Underwater footage, challenging production and post-production – How OLGA directors manage their works from the initial process to the final delivery of a very sensorial film.

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Here we go with an amazing duo of Brazilian directors represented by production company Vetor Zero : OLGA is Felipe Lion and Lucas René
Both started out as directors of photography and brought that aesthetic sensibility to their directorial work, combining a careful treatment of characters with innovative techniques and ideas. 

In this film for O Boticário, the duo introduces the brand’s new fragrance with intricate production, using underwater footage, various contraptions, and post-production effects.

We shared lots of their work, so we decided to create a blog and a quick interview to share more with the community! But before diving into this specific work and all the details, let’s discover a bit together about who they are and more about their world!

So guys, let us know more about you: How did you start your journey in the industry, what’s your background and where are you located?

We are a studio based in São Paulo https://vetorzero.com.br/#/ and New York City (through its Lobo branch) https://lobo.cx with more than 400 talented employees direct and indirect.

We were the first in computer graphics in the Brazilian advertising production industry and now our work includes different techniques of animation and live action and we are always looking for new technologies, styles, and languages. 

Co-creation is the name of the game for us. We think we stand out for our ability to join forces with and advise partners and clients towards reaching the best results through asset optimization and the development of a memorable imagery culture.

During the past thirty years, we have won several awards such as Cannes, Annecy, Clio, and El Ojo among many others. 

In the last edition of Cannes (2022), we won 7 lions with two different projects https://www.instagram.com/tv/CbQGzhFDu5M/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y= which is the result of our partners who trusted us to get their stories out of the box as it was in O Boticário.

How did the adaptations required by the production process interfere with the creation and execution of the film?

Our goal for the ”Quasar Rush” film was to completely break away from a documentary and naturalist aesthetic, adopting orchestrated shots, mixing different techniques, and treating each frame of the film as a careful composition.

The biggest challenge of this film was to create visuals that did justice to the script, within a short deadline and a restricted budget. Since the film takes place mostly in the depths of a cave, we chose a series of techniques that allowed us, considering our circumstances, to achieve daring editing with an arresting look.

To keep the essence of the first idea we proposed for the film, which initially did not fit our budget and schedule, we maintained all the suggested techniques but reduced the scale. That way, we managed to deliver the same final result we had in mind from the start. Instead of building the Blue Cedar tree (the essential ingredient of the fragrance) in full scale, we used a bonsai version of the same species, in perfect conditions, and built a miniature cave on the same scale as the bonsai. 

A winning diversion

That way we reduced the huge infrastructure that would be necessary to film a full-size tree in the studio, but still maintaining the realism and aesthetics proposed initially. For the moment our character interacts with the tree, we acquired a mock-up Blue Cedar branch, in actual size, with all the necessary details to shoot the hand of the character touching the branch and leaves. This solution also made unnecessary our initial plan to hoist up the actor to reach the branch and simulate the dive, saving production time while still remaining faithful to the script.

We used our underwater studio for all the subaquatic scenes. Some of those were shot with the actor over green screen, and composed with a scale model of the setting. All of that enabled us to keep all the wide shots, elaborate transitions and visual style that were a key part of the result we had envisioned at the beginning.

How was the creative process and the choice of techniques?

Our goal was to create an intense narrative using shots that would be impossible to obtain with regular methods. For that, we divided production into three categories based on technique, which was combined in post-production.

Let’s “dive in” now into this subtopic:

What about the “Underwater scenes”? The feeling from the final job was simply A M A Z I N G! Let us know more…

Thanks guys, we are happy to share more about our process.

1. All scenes that portrayed water in an unmistakable manner were filmed in an underwater studio.

For example, the character’s leap into the water, or the close-ups or medium shots where we see the movement of hair and clothes in detail. It was very advantageous to shoot those scenes in a completely controlled environment, because it would be impossible to achieve the same results in nature. In the underwater studio we managed to ensure a uniform photographic quality throughout, with the help of professionals who supported us in preparing the actor, so we had all the time we needed to carry out our plans without depending on natural sunlight, which would impact the shoot in a natural environment.

2. “Dry” underwater cinematography

The moment our character touches the Blue Cedar tree was filmed in the studio, using a technique called “dry for wet”, in which smoke, colored filters, and lighting effects are used to simulate a character being underwater while filming on a dry stage. This technique allowed us to have the character interacting naturally with the tree, making the most out of the organic elements without relying on post-production.

3. Miniature cinematography

In order to have a cave setting exactly as we envisioned it, we decided to create it as a scale model in our studio.

This allowed us to build a perfect cave for the film, like the wonderful ones found in Mexico where we drew inspiration from. We used it to film the wide shot of the gallery and other takes that were used as background in other scenes.

With this technique, we were also able to place our character in depths impossible to achieve safely with an actor in a real cave .

The advantage of miniatures over 3D models or stock footage is the ability to shoot with the same lens and camera as the rest of the film, ensuring visual consistency.

This organic, handmade quality brings a realism that CG could not reach. Together with the freedom to explore this environment with a camera, this approach resulted in a film with a very rich visual style.

That’s why, even with all the advancements in post-production, Hollywood feature films to this day still employ this technique.

How did you come up with the photographic language of the film?

We sought a photography style that added a strong visual and sensory appeal, bringing rhythm to the film. We wanted to create a mostly blue universe filled with sunbeams, shadows and reflections, portraying the cave in a rich, magical way.

Our main goal was to depart from a documentary aesthetic. Treating each shot of our film as a unique work of art ensured a level of visual sophistication that would be impossible to achieve if we filmed in a real cave.

To intensify the viewer’s experience and add a rich depth of detail to every scene, we chose a “living”, active camerawork, coming close to the action in order to capture the authenticity and strength of the sequences.

This sophisticated aesthetic and high quality in image capture provided the film with a unique visual result, capturing the essence of each moment in all its details.

What was the reasoning behind the way you directed the film? What difficulties did you encounter during production?

We tried to direct the film in a way that conveyed an organic aesthetic and a sense of truth. We wanted to tell a story that generated empathy for the character, so we explored a direction style that takes the viewer into the script, combining visual accuracy and careful acting.

For the choice of actor, it was essential that he was physically fit to perform the required scenes, since not every actor performs well underwater. We looked for an actor who felt comfortable in the water and natural environments, so he could express all the beauty and naturality we needed.

How was the creative process for the construction of the set? 

We proposed an artistic direction for the setting that looked minimalist in appearance but grandiose in its elements. We built a set with all the realistic components of a cave, but perfectly calculated to match the requirements of the narrative, of camera movements and framing, in order to achieve a visually magnificent and epic result that would be hard to obtain on location. Our goal was to bring the viewers into the action, immersing them in the splendor of the scenery by depicting realistically something unnatural like a living tree submerged in a cave.

What did you like most about the process of filming this campaign?

We love it when a project offers us the freedom to suggest different techniques, to mix live action with post-production, all in favor of telling a good story. This campaign did just that, allowing us to explore a playful side without losing a sophisticated and high-quality aesthetic that celebrated the product and imparted a series of sensations suggested by it through images. That’s why the narrative of this campaign is so exciting, it portrays the intensity and spirit of adventure embodied in the product. We want the people who watch our film to be surprised and identify with the brand’s message.

Guys, we are stoked to have you on board on our blog, thanks so much for this incredible interview and for sharing your process and your story, we can’t wait to share more from you soon!

See you on our next blog, much love fam <3
FilmmakersWorld Team

The credit of the work:

  • Agency: AlmapBBDO
  • Client: O Boticário
  • Production and Post Production Company: Vetor Zero
  • Directors and DOP: OLGA Felipe Lion e Lucas René
  • Executive Director: Alberto Lopes
  • Underwater DOP: Lucas Pupo
  • Color Grading: Psycho N Look
  • Sound Design: Punch

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