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Bison Run Through City Streets - The Mill Claims Responsibility

London-based visual effects company The Mill has created a charging herd of bison for the new Levi's spot "Stampede," which premiered in the U.S. during the Superbowl on January 26, 2003. The spot is promoting Levi's new Type 1 jeans and was directed by Jorn Haagen at Academy, for agency BBH New York. The commercial opens with a stampede of bison running through the desert on their way to a city. They arrive in the city, knocking down lamp posts and breaking windows. The city is desolate, except for a Levis clad couple standing on a bridge. The couple faces the herd with a look of confidence, and the bison narrowly avoid them, no doubt sensing the boldness of the brand new jean design. To create the effects, real bison were shot on location in the deserts of Trona and in Los Angeles, then the Mill CG team created a herd of 600 photo-realistic bison using SOFTIMAGE|XSI. Using hair dynamics within SOFTIMAGE|XSI to create realistic looking animal fur, artist Yann Mabille worked on the modeling, texture and hair of the bison. Mill 3D artist Dadi Einarsson designed the skeleton rig and animation cycles of the animals and built up a library of cycles, gestures and moves, including gallops and jumps. At the same time, Jordi Bares was researching ways to control the herd. Using SOFTIMAGE|XSI, he developed tools that allowed him to manage and render the 600 bison, giving him complete control over the movement of the animals so they reacted and interacted with their surroundings. Jordi then refined each bison by hand using his customized set of tools. Additional CG work on atmosphere and to architecturally reconstruct the city skyline was carried out by Russell Tickner. The flame team, led by Ant Walsham, provided general clean-up as well as compositing together multiple plates of background action with the bison. They also worked on the lighting of the animals so they blended into the environment. Additional flame work included compositing the reflection of the stitching from the jean pockets onto the eye of one of the bison. The commercial was graded by Mill Telecine artist Fergus McCall. The spot can be seen on The Mill's Website at