Building a Miniature VFX Metropolis for Award-Winning SPDRS Spot

The Outpost team divulge the intense level of detail behind technically challenging series of SPDRS ads

Everyone knows that the best type of VFX is invisible. The skill required to make something digital look unmistakably real takes years of practise and specialist knowledge.

With the talent to transform 2D concept art into 3D realism, Dutch animation and VFX studio The Outpost were tasked with recreating a whole world out of thousands of tiny digital assets for exchange-traded funds group, SPDRS. A highly technical task, made to look completely effortless through skilled artists, sophisticated software and exceptional attention to detail.

The spot features a miniature wooden landscape with numerous moving parts, representing each sector that SPDRS deals in; from health care and energy to real estate, technology and more. “The creative concept was produced by our partners on this project, PlusOne Amsterdam, and we were in charge of executing the vision in 3D,” relays Olivier Ballast, art director at The Outpost. “It was a relatively long process that started with in-depth research into the visual properties of a variety of organic and inorganic materials, such as different type of wood and plastic.”

VFX producer, Rick Franssen adds: “There were physical disks developed for use at the shoot which we later fully replaced in 3D, allowing the client full flexibility and freedom to reframe and change any shot required.” Always placing high importance on being present for shoots, The Outpost, as VFX supervisors, were on set to advise and streamline the post-production process, shooting HDRI images and looking for interactions between the actress and the objects.
“Although all shots on this shoot were locked, we placed tracking markers on any objects that the actress picked up and moved so that we could accurately replace this in digital,” Rick says.

He continues: “Tough as it was, it was a really enjoyable task, collaborating across teams with the concept artists at PlusOne, and I was proud of how everyone came together, each adding their unique spin on the project.”

Specialising in lighting and shading, Olivier says the biggest challenge for him was “rendering in relation to size and scale and working out how every independent piece works together in one shot. We had to ensure that no one piece stood out against the others too much. All pieces needed to work in harmony with the rest of the landscape, complement each other, and remain consistent to create a nice flow from shot to shot.”

Technical director, Koen agrees: “Everything had to be flawlessly integrated which was no easy feat. But our tech has advanced significantly since the last time we worked with SPDRS back in 2018 on the paper project. Our team has also grown in size so it was quicker and easier for us to complete.”

The spot demonstrates the power of The Outpost’s talent and continuously developing tools, and its success saw it go on to win several awards at both national and international advertising shows, including two Platinum Muse Awards for TV Ad Campaign and Financial Services; two Gold Davey Awards in Commercials-Banking & Finance; three Gold FCS Portfolio Awards; three Silver Midas Awards; and a Gold Telly Award for Regional TV – B2B – Campaign. “We’re so excited by what we’re able to achieve year upon year and will continue to refine our skills and software to deliver the very best in VFX realism.”


Client: Select Sector SPDRs

Commissioned by: SBA NYC

Director: Martijn Hogenkamp

Executive Producer: Marcel Vrieswijk

Producer: Thijs Klaassen, Bastiaan Mast, Marcel van der Velden

3D Producer: Rick Franssen (Outpost)

Concept Art: Amanda Nedermeijer, Alexandra Marguerita

Look Development: Olivier Ballast (Outpost)

3D Animation: Guido van Gemerden, Cas Prins

Modelling: Mats van Reenen (Outpost), David Mohrmann (Outpost), Koen de Mol (Outpost), Olivier Ballast (Outpost)

Lighting/Shading/Rendering: Olivier Ballast (Outpost)

Compositing: Koen de Mol (Outpost), Mats van Reenen (Outpost), Giso Spijkerman (Outpost)

TD: Jasper de Vries (Outpost), Mats van Reenen (Outpost)

Graphic Design: Cas Prins, Harold van Velsen

Storyboard Artist: Christiaan Vlok

Colorist: Barry Clarke

Composer: Lennert Busch

Sound FX and Mixing: Mauricio d’Orey

Voice-over: Nancy Halpin

Credits live-action shoot

Director: Martijn Hogenkamp

1st AD: Marcel van der Velden

Cinematographer: Lex Brand

1st AC: Luc Brefeld

VTR/DIT: Paul Mastoras

VFX Supervisor: Rick Franssen (Outpost)

Post Supervisor: Cas Prins, Guido van Gemerden

Gaffer: Chris Vingerhoets

Best Boy: Tim Schram, Stijn Ooms, Wilko van Oosterhout

Grip: Antoine Petiet

Art Department: Minoek Egberink, Alexandra Mitsiou

Actress: Anouska Wink via De Modelfabriek

Styling: Steven Dahlberg via Angelique Hoorn

Make-up: Ed Tijsen via Angelique Hoorn

1st AD: Marcel van der Velden

Executive producer: Marcel Vrieswijk

Producer: Bastiaan Mast

Credits commissioning agency

Creative Director: Carmen Soubriet

Creative Director: Philip Byrne

Art Director: Loren Osborn

Art Director: Blathnaid Conroy

Copy Writer: Gina Bruce

Producer: Kierston Kamps