Brickyard VFX Creates CG World for LG's ViewtySmart

Press Release from Brickyard VFX

Santa Monica, CA (June 1, 2009) -- Artist owned-and-operated bi-coastal effects boutique Brickyard VFX provided visual effects for "Dandelion," a CG-intensive commercial for LG Electronics via ad agency Y&R NY. Directed by Filip Engstrom for prodco Smuggler, the spot began airing throughout Europe and Asia May 15.

The :30 ad, promoting LG's ViewtySmart, showcases the camera's advanced engineering, elegant aesthetic and ability to analyze light and recognize faces in order to take smarter pictures. The spot, which features CG robotic characters with human heads, feet and hands, opens on a single figure standing in the dim interior of a massive test hangar. A door slides open and an enormous light array moves into position behind the humanoid as he walks toward the LG ViewtySmart camera gliding up from the floor. A metallic dandelion grows from the ground in front of him, and as the ViewtySmart captures the scene, he plucks and blows on it, releasing its spores, which are in fact hundreds of identical miniature humanoid robots.

Brickyard VFX created "Dandelion" almost entirely in CG on a truncated six-week timetable that included pre-viz and a one-day motion capture and live-action shoot with a single actor. The humanoid robots in the spot are built from live-action footage of the actor's head, hands and feet seamlessly integrated with CG animation of the robotic body.

"During pre-production meetings we quickly determined that mo-cap would provide the only way to deliver the project in such a short amount of time," commented Brickyard's CG Supervisor David Blumenfeld. "Because of the types of motions we needed to capture, we also saw that we could do the mocap and live-action shoots simultaneously, which was not only an enormous time-saver, but also allowed us to ensure that the live-action footage was matched seamlessly with the motion capture data."

Brickyard VFX worked closely with the agency to create the look for "Dandelion," providing pre-visualization of the CG environment and an initial test arm for the human-like cyborgs. "That test arm allowed our CG artists to create the remainder of the bodies very quickly once the look was established," Blumenfeld explained. "We also worked closely with the director to establish timing and camera angles. Everything was planned out to the last detail. That way we knew exactly what we were going for on the day of the shoot."

For the shoot, the synchronized capture of live-action footage and mocap data was accomplished on a three-wall green screen cyclorama stage at Hollywood Studios. Brickyard VFX supervised the high speed shoot with the Phantom digital camera on a Panavision Technocrane to capture in-camera footage simultaneously with the motion capture data acquired by Giant Studios.

At the same time, Brickyard's CG team was busy at work generating models for the commercial and building the highly stylized CG environment. Working with a CAD model of the ViewtySmart provided by LG, Brickyard's CG team also created a photo-real version of the camera that perfectly replicated everything down to the blue-green tint of the viewscreen when held at a certain angle.

"Working hand in hand with our 3D team, we were able to maximize the new 16-bit floating point support in Autodesk Flame to maintain the integrity of the native 16-bit 3D imagery from beginning to end," explained lead 2D artist, Patrick Poulatian. "By keeping the project in the 16-bit environment we were able to control color subtleties and retain the highest standard of visual quality."

As look development for the environment continued and shots were approved, Brickyard's 2D team began to get into the act. Working in Autodesk Flame, 2D artists Patrick Poulatian and Mandy Sorenson matched the hands, feet and face from the live-action plate for compositing with CG elements, as well as the final composites, color grading and finishing.

"The biggest challenge for us was the timeframe, but this project also presented a great opportunity to fully exercise Brickyard's feature film-quality Maya/Renderman pipeline," Blumenfeld concluded. "As a beta tester for Pixar, the pipeline has been in development for some time, and this project provided a large-scale test, and it held up great."

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