One Vanderbilt - Brand Film

A Skyscraper to revive Midtown Manhattan

This film is about One Vanderbilt, a visionary skyscraper bringing a breath of air, light & productivity among Midtown East’s predominantly aging office buildings.

Using ArchViz to Create a Virtualized Skyscraper and Story

The Neymarc brothers and Michael Tan, Visual Effects Supervisor at Neymarc Visuals, scouted midtown Manhattan extensively to visualize how One Vanderbilt would look and construction's effects on the neighborhood. They took a helicopter ride above the site to capture references for visual effects (VFX) and get a visceral experience of how the building would rise into the skyline.

With a father who worked as an architect in Paris, the Neymarc brothers grew up around plans, blueprints, and models. It is tradition in architecture to present clients with a model to help them visualize the building before it is built. Watercolor and physical models have given way to CAD drawings and 3D renderings. However, even these modern models are limited in their ability to convey the building's real experience.

This limitation vanishes with something Neymarc Visuals calls “ArchViz” – an immersive visualization of an architectural space that doesn't yet exist. Through a combination of VFX and video storytelling, ArchViz allows an audience to see the building on-screen and experience what it feels like to be inside it, encounter it at street level, and see its impact on the skyline. It creates a visceral experience that’s been a game changer

In addition to conducting on-the-ground research, Michael dove into the different plans and detailed references used to create the building digitally. The architecture firm, Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), focused on the plans, design, textures of materials, and the building's overall aesthetic. Meanwhile, Neymarc Visuals concentrated on creatively and accurately representing the tower's experience on film. As the real estate developer and architecture firm updated their model, we updated our visualization.

Crafting a Narrative with the Building as a Central Character

As the construction permit process for One Vanderbilt had lasted almost a decade, it was important for SL Green Realty to show the building as a positive addition to Midtown. One of the chief concerns of residents was that it would cast a shadow over the neighborhood. However, because the building is primarily composed of glass, the opposite was true: One Vanderbilt would lighten the area. Andrew Neymarc, director at Neymarc Visuals, knew they had to capture this effect during production.

Andrew and Remy decided on a three-act narrative for the film, with One Vanderbilt itself as the hero. In the first act, the film highlights the status quo: overcrowding, particularly in Midtown offices. In the second act, time stops to give way to rebirth through construction. The final act reveals the completed building, bringing the narrative full circle as an office worker from the first act now looks out to the city from the glass supertall's corner office.

Using VFX to Stop Time in the City that Never Sleeps

We designed storyboards and visual animatics in pre-production. These provided a guide for the high-tech VFX work that was pivotal to the film's narrative. Slow-motion and freezing time are hallmarks of the Neymarc Visuals aesthetic, but without a feature film's budget, finding a way to stop time in a city known for its fast pace was going to be a challenge. Fortunately, our production and VFX teams had a few tricks up their sleeves to make the Big Apple pause ever so briefly.

The first act of the video features three naturally fast-moving elements: raindrops, birds flying away, and newspapers blowing in the wind. However, the rain, pigeons, and newspaper weren't captured on film; rather, they were added as VFX in post-production. Andrew and Remy can see things not as they are but as they could become. They are excellent at visualizing how the current set can be enhanced through VFX long after the shoot is called a wrap.

The trickiest shot to get was freezing time in the notoriously crowded Grand Central Station. The film needed this shot due to One Vanderbilt's proximity to the station and the marketing advantage that creates. The production team made time stop in one of the busiest areas on Earth with a savvy photography trick, VFX magic, and a little help from tourists.

First, we needed to capture an "empty" Grand Central Station, so Michael's VFX team could begin rendering a virtualized world. To do this, Remy & Michael set up several cameras with a long exposure time to capture just the stationary, physical elements of the space. An extended shutter speed makes everything moving (e.g., people) naturally disappear from the shot. This photography trick resulted in a still image of a completely vacant Grand Central Station.

Our VFX team took this photo of the empty train station and applied a "camera mapping" technique, turning the image into a three-dimensional environment. For the wide shot, our VFX team filled the entire Grand Central Station with virtualized CGI people that could mill about and suddenly freeze with a click of a mouse.

For the up-close shot, Andrew wanted to have real people captured on film. The production team recruited about twenty tourists to be in the video. With some creative framing, the Brothers blocked out many larger patches of people walking. The tourists were instructed to walk around until they heard Andrew yell, "Freeze!" With real people frozen in the foreground and an optical illusion that makes background movement not as pronounced, the audience is fooled into thinking that Grand Central Station came to a standstill.

Through these clever film tricks, Neymarc Visuals was able to get a resourceful "six-figure shot" for SL Green while remaining within budget.

A Happy Client, a Timeless Video

The resulting piece received an incredibly positive response at SL Green's stockholder and board meetings. This first-ever brand film about a building under construction received applause during SL Green's annual investor conference. Years later, the client still uses the film on their website.

SL Green loved the video so much that they aired it on one of the largest screens in Times Square.

To celebrate the completion of construction in 2021, the Neymarc Team has been commissioned to reformat the brand film to air in the immersive theater of One Vanderbilt's observation deck.

Neymarc Visuals is renowned for its collaborative and creative video productions, which seamlessly incorporate VFX to drive brand narratives. Whether you're an architecture firm, CPG brand, ad agency, or anything in between and want to learn more about how VFX-enhanced video can help take your brand's story to the next level, please contact us today.

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Client: SL GREEN

Directors: The Neymarc Brothers

Executive Producers: Darren Goldberg & Chris March

Producer: Sarah Verstraete

VFX Supervisor: Michael Tan

Director of Photography: Remy Neymarc

1st AD: Max O'Brasky

VFX Artists: Michael Tan, Remy Neymarc, Boris Watrin & Corynn Egreczky

Music: Christopher Dierks