McLaren, A Black Swan

  • Agency VCCP;
  • Production Company Outsider;
  • Directors Dom & Nic;

MPC and Dom & Nic push the boundaries of VFX with full CG spot for McLaren

Launching McLaren’s mythical P13 car with slick visual effects, the spot was conceived by VCCP and uses traditional production techniques within the fully CG film. Working with Outsider directors Dom & Nic, MPC developed the spot and deployed the skills of a DOP to conform the camera direction and lighting to real-life filming language.

Directors Dom & Nic said, "After researching the feasibility of shooting a real black swan it became clear to us quite quickly that the best way forward for this film was going to be to create it entirely in CG. We knew creating a photo realistic swan that would hold up to close up shots was going to be a real challenge, especially within the timeframe but MPC felt confident they could pull it off and on that basis we all moved ahead. We have worked extensively with CG in the past but this is the first time we’ve made a completely CG film and we wanted to approach it with the same mentality and process that we would do a live action shoot. It was really important for us to have the freedom to edit rushes and not start building the film from rigidly timed storyboards."


The entire environment was created from scratch with various architecture, materials and features concepted by MPC designers before settling on the final colossal wind tunnel. VFX Supervisor Jim Radford said, “This project was nothing short of epic in scale from a CG perspective – we were creating a hyper-real scenario using a practical filmmaking paradigm. Every decision was made if we were actually in the space filming – each shot imagined through a real lens and on a real shooting platform with cranes, dollys and sticks all established ahead of time. A highlight of the research phase was a trip to McLaren’s fabled HQ in Woking – a bit like an enormous batman’s lair filled with the most incredible cars you’d ever hope to see.”

Although no shoot took place, MPC completed a comprehensive pre-vis with Dom & Nic to establish a host of over-length shots of the location, swan, vapour and car. The clips, which acted as the equivalent of live-action rushes, were passed on to Final Cut editor Ed Cheesman to craft together. Unlike a live-action edit, the team had the luxury of creating variations of shots during this process when the need arose. 

The spot’s most striking element is a majestic CG black swan, acting as a visual metaphor for something so improbable, it is deemed impossible, “until one comes along”. 

MPC’s senior animators relished the challenge of creating such a powerful, iconic bird where not only the swan’s gross movement was important, but also all of its subtleties. Although the swan has a limited flight path within the wind tunnel (the wind keeping the swan in a constant position), it is constantly correcting its flight; its muscular power and delicate feather control giving the viewer a sense of its character.

The CG department created a complex feather system – the shape, texture and dynamics during flight were meticulously matched to that of a real swan. Lighting design played a huge part within the film. As with the camera direction, the lighting was aligned to a practical film-making paradigm. The light was kept natural within the environment, avoiding gratuitous CG setups. Together with DOP Alex Barber, the team designed a practical lighting setup using dimmable strips of lights as part of the environment design. These, along with lights behind the fan turbine, formed the setup used to light all of the shots. All lights were balanced on a per-shot basis, and smaller lights were added to hero-light the swan.

The iconic P13 car featured in the film originated from a supplied CAD model. MPC developed the vehicle using CG materials and adding details to conform to the real car. A visit to McLaren’s HQ in Woking was invaluable in gathering detail and lighting reference. MPC developed accurate CG materials for the different parts of the car, including the unique paintwork and carbon fibre. The resulting model was scrutinized by McLaren engineers down to the most minute detail.


  • Agency VCCP
  • Production Company Outsider
  • Directors Dom & Nic
  • Agency Producer Ellie Gibb
  • Creative Director Colin Byrne
  • Creatives Josh Dando & Steven Dodd
  • Production Company Producer John Madsen
  • DoP Alex Barber
  • Editor Ed Cheesman @ Final Cut
  • VFX Producer Dionne Archibald
  • VFX Supervisor Jim Radford
  • CG Supervisor Amir Bazazi
  • 2D Supervisor Rod Norman
  • VFX Team Andreu Lucio Archs, Arttu Koskela, Diarmid Harrison-Murray, Jessie Amadio, Kiril Mirkov, Luca Maccarelli, Michael Diprose, Tim Van Hussen, Tito Fernandes, Ingo Putze, Priya Bandodkar, Pritesh Krishnappa Kotian, Manjunath Ramakrishnaiah, Amber Frisenda, Garth Reilly, Stefan Gerstheimer, Lourenco Abreu, Alexander Kulikov & Felix Balbas
  • Grade MPC
  • Colourist Jean-Clément Soret

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