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Moo Studios Wrangles Popcorn For Pop Secret Campaign

In eight 15-second spots for General Mills' Pop Secret, by way of agency Campbell Mithun/Minneapolis, Moo Studios' director Shaun Sewter combined live-action and stop-frame photography of a mountain of popcorn with simple type treatments to create distinctive moods for the microwave popcorn's many flavors. All the popcorn action in the spot was stop-frame animated, as opposed to being created via CGI. In one spot, titled "Swarm," a swirling mound of popcorn diminishes in size as its pieces disperse, like bees leaving a hive. Pieces of popcorn that pop full frame to the camera were shot individually on a gimbal rig with a macro lens and later positioned in shots with Adobe After Effects. "After Effects was a really good tool for positioning the corn," Sewter noted. "You can get good motion blur and realistic motion arcs with the software." Type treatments were created in After Effects and Alias|Wavefront Maya, concurrent with the shoot so Sewter would have a rough idea of where the lettering appeared. For another spot, "Specially Formatted," the action takes place inside of a microwave oven where a bag bears the message, "Each big kernel of Pop Secret Jumbo Pop has been specially formatted to fit your TV." The bag, and the typography, grows and distorts to fill the screen as the contents pop. For this spot, Sewter shot a practical microwave bag on a real microwave plate, against greenscreen with revolving light, to simulate illumination from the microwave door. The bag, open at the back, had foil inside, which Sewter poked and prodded to form popcorn shapes, frame-by-frame. "I got brutal with the bag to simulate popping," he said. "I could only abuse the bag so much before I finally put a pencil right through it and had to stop and make another bag." Santa Monica-based Method Studios crafted a CG microwave oven with specular highlights and reflections for the finished spot. Under Sewter's direction, Method keyed the popping bag into the oven with Discreet inferno. The company also used inferno to composite steam and smoke elements into various spots and to perform color correction as needed. Joe Russo headed the Moo Studios team using After Effects for the typography. David Lyons was Moo Studios' executive producer.