Grading The Lexus Hoverboard

By Simon Pearson Post Production Comments Off on Grading The Lexus Hoverboard


Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads. 

Sadly as of August 2015 we do still need roads but now that the cat is out of the bag I can finally talk about the Lexus Hoverboard!

So picture this…

I’ve just started a new job at a big ad agency in London as one of their content editors. As you can imagine I was buzzing to get started and get my first few jobs out of the door to show everyone what I can do. So there I am a few days in and everyone is busy. The other editors and directors have returned from a shoot in Barcelona and are clearly busy sorting through the rushes while making sure they don’t give too much away with regards to what they have been filming.

A few more days pass and I get my first big brief that happens to be a Lexus job (you’re shocked at this point, right?) anyway Lexus…great start. Little did I know what was about to happen. I’m called into a meeting with some producers, creative as well as those editor/directors I mentioned. A few minutes in I hear the word ‘hoverboard’ and think about the context they could be using it in. Several ‘hoverboard’ word drops later I start to channel my inner Marty Mcfly before it becomes clear that the Lexus brief I’m sat in on is for the Lexus Hoverboard that the whole world now knows about.

2hvrThe meeting goes on and the list of content edits gets longer and longer. Safe to say the prospect was quite daunting for my first job. Thankfully it wasn’t quite the mammoth task I anticipated because I soon found out how skilled my colleagues are. My job was to help out on the main edits where I could while taking some of the additional edits for myself. Needless to say at this point I’m happy as Larry!

LARRYBut just when I thought things couldn’t get any better…they did. Tottenham bought Roberto Soldado.

I jest. But things did get better. With grading experience from my previous job, I was tasked with grading the hoverboard content, which proved to be one of the hardest and most rewarding challenges of my career to date. Tighter deadlines, higher stakes and the desire to impress all proved to be motivating factors. We had a clear style and vision for the content films that we were able to lock down reasonably quickly. It wasn’t until later that the grading process really started to test the skills I actually had at that point as well as the skills I ended up needing to develop to get the job done. More layers and nodes than I’d ever applied before. Frame by frame 3D tracking that I didn’t even know was possible and more media than I knew what to do with were all immediate challenges. But to top them all…my biggest hurdle was the smoke from the liquid nitrogen that leaked out from hoverboard itself. Initially, I didn’t think it would be a big deal.

Like with the Soldado deal I jumped the gun and my naivety was very apparent.

Any minor change to exposure or colour had a big and negative effect on the smoke and for the life of me I couldn’t work it out, so we ended up needing to seek help from higher powers.

One of the many plus points of working for CHI is the network of companies and people they have available. We are fortunate enough to have an affiliation with Smoke & Mirrors (enter the higher power.)

Smoke & Mirrors are one of the leading post houses in London. We took our troubles over there and they were able to solve our problem. After trying and failing with a few things we finally found the solution, which came by masking out the smoke layer in Flame and exporting that as a separate element that allowed us to grade the original image the way we wanted before applying the clean layer back on top of the picture to gives us some beautiful untouched liquid nitrogen. Safe to say it was something I wouldn’t have worked out on my own!

Screen-Shot-2015-06-24-at-15.21.28From that point onwards the grading became a much easier process. Not only did we get to the bottom of the problem but I myself had also gained valuable experience and skills that have already aided me in other projects since. The show rolled on a little longer with many late nights and weekends required to create some really great content that has already claimed several awards. We produced an unbelievable amount of content and I’m still not sure how we all managed to get it done. No substitute for hard work and free dinners is one way to break it down.

But after all of that one of the more surreal things during and after the fact was to watch the Internet meltdown over something you have worked on for a few months. We all sat back and witnessed the excitement and of course skepticism over the legitimacy of the whole thing but being on the inside of the bubble was a very fun process.

Now the world has its first real, rideable hoverboard and although it may not quite live up to the expectations set in Back To The Future it is one step closer.

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