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A52 Slugs One In For Adidas

Visual effects and design company A52 got a little slimy in their recent work for Gorgeous Enterprises and director Frank Budgen for 180/TBWA's new Adidas spot entitled "Slugs." The spot begins with a busy street scene somewhere in Mexico. To the tune of an upbeat mambo score, a pair of new Adidas a3 cushion running shoes jogs along, seemingly under their own power. The shoes continue their trek along the city streets, until they pass a little too close to a shopkeeper's broom, and one shoe gets swept into the street. When the other shoe goes to investigate, we see what has been powering the shoes on their jog through the city. A large, panting slug slides up and has a peek at his friend, who is lying on the ground after being spilled out of the shoe. The second slug rests for a minute, then slides back inside his a3 and the two jog away together. A52's CGI team used Houdini to create the original animation, 3D Equalizer for camera tracking, Deep Paint 3D for painting and texture mapping, Renderman for rendering and Silicon Grail Chalice for compositing. In describing the process of creating the slugs, A52's project 3D supervisors Denis Gauthier and Jeff Willette both acknowledged the help afforded by the latest version of Houdini, which offered them a lot of interactive modeling tools, making creating organic shapes much easier. Willette explained, "We started with a box shape, and we just started pulling sections out of that, extruding and refining areas to build the oval shape of the slug, taper it down, pull sections out for eye stalks...and generally refining the shapes to make them look like our photos of real slugs." After defining the shape, the team had to make it move like a slug. Since a slug doesn't have a skeleton, Willette came up with a way to attach a series of shapes to a path that defines a string of capture regions, which encase the slug and move it along the path. "You can take separate nodes along that path and then hand animate them to get some character out of it," he said. Once Willette had created the models and applied coordinates to them, Denis Gauthier took them into Deep Paint 3D, where he added a texture map and painted in spots, ridges and other details. When it came to rendering, A52's CGI team applied an innovative extension of ray marching through volume techniques in Renderman. Gauthier explained, "In our initial review of some photography of snails, we saw that when they're backlit, they're very transparent, so we knew we had to get that look in our slugs. To accomplish that, we performed sub-surface scattering on the slugs. The light enters the surface, bounces around inside their bodies and exits in a soft, foggy kind of way, basically making the slug look like a big droplet of cloudy water. Normally that's difficult to darn-near impossible to do, but thanks to a few good ideas, we pulled it off. We're quite pleased with the results and feel that this is something you won't see anywhere else." The 60-second spot broke on July 15. Credits for A52 include executive producer Darcy Leslie Parsons, producer Ron Cosentino, creative director and project visual effects supervisor Simon Brewster (who also served as inferno artist), 3D animators Denis Gauthier, Craig "X-Ray" Halperin, Westley Sarokin and Jeff Willette, inferno artists Tim Bird, Simon Brewster, Marguerite Cargill and Kristin Johnson and Henry artist and online editor Scott Johnson.