Made in Frame: How Elastique. Made BMW the Talk of the Show
Every now and again a truly unique project comes along—the kind where you have to look at it, think about it, and then look at it some more—before you can even begin to digest how it was conceived, never mind how it was executed.
Cologne-based digital creative agency Elastique. created that kind of bafflingly high concept, high tech visual feast, producing a unique installation intended to represent BMW’s futuristic vision for the next three years of their marquee trade shows.
In this installment of Made in Frame, we’re going deep into the complex process behind how Elastique. took this project from design to delivery—using Frame.io every step of the way.
Groundbreaking productions like this don’t come without challenges, and this one presented many. First and foremost? Security.
When one of the world’s top automakers is unveiling new designs, to say that keeping them under wraps is of paramount importance is a gross understatement.
Second, because of the complexity of the project and the numerous creative entities involved across Germany, everyone needed to be able to collaborate quickly and clearly.
Elastique. was tasked with delivering three distinct components for the trade shows. The first was creating an interactive “talk of show” installation to accompany the trade fair booth for all the major international auto shows.
Premiering in Frankfurt at the IAA in September 2019, with the intention of traveling to subsequent shows in cities including Geneva (which was unfortunately canceled due to COVID-19) and Beijing, they combined live action with 3D elements and gave it an AR twist to achieve an unforgettable experience for trade show attendees.
The second component was for the #NEXTGen conference, a three-day event focusing on the future of mobility technology at the BMW Welt in Munich. With a seven-week production schedule, Elastique. worked with Berlin agency Blue Scope to choreograph an intricate 30-minute experience set to music that combined animated graphics and live action footage with 27 cars actually driving through the exhibition space.
The third component was designing the visual package for all upcoming international auto shows in collaboration with BMW trade fair lead agency Meiré und Meiré.
One of these alone would have been ambitious. Taking on three was Herculean. And delivering on all was spectacular.
Not only did the installations need to be carefully choreographed, so did the interaction between all the creative partners and participants.
Elastique.’s team, headed by founder Andreas Schimmelpfennig, included creative director Sarah Böckenhüser, executive producer Kerstin Kohle, and a team of approximately ten artists and animators. Responsible for all imagery and sound design, they worked closely with agency Meiré und Meiré, who created the new trade fair strategy and the architecture of the trade show stand.
This “mediatecture” included the spatial design of the LED wall and “curtain,” onto which Elastique.’s imagery would be displayed. And, of course, there was the BMW team, led by Leonie Hohbach, Project Manager, Motor Shows & Experiential Marketing, who were involved from the initial pitch throughout the entire process.
A creative departure
Conceived to depart substantially from the usual BMW combination of live-action driving footage and motion graphics, this project was intended to convey a wider and bigger story. Seeking to evoke an emotional response to the “joy of driving” the new BMW cars, the abstract approach required a process as inventive and interactive as the imagery itself.
From the beginning, it was clear that sharing ideas and assets, and being able to rapidly respond and iterate, would be crucial. Everyone from Meiré und Meiré to the Elastique. team and the clients had to be able to brainstorm creatively without being bogged down by the fact that they were all in different places.
“We started doing technical tests on the LED curtain,” Andreas says. “We wanted to see graphically what was and wasn’t possible with different kinds of imagery—type, particles, or textures.”
Next, using white-board collaboration tool Miro, “I had my full technical schematic laid out and we took the imagery BMW had supplied, along with samples of the materials Meiré und Meiré had created for the booth, and started playing around with ways that we could incorporate the materials into the overall concept,” design team lead, Sarah Böckenhüser said.
The design team began creating images that were both organic and digital. Combining elements that hearkened back to nature (coral, bones, rocks) with CG elements that were more hard-edged and geometric yielded something that looked, according to Andreas, “premium and interesting. We wanted them to be technical, but also warm and inviting.”
After presenting these mood board explorations to BMW, the feedback was that while they were on the right track, they images felt too austere and not “joyful” enough.
“By adding many more colorful and playful elements,” Sarah says, “we were really able to achieve the feeling BMW was looking for.”
A creative breakthrough
Once the Elastique. team established their visual language, they created a CG setup that duplicated the trade fair stand and began mapping out how the various elements would interact with the setup and with each other.
Frame.io played an essential role in that part of the process, as they were able to draw directly onto the frames to isolate portions of the mocked-up installation and leave specific feedback. It also allowed them the creative freedom to share new ideas quickly, and to iterate upon them easily.
Andreas’s initial idea was that the main screen behind the installation would display the action that was going on behind it, creating a kind of window. But as they got further into the project, they realized that what would be even more fun—more of an embodiment of joy—would be to play with the car itself.
