Clio-winning Los Angeles visual effects and design company A52 detailed their visual effects and design work for RSA USA and award-winning director Jake Scott for Wieden+Kennedys new Nike spot, THE MAGNET. The :90 spot had its broadcast debut during the NBA Playoffs on May 19, 2004 and is also set to run nationwide in theaters before screenings of SPIDER-MAN 2.
The spot begins with a panoramic scene off the northern California coastline moving in over jumping dolphins and waves to discover five-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong cycling along on a high-speed training ride. Outpacing a passenger train, Armstrongs magnetism soon attracts a flock of geese, a gang of bikers, kids inside a hospital and back on a remote road a herd of buffalo. Armstrong pushes on through a rainstorm, amidst flocks of fireflies and bats, before arriving in San Francisco where a throng of amateur racers fills the streets behind him. At last, momentarily solo again, the champs attractive force helps a young boy on his BMX close the gap between them.
To capture perfect performances from each animal actor (besides the buffalo), A52s CGI team led by 3D supervisor Denis Gauthier created the opening scenes dolphins, as well as each goose, firefly and bat that appears. The opening scenes crashing waves were also enhanced by the CGI team, using 3Dequalizer by Science-D-Visions to track the live-action footage, then creating the CG water in the finished scene using Side Effects Softwares Houdini. The creatures were also created using Houdini and Deep Paint 3D, rendered with Pixars RenderMan and composited in Silicon Grail Chalice.
After filming Armstrong in-action on the greenscreen stage at Austin Studios in Texas, Scott captured the spots extensive location imagery in San Francisco and other remote areas in northern California with a photo-double for the celebrity sports star. At A52s studio, led by visual effects supervisor Patrick Murphy, A52s visual effects team replaced the doubles face and shoulders with Armstrongs, as necessary, throughout the spot.
Moving through the spot, heres a quick rundown of A52s other visual contributions: Macro shot that moves up from bike pedals to Armstrongs face (filmed on greenscreen), composited Armstrong into scene and added bikers into background plate; shot with bikers, head replacement; overhead scene of buffalo, composited multiple layers of live-action buffalo; rain scene, added rain and lighting effects; firefly scene, head and shoulders replacement and added CGI fireflies; tunnel scene, composited in Armstrong (filmed on greenscreen) and CGI bats; tunnel exit, lighting effects and added CGI bats; Armstrong rides down hill at night, crane removal; Armstrong in city, head and shoulders replacement. For most of the spots scenes, A52s team also replaced skies, enhanced colors and provided clean-up to remove rigs.
Murphy said, The project challenged all departments, not just CGI or 2D. Even though it was split into multiple shots for CGI to create their photoreal elements, their work was constantly flowing into our 2D departments so that we could integrate the pieces for Jake and the creatives to see it all coming together.
Together with exec producers Rick Hassen and Darcy Leslie Parsons, on