Framestore Directs and Crafts VFX for Andre’s Second CG Puppy Commercial
Press Release from Framestore
May 27, 2011 - Framestore has created the second installment of Andrex’s new CG puppy campaign, a party themed commercial called Collections. Not only did Framestore create all visual effects in this CG-based spot; the company continued to provide a full end-to-end production partnership by also directing and producing the campaign.
Framestore’s director and VFX supervisor, Mike McGee, was responsible for bringing the script to life. Moving on from the CG puppy’s debut, which was also directed by McGee, Collections sees the puppies attend two polar opposite parties; one representing Andrex’s ‘bright and bold’ toilet paper, the other standing in for the ‘subtle and stylish’ line. The difference between the two products is played out when a puppy disco is contrasted by a sophisticated piano soiree.
“Thanks to having directed Andrex’s first CG puppy commercial,” said director and VFX supervisor Mike McGee, “this second script gave us an opportunity to evolve the puppies’ animation and characterisation. Being commissioned to direct and post-produce the first four CG commercials means we can improve production values with each new delivery: we can take every doggy detail to a whole new level of perfectionism. This approach boosts overall creativity and is a perfect example of the benefits of longterm production partnerships.”
“Our animators get so absorbed in the productions that they become part dog when working on Andrex,” continues McGee. “So their animation and characterisation becomes even more intuitive, producing even stronger end results. We can react faster when working like this as we can get to a base more quickly where we know what does and doesn’t work. This frees us up to work on killer details like face twitches... that last three to five percent that makes all the difference.”
Examples of how this ‘longterm production partnership’ approach fostered an enhanced level of perfectionism include: creating smoother and softer fur; incorporating secondary simulation, eg – where a puppy’s foot falls, the impact ripples throughout the rest of its body; further perfecting underlying textures and subtle areas, like around the nose and eyes where fur peters out and becomes almost transparent; and creating an evolved system of bounce lighting which previously only accounted for the body, but now also accounts for fur, so generating better coherence between body and fur. Areas that could benefit from such improvements were identified by analysing puppy close-ups in the original spot.
The piano-playing weimaraner was the most complex dog to create. It was an entirely new dog that had to be built from scratch, it had to be animated to play the piano in time to the music and it has a very particular type of hair. This fur proved fairly complex to recreate in CG due its high sheen and its specific way of reflecting light. The weimaraner’s fur required a significant amount of look dev to craft its trademark blue shiny and silky hair.
Lighting posed a challenge to the VFX team as there was no single light source in either party set-up. The disco party puppies had to be lit from several sources: a standing lamp, a glitter ball, flashing lights and spot lights, with the moving lights having to be individually animated over each dog. Similarly, lighting on the piano party pupps was affected by the fire place’s flickering and soft light.
In total, Collections contains 22 CG dogs performing different actions in live action interior sets. Fortunately, most of the dogs’ basic skeleton rigs had already been designed for the first commercial. Although these rigs required modification so the dogs could perform new tasks, a significant amount of time – and budget – was saved in R&D, meaning more development time could be invested in game-changing finishing touches. “When creating a film character like Harry Potter’s Dobby we have months of R&D,” adds McGee. “But in commercials we usually get just weeks. However, this longterm partnership with JWT and Andrex gives us more of a film-like R&D schedule with which to perfect characters.”