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Planes, Brains, Automobiles

September 04, 1997|DENISE GELLENE

A commercial for Shell Oil from Houston-based Ogilvy & Mather shows a car being refueled by a speeding jet to dramatize the company's slogan, "Moving at the speed of life." Here's how the special-effects firm Industrial Light & Magic in Marin County created the illusion:

ILM photographed a jet on the runway of the National Pilot School in the Mojave Desert. The still photo was scanned into a computer, where Shell decals were digitally affixed to it (top photo). The jet was digitally set in motion.

Meanwhile, a film crew recorded live footage of a car crossing the intersection of Bush and Battery streets in San Francisco. That, too, was fed into a computer. A trail of smoke was added to the computer image (middle photo).

Next, the jet was digitally layered onto the live footage, where it appears to be pulling up alongside the car. The challenge was convincing viewers that the jet and car are traveling at the same speed. To accomplish that, ILM director Steve Beck slowed the action of pedestrians to create a "limbo reality" in which the car appears to be traveling faster than it is. The image lasts for about one second--not long enough for most viewers to question what they've seen (bottom photo).

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