Summer 2013: Sizzling VFX Hot Spots
As we roll into fall, it’s time to take a look at some of the standout spots of the season behind us—a summer filled with trolls, photo-real apes and chimpanzees and F1 racing legends, as well as pop-up books and quirky 2D animation.
PETA “98% Human”
Mill+ and The Mill NY teamed up with BBDO NY to create a totally believable, photo-real CG chimpanzee for “98% Human,” an astonishing and groundbreaking new spot for PETA’s multi-platform campaign, “The Great Ape Pledge.”
“This was one of the most exciting and challenging projects I've ever worked on,” said animation director Angus Kneale. “Crafting PETA ‘98% Human’ was more than about creating a totally believable, photo-real CG Chimp. It was about establishing an emotional connection and empathy with the audience. In the past we would have used motion capture and mapped a human actor's performance directly onto the CG character but we wanted to approach this project in a different way, so we decided to rely on the skill of our animators for the final chimp performances, only using an actor for previs.”
UK-based Analog teamed up with Nexus and Wieden + Kennedy London to create Honda “Hands,” an extended spot featuring a set of hands folding, twisting and turning iconic Honda products from over the years. The ad has become an instant classic, racking up over seven million views to date alone on YouTube.
"We knew from the outset that it was hugely important for the hands to physically hold, grip and inspect ‘something’ as it would immediately ground the spot in reality,” says Analog’s Mike Merron. “Our initial tests showed just how important it was to have articulated props.”
Working from references provided by Honda, Analog and Nexus used Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya to create each of the 25 photo-real models for the spot. Analog then took on the assembly of the multiple shots, removing props and completing tracking for all of the objects, then shading, lighting and rendering out the various elements. All of the FX animation, compositing and grading also took place at Analog, with Nexus providing the character animations and the subtle physical secondary movements of the objects.
The creature animation specialists at Method teamed with director Noam Murro and Biscuit Filmworks and ad agency Grey NY to create this latest ad for DirecTV promoting the company’s new service which allows users to watch recorded programs across multiple devices even away from home.
The production of “Troll” employed an extensive list of visual effects techniques. Aside from the computer generated creature itself, Method artists were tasked with creating matte painted backdrops, fluid and cloth simulations, set extensions, atmospheric FX elements such as dust and mist, CG animals and, of course, composting everything together.
To create the giant Troll, Method artists developed a highly detailed 3D model rigged with complex facial muscles to ensure that emotions were properly conveyed by his expressions, while the body was animated using an actor and motion capture data. Overall, a team of more than 50 CG artists, compositors and matte painters utilized a complex toolset including programs such as Autodesk Maya, Pixologic’s zBrush, The Foundry’s Mari and Side FX’s Houdini to execute this large-scale VFX project.
Chumash Casino Resort “You Too Are Chumash”
The smooth transitions and watercolor properties of the spot take viewers on a historical journey through the Santa Ynez Valley, where the Chumash people have lived for over 8,000 years. The team blended seamless 3D camera moves and animated elements with painterly 2D textures to create the soft, artful look of the spot.
Square Enix “Murdered: Soul Suspect” Game Trailer
Square Enix and Airtight Games teamed with Digital Domain and Mothership directors Neil Huxley and Vernon Wilbert to create a 90-second trailer to launch their new game, Murdered: Soul Suspect, which releases later this year.
To realize the stylized, movie-like piece, Huxley and Co-Director Vernon Wilbert used the tools and techniques of filmmaking. They began by developing a story for Ronan, which then defined the structure and limitations of his environments. For the shoot, they segmented the script and shot it in sections, like a typical feature film, instead of shot-by-shot, the more common approach for games marketing.
“By working this way we were able to help the actor stay in the moment during the shoot and capture several different camera angles, which helped us avoid re-shoots," said Huxley.
"Digital Domain has worked with some of the biggest directors of the past 20 years and brings that film knowledge to every project," said Wilbert. "We took things like lens flares created for the game environment and re-created them so they could work in a real world. We adapted some of the visual rules of films that inspired us, and brought their style of lighting, cameras, shooting -- even the contrast ratio from color grading -- into this piece because they were great metaphors for this story."
Huxley and Wilbert conducted a live action stage shoot to capture the mood, tone, lighting and body/face/voice performance that drove the digital characters and assets, tapping the studio's advanced facial capture and animation process and pipeline.