The BMW Concept 4, the centerpiece of the installation, has a kind of candy-apple paint that inspired the team to try “pouring” different animated textures onto the car. They experimented with everything from mushrooms to marshmallows, including paint, tentacles, bubbles, and even CG hair.
The BMW clients embraced the concept. “This car is the crown jewel of BMW,” Andreas says. “But they didn’t take it too seriously. They let us really have fun with it so we could create several moments that let people really experience different aspects of joy.”
In addition to evoking joy, there were two other moods the team needed to convey. “Ease” was the mood used to introduce the notion of the iNEXT self-driving car that allows the driver to relax into the experience of being taken to a destination. And “boost” was used to convey a sense of drama and excitement, incorporated by the concept car Vision M NEXT.
The three moods, consisting of approximately five-minute segments, were all edited together to create a loop.
Delivering at nearly 6K at 50fps, the final elements for the installation used nearly 20TB of data. All of the textures that enveloped the car were pre-rendered, and the video playback was controlled by WATCHOUT, an application they used to create a timeline-based show to synchronize the multiple display components.
If you were wondering whether the AR made the BMW installation the talk of the show, just have a look at the video to see the faces of the spectators when the Concept 4 sprouted CG hair. It’s fairly safe to say that no one had ever seen anything quite like that at a car show before. If you’d like to see more, here’s Elastique.’s own promo.
If you’re dealing with a creative challenge of the magnitude that Elastique faced with having only seven weeks to create the thirty-minute, 27-car driving display for the #NEXTGen Conference, you need the right tools to enable your process.
In order to maximize every moment of the tight production schedule, Elastique. relied heavily on Frame.io for the extensive previsualization phase required to pull it off. First, they set up the complete show as a film project using Adobe Premiere Pro Team Project so that the agency (Blue Scope), the BMW clients in Munich, and the team at Elastique in Cologne could easily and securely collaborate.
Because Elastique. had to incorporate live-action footage and digital imagery with the choreography of the real cars driving, Blue Scope first simulated the paths the cars would take with the estimated time it would take them to drive through their designated routes. Then, they created a view of how the animations would map onto the stage setup.
In Frame.io, Elastique. put the two next to each other with the driving plan on the left and animations plan on the right so they could create a “document” that would show how the two would mesh.
If that wasn’t challenging enough, they only had two days to rehearse with the cars and the drivers. On a course set up on an airfield near Munich, Blue Scope used Frame.io to download small files to the team’s mobile phones so the drivers could duplicate what had been choreographed in Premiere.
When it came time to present the final package live on day three, all of the elements came together just as planned and the cars drove through the BMW Welt, accompanied by synchronized live action and graphically treated footage, lights, and music.
Next-gen press conference
Press conferences, while necessary and informative, can often be somewhat dry and predictable affairs. But with this complete refresh of BMW’s presentation package, nothing was overlooked.
Again, working with BMW and Blue Scope, Elastique. created a press conference experience that provided press photographers with a unique aesthetic, designed to perform well for the cameras. They developed a complex, pre-rendered animation toolkit with more than 400 elements that could be used as “brand spaces” for each brand (BMW, Mini, etc.) along with its sub-brands.
The ultimate collaborative experience
Needless to say, Elastique. delivered a final product that delighted clients and crowds alike. From across Germany, the creative partnership allowed them to create a package that exceeded what they had originally imagined. And Frame.io sat firmly in the center of the complex and innovative workflow, allowing all the partners to share assets easily and securely.
“We’re very strong on security for pre-series vehicles,” said Leonie Hohbach. “It would be a disaster if a vehicle design were leaked before it was communicated out by us. But our computer systems people quickly understood that Frame.io is a super safe system.”
“Our BMW clients said that they never want to do another job without Frame.io, and will actually be using it on the upcoming #NEXTGen event,” Andreas said. “It was great for bringing them into the process so they could quickly get an idea of how these complex ideas would work. It’s a much more fluid and collaborative process.”
Leonie concurs. “Frame.io gave us the chance to work in the greatest detail we’ve ever worked in for film content.”
Elastique. has been using Frame.io since the early days and already knew of the benefits in increased productivity. “As projects become more complex, no one entity can do everything. So we need Frame.io to bring people closer together so they can be creative, even across long distances,” Andreas says.
As our world continues to experience dramatic changes, tools that enable remote workflows will become even more important. And Frame.io remains laser-focused on enabling creators like Elastique. to raise the bar in presenting the brands and concepts of the future.