production. This involved working with director Senem Bay and DP Arınç Arısoy to create mood boards and storyboards for each sequence. After consulting with the Strepsils brand, Murphy Cobb & Associates global production management services, Havas Istanbul and Istanbul production company Shortcut, the MGX Studio team then built two physical sets with foreground elements and LED backdrops: a subway and a party scene.
For the subway set, the team first built the physical foreground elements, including real-world seating, handrails and a subway car. Next, MGX’s in-house artists used Unreal Engine to create a moving tunnel backdrop displayed on a flat Unilumin LED during the shoot.
Meanwhile, for the party scene, the team built another physical set featuring a kitchen island backed by a 9600 x 1536-pixel curved Unilumin LED screen and LED ceiling. A photoreal 3D glasshouse or solarium environment was created by MGX’s team of in-house artists, using Unreal Engine. This was then displayed as the party scene’s backdrop.
For both the subway and the party, all backgrounds were fed into the LED screens in real time with the help of four disguise vx 1 and vx 2 media servers linked to four rx render nodes. Together with Mo-Sys StarTracker camera tracking technology, that meant the team could edit the colour of the backdrops, change the weather or control the time of day in just a few clicks.
“Thanks to the disguise LED studio, we were able to present personalised final results to Reckitt,” says Mümtaz. “It’s one of the biggest advantages of virtual production technology. We can change the scene or modify backdrops based on what the director or brand wants during the project and see the results in real time on the LED screen. In the subway scene, for instance, we could change the speed, brightness and even the radius of the tunnel lights on the LED screen within minutes. That meant we saw all our options and were able to get the perfect shot every time.”
The LED workflow also helped MGX maintain a reduced carbon footprint, increasingly a priority for the studio. “At MGX Studio we pay great attention to important issues such as carbon footprint and energy consumption, and we keep this at the forefront when talking about the advantages of technology,” Mümtaz says. “When we compare the amount of electricity we typically use during a month of traditional shooting versus even the most extensive virtual productions, statistically I can say we use three times less electricity doing virtual production.”
Around three weeks after getting the go-ahead, the Strepsils commercial was complete and was regularly broadcast live across Turkish television channels. “This project was special to us because of the advantages and comfort that virtual production allowed,” says Mümtaz. “It was Shortcut’s first experience working with virtual production, so it was great that everything went as planned. Thanks to the LED technology, the result was so realistic that the on-set team and actors felt as if they were attending the party and packed into the subway themselves. It was the perfect demonstration of the kind of immersion that virtual production is able to achieve.”
For Mümtaz, this commercial is one of the many achievements that show how virtual production technology is more in demand than ever before throughout Turkey. Over the course of two years, the MGX Studio team has already worked on 25 advertising, music video, television and movie projects with the technology, and he expects this to increase on both a global and local level in the coming years.
“We are proud to be the first and only virtual production studio in Turkey,” he concludes. “We were able to introduce the technology and its advantages to both the region and our country in the best and most effective way. This created a curiosity and demand for technology and our studio, and I can say that these demands are increasing day by day.”