“A new kind of automotive inspiration – and a new level of car and driver connectivity.”
When it came time for Mazda Japan and The Garage to announce the all-new MAZDA3, they looked to Mirada as their partner to conceive a future-forward visual odyssey: a hyperreal CG journey spotlighting the vehicle’s new exterior design, advanced engineering, and fresh interior features – all in one seamless automotive adventure.
The story opens in a dimly lit, desaturated world; in a vast parking structure atop a high-rise. A young man stands alone in the empty lot; looking puzzled as he clicks the keyless fob to find his ride. Then, beneath a lone street lamp we see a glow of energy: the new MAZDA3 begins to take form. The young man approaches and touches the vehicle; light and energy dance along its fluid lines as it comes to life. With a surge of energy from this first contact he’s transported into a parallel experience. Black and white shifts to color: ink colored skies and city lights vanish – replaced by a hyperreal cityscape of endless roads lined with brilliant streetlights. He hits the start button, electrifying the car in glowing energy; his foot eases down on the accelerator, advanced Skyactiv Technology engages – and we’re off…
Mirada shepherded the project across its entire development – from concept, story boarding, and previs, to design, animation, visual effects, and final delivery. And because the MAZDA3 was still so new—a production model had not yet been built—each element had to be constructed from scratch, using manufacturer CAD data and reference stills and materials from Japan. Everything—except for the talent—was CG; the buck used for the shoot was an old model Mazda 3, so the team even had to replace the steering wheel, dashboard instrumentation and the driver’s seat to capture this all-new, totally redesigned vehicle.
In creating a fully CG journey to showcase the best of what the MAZDA3 has to offer, Mirada's CG leads broke the story down into two core categories—artistic and technical—with a subset of approaches specific to each. Because the visual voyage takes the MAZDA3—and viewers—through a vast hyperreal futuristic city, the team was faced with the challenge of integrating a photo-real CG vehicle in a hyperreal environment. The visual aesthetic had to be fantastical but realistically plausible.
Additionally, the team had to develop techniques that allowed them to manage the vast amounts of data required, while at the same time, remain creatively flexible as new narrative and visual ideas emerged from Japan. For this reason, the team approached design and execution with a pipeline mentality to enable fluid artistic direction; it meant creating modular structures and environmental pieces that fit together in multiple ways—essentially building a futuristic cityscape erector set—to provide flexibility during iterations as the concept grew and evolved.
Likewise, since the film was launching a new vehicle, it was critical to the team that each moment reflect the real-world dynamics and advanced behavior of Mazda’s vehicle. Mirada’s mobile CG driving simulation pipeline was developed as a flexible, agile in-house solution for capturing all the manufacturer specifics of the new make and model. It allowed animation artists to get behind the wheel to perfectly characterize the essence of the vehicle – mirroring the physics of how it actually drives, handles, and responds. This approach extended to all facets of its movement and maneuvering—speed, vehicle weight, suspension, and tire pressure—along with real-world environmental factors it encounters, such as road conditions and wind resistance.
The culmination of this team effort was a beautiful and inspiring two-minute brand film launching the all-new MAZDA3. Ultimately, no matter whether the challenge was creating an entirely CG vehicle in all-CG environments, or integrating a digital vehicle into live-action environments, the Mirada team’s approach delivered nimble technical power in the post-production workflow that allowed for the greatest amount of creative problem solving and the highest level of narrative freedom.