Timur Brinzevich walked us through the creation of the Asphalt x Porsche Design trailer, explained how the cars and the character were made, and showed the lighting setup for the scene.
Hello, my name is Timur Brinzevich, I am a Motion Designer and Director from Kharkiv, Ukraine, with more than 12 years in digital media marketing.
I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. It was more than a pastime or a hobby – it was an obsession. I could spend the whole day with a piece of paper and something to sketch with (I guess my parents could call me a “hassle-free” child). It was clear that I was born to pursue an artistic career. Dad has always been an enthusiastic photographer and a super 8 mm filmmaker. When I was a teenager, he showed me the whole process – from using the camera and exposing the shots to film development, cutting and editing with a razor blade and glue, and finally, operating a projector. That was the time I fell in love with animation and cinematography.
I studied Fine Arts at the Kharkiv Art College and Graphic Design at the Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Arts. These were the most demanding and, simultaneously, the most rewarding years of my student life. I’m grateful to my teachers for forging my discipline and giving me a solid artistic foundation and a firm grasp of composition, color theory, and typography. From the very beginning of my commercial work and to this day, my education has always helped me tackle any creative task, even if I didn’t quite know “which buttons to press.”
Everything I know about CG is entirely self-taught. When I was making my first steps, there were no schools or universities in Ukraine where I could study the craft. Back then, there was no internet either. I remember spending days in a public library reading rare books on 3D Studio (yes, THAT one, running on DOS) and making countless notes. My first full-time job was in the print industry as a children's book illustrator. That's when I shifted from traditional media to digital drawing and got confident with Photoshop, COREL Painter, and Wacom tablets.
I've always been fond of video games, but I was curious about how they work instead of just playing them. I was eager to be a part of the creative process. So when one of my artist friends got a job at a game company and offered me to try and apply for a 2D artist position, I didn't think twice. I had a lot of fun with my first gigs in the industry because I could go way beyond the scope of 2D art and put everything I learned in my spare time to work. Apart from sketching characters and painting backgrounds, I did After Effects and Flash animation, VFX, and even some 3D concept art in Sketchup and Cinema 4D.
I started contract work for Gameloft Kharkiv as a 2D artist. But as my passion for motion pictures and storytelling took over, I switched to motion design. Gameloft Barcelona, the developer of Asphalt 8 Airborne, has been following my work on Six Guns, where I made a series of trailers for the "Heralds of the Apocalypse" and other updates. They reached out and offered to make a trailer for A8's upcoming big expansion. Having to work on a promo for Gameloft’s best-seller was an intimidating prospect, but it was a chance I couldn’t miss. We instantly clicked with the game team, so creating the "Gifts Are Coming Early" video was a blast! We were happy with the results, and after the approval from all the licensors, my first Asphalt trailer was live! I've worked on the promos for every major A8 update since then.
The Asphalt X Porsche Design Project
The Asphalt X Porsche Design project was dedicated to a special event Gameloft and Porsche Design were holding. The video had to inspire players to participate and showcase exclusive content from Porsche and Porsche Design – the player’s avatar character wearing a Porsche Design outfit and the cars: Porsche Taycan Turbo S and Porsche 911 GT1 Evolution.
I analyzed the Porsche Design brand book and the body of work they did in automotive commercials. I also studied numerous references from competitive automobile companies' ads. The Partnerships Team I was working with was aiming for a luxurious car commercial look, and in our pre-production calls, we decided to go for a cinematic approach. So, apart from studying ads, I drew inspiration from movies. Surprising as it may sound, Noir cinematography played a crucial role in developing a visual language for the promo.
One of the requirements from the team was to keep the vehicles in the dark so that the players would keep guessing about the actual car models until the end of the video. We could only give slight hints to the viewer without exposing the cars right away. That’s where the Film Noir’s trademark Chiaroscuro, or the low-key lighting with deep shadows and sharp contrasts, came into play. Dark silhouettes, intricate reflections, and shiny highlights helped me create that mysterious effect. Also, using a combination of telephoto and wide lenses allowed me to guide the viewer’s attention without showing the whole picture until the time was right.
The deadlines for the project were tight: we had a week for pre-production and around 15 working days for production, so I had to optimize my workflow. I chose Unreal Engine for the look dev, layout, particle effects, and rendering. The convenient level-editing tools and the real-time rendering capabilities of UE5 allowed me to skip the storyboard part and present the team with a pretty detailed previz in no time. We showed the draft to Porsche and Porsche Design, and after they gave us the green light, I started the production.
I assembled the underground parking lot from the stock elements I already had in my Vault.
For the vehicles, I chose to use the Asphalt 9 car assets because Porsche had already approved those and the models had a reasonably high polycount for the close-ups. The assets came with PBR textures. I just had to re-set up the materials for Unreal.
I also had to tweak the overall reflectivity of the surfaces to work for the stylized look I was after.
I also used some glass and plastic materials from the Automotive Pack.
