Carbon VFX Rocks Commercials with Sapphire

Carbon VFX has its creative pulse on three major commercial markets - New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The full service studio specializes in visual effects, motion graphics, and design. Projects include spots for BMW, Vogue, Wild Turkey, and AT&T.

“I like to get involved early on in the process with style frames and devising the technical strategy of how we approach a project,” says Kieran Walsh, Co-founder (along with Frank Devlin) and Creative Director. “I’ll often do the shoot supervision if it’s required. Efficient tools and organized workflows are key to getting jobs out on schedule.”

The team swears by Sapphire primarily inside Flame, but is incorporating it more and more inside After Effects and NUKE. “I use the presets a lot as they’re huge time savers in getting started,” notes Walsh, who is also the lead Flame artist in their NYC office. “It’s great to be able to quickly try different looks you might not necessarily have thought of. That being said, I usually vary them quite a bit as I experiment.”

Walsh finds that looks constantly evolve during the compositing stage when everything can be seen in context. A recent example is a new Mercedes Benz spot “C Yourself” that he received after it had already been color graded. “I love partially relighting a scene using blurred lens flares, often blooming from out of frame in a sky plate,” comments Walsh. “S_BokehLights effect (one of my faves) was used very subtly and extensively in conjunction with this on the spot.”

Another of Walsh’s favorite effects is S_Aurora due to its versatile applications. The effect was used on an Olay beauty spot to create the amorphous environments for the CG products.

Carbon’s creativity is also on display in promo work for MTV’s drama series Shannara Chronicles. The atmospheric promos feature the characters falling through millions of CG and live action leaves — a difficult composite. “We found using S_Glow Darks and S_ZConvolve worked really well for depth and integration on the leaves,” says Walsh.

Rotoscoping the talent’s blowing hair on some shots that weren’t green screened led to clever problem-solving since traditional gmasks don’t always taper cleanly. “We used S_Zap (yes, the lightning spark!) to create masks by turning down a lot of parameters to zero,” states Walsh. “So you have beautifully smooth tapered splines. An unconventional application, but it worked.”

“I find myself using Sapphire plug-ins on almost every job in one way or another,” says Walsh. “It’s always a big part of my Batch toolset and I’ve never worked on Flame without it. The quality is always top notch, while retaining the speed and interactivity I require for client supervised sessions.”

Learn more about Carbon VFX.

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