To reveal to the public the highly-anticipated, all-new, all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning – the first all-electric F-Series truck, Ford needed a solution that would allow for the capture of real-life capability footage while minimizing the risks of pre-launch leaks. The answer was to bring the iconic brand forward to the vanguard of production technology with a studio-based virtual production conducted as a global collaboration between industry-leaders Chrome Productions and The Mill.
Karl Henkel, Content & News Manager at Ford, said of the challenge “The all-electric F-150 Lightning is the truck of the future; there really is nothing else like it. This is a vehicle that takes everything people have come to know and expect from Ford trucks, and then uses electrification to amplify the customer experience. To properly demonstrate its capabilities and features with near-zero risk of public exposure, we knew that we had to do something different. So, we matched a game-changing product with game-changing production technology to bring the F-150 Lightning to life for our customers.”
To preserve the confidentiality of this high-profile release, Chrome Productions brought Ford a plan that employed the latest in LED screen virtual production technology, with the goal of enabling Ford to shoot in multiple virtual locations, all on one controlled set. “By utilizing cutting-edge production technology fused with conventional commercial storytelling we were able to offer a solution to Ford that achieved it all…” said Joel Mishcon, Founder & CEO of Chrome Productions – adding “…and on an incredibly ambitious timeframe no less”.
Knowing the importance of the project and the ambition of its timeline, Chrome Productions turned to The Mill as a creative partner at the forefront of virtual production. Using meticulously crafted CGI environments displayed on LED screens running Unreal Engine – a real-time gaming technology from Epic Games – the approach offered Ford the ability to achieve all of its goals: creative storytelling in multiple environments with no risk of public exposure & no need for complicated auto transport logistics.
The films highlight the versatility and high functionality of Ford’s latest release through multiple vignettes that focus on the vehicle’s features, from loading & towing capabilities to the revolutionary ability to power an entire house during a blackout. Robert Chew, the production’s Executive Producer and Chrome Productions’ Vice President of North America noted “The incredible artists at The Mill built four environments – a suburban construction site & finished home, a connected EV charging station and a remote campsite – and we brought these to life all within one studio. With a traditional production, showing the full range of product features across different environments would have taken a multi-day road trip with a moving company. With this innovative global collaboration, it instead became 72 hours of footage captured in a technology-driven studio.
This new production technique, which has become more popular during the global pandemic due to global travel restrictions, is a game-changer for the commercial production industry, but specifically for automotive advertisers looking to film pre-release products under strict embargo in a variety of photo-real ‘locations’.
Adam Grint, Creative Director and Virtual Production specialist at The Mill commented, “Virtual Production offers a huge amount of creative flexibility and production advantages. For this project we combined LED screens with live camera tracking, enabling us to place the product in real-world environments that looked highly realistic. As we moved the camera, the perspective of the backgrounds shifted accordingly, enabling us to film convincing virtual scenes with incredibly believable cinematic fidelity. This is in-camera, live VFX work that will have a major benefit for both brand clients and creatives on-set.”
With projects like this, the union of gaming technology and commercial film production is quite literally changing the game for the industry. Instead of having to take this car to the world Chrome Productions & The Mill brought new worlds to it.