The most challenging part was the character. Asphalt 8 introduced player avatars quite a while ago, but until now, they were not designed to take their helmets off. The new character (modeled and textured by Eugene Hrybanov) had his face exposed, and I wanted to show him up close and make him say the iconic Porsche Design motto, “It’s about time.” Using the in-game asset wouldn’t work because the model was pretty low-poly by design and its skeleton had no facial bones.
I decided to use Character Creator 4 to make a new character with a proper facial rig. It posed an additional challenge because the Licensor had already approved the looks and the outfit of the in-game character (he had to wear Porsche Design clothes). So I broke the creation of the character into several parts.
First, I asked the 3D team for a high-poly ZBrush source for the model. I deleted everything but the head and saved the result as OBJ. Then I exported the default CC4 character into Cinema 4D via OBJ. Then using the Grab tool from the Sculpting Layout, I adjusted the proportions and the details of the CC head to match the high poly reference as closely as possible. I exported the result as an OBJ and imported it back to CC as a morph for the default character.
After a few minor tweaks to the position of the eyeballs and teeth and some basic phonemes tests, my new character was ready to use.
For the clothing, I used stock jeans and T-shirt assets (I had to edit the diffuse texture of the T-shirt in Photoshop to add the Porsche Design Anniversary logo). I also extracted the jacket and scarf meshes from the in-game model using Cinema 4D. I subdivided the meshes, checked the texture mappings for any weird stretching, and brought them into CC to convert to clothing. Then I performed multiple animation tests, applying different motions to the character and looking for possible artifacts and weird behavior. After some additional vertex painting and mesh tweaking, everything looked suitable for all camera angles.
The last thing that was missing was the character’s glasses. They needed to look exactly like the model from the Porshe Design Lookbook. Unfortunately, the Licensor couldn’t provide us with the CAD model of the glasses, so I modeled them from scratch in Cinema 4D using the references from the lookbook and images I could find online.
After the character model was ready, I sent it to iClone for animation. The walking of the character combined ActorCore motions and Mixamo animations. The Motion Direction Control Feature allowed me to correct the turns. Then I used Animation Layers and a combination of gestures to animate the hand touching the car.
To make the character talk, I used to AccuLips for the audio-driven animation of the mouth, LIVE Face for the iPhone to capture some nuanced facial motion and Face Puppet to fine-tune and emphasize the expressions.
After the animations were ready, I imported the character into my UE project via FBX using the Auto Setup plugin from Reallusion to convert the materials.
For the light trails effect, I used the Niagara particle system with the Ribbon renderer, a custom noise texture for the ribbons. I used the Curl Noise Force to make the trails wave and wiggle.
I used a combination of baked and dynamic light sources for the lighting. The whole project was created and rendered on my laptop, so I had to optimize for performance. I chose to bake the lighting and GI where no interaction was happening, leaving the movable sources only for the main area with the cars. I used GPU Lightmass for baking the lightmaps and creating volumetric light probes.
I used rect lights mostly, with a couple of spot lights to highlight and emphasize specific shapes. I used red and blue colors for the lights in an otherwise monochrome scheme. It allowed me to separate the environment into two logical zones and outline different chapters of the visual story. It also helped shape the objects in the scene before the additional reflections and lights were introduced.
I used ray-traced reflections for the whole project. It took a toll on render times, but in return, it gave me the quality I wanted. I didn’t use any type of real-time GI because I wasn’t looking for a physically correct render and didn’t want to soften the image with light bouncing around; I wanted to keep the contrast between the light and shadow high and sharp.
I used car-specific sets of rect lights and rectangular planes with emissive materials to trace the cars' curves and emphasize the attractive spots. I tweaked the layout of lights and emissive surfaces for each shot. I like to use rect lights because I find them easier to art-direct than spot lights, albeit more computationally expensive. As for the “right” places to put lights in product design scenes, I think there can’t be a definite answer. It’s similar to lighting for portrait photography: every model is unique, so you have to try different schemes and tweak the lights until you find what works for you. That’s why I enjoy doing look dev in Unreal – it allows you to iterate quickly, try different ideas and get a real-time response so you can spend more time experimenting without losing your creative spark.
For the gameplay portion of the video, I used the footage the game capture team provided. My edits always rely heavily on the rhythm of the track. I don’t usually use beat detection plugins (although BeatEdit is excellent); I like to work by ear and make all the cuts by hand. I usually spend some time listening to the track beforehand, and by the time I start editing, I’ve got the sequence figured out. This case was no exception. The track had a distinctive structure and a very interesting rhythm, which inspired all the slo-mo bits and jump-cuts.
I had a great time working on this video, and I was beyond flattered to see the trailer posted on the Porsche Design website. Although the project was a stress test for my laptop, it certainly was a great chance for me to step up my game and try something a little more ambitious. Luckily, we live in a time when real-time tools like Unreal Engine, Character Creator and iClone allow small teams and solo artists to take on tasks they never thought they could before. So, beginner or not, it’s time to stop making excuses and start creating!
Timur Brinzevich, Motion Designer and Director
Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie
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