The spot for priceline.com, directed by DGA-winner Craig Gillespie of MJZ, has Shatner hurrying a bunch of travelers off of a bus that teeters precariously from a bridge. The Mill created the VFX which make us blink our eyes in disbelief when the bus plunges from the bridge and explodes in a fiery heap in the ravine below. With Shatner inside!
The Mill team's focus was comping in the teetering bus, its fall and ultimate fiery crash, explains VFX Supervisor/Lead 2D Artist Sarah Eim. While the bus crashing into the ground was practical, The Mill had to create the explosion in post because of high winds during the shoot. "Because we were collaborating closely with Craig [Gillespie] and the agency creatives prior to the shoot, we had 'plan B' in place in case the explosion could not happen practically," Eim says. "We were able to save time in proceeding to create the proper look in post for the explosion of the bus."
Those high winds during the shoot threw another curve ball and forced the production team to rig the bus to the crane belly up, having it land on its top instead of its bottom. "This was a last minute detail that we learned on the day of the shoot," says Adam Reeb, VFX Producer on 'The Negotiator's Last Deal'. "It's a big deal because it affects the edit. So the shots prior to the bus falling shot had to show the sequence of the bus spinning which we didn't originally plan for."
Eim says, "Since practically damaging the beautiful bridge was not an option, we shot many plates of the bridge from various camera angles. Then we shot the bus separately teetering on a gimble, which was also supported by a large crane." The bus plate was comped onto the bridge plate and damage to the bridge and bus was created to show the bus crashed into the railing. Additionally, small details such as dust and smoke were comped in to further enhance the look of the crash, Eim adds.
That the film has a '70s action-adventure film look is no coincidence. The 3-perf Super 35 was scanned onto low con print film then rescanned back digitally for post work for the de-saturated sun-soaked palate.
Shatner touts the benefits of priceline.com throughout 'The Negotiator's Last Deal', even when a woman on the teetering bus grumbles that maybe her vacation wasn't such a good idea. "Vacations are always a good idea!" he bravely proclaims. As the story culminates, the Negotiator makes his last deal ushering woman off the bus and handing her a Smartphone so she can book herself a hotel quickly on priceline.com. His parting words: "Save yourself … some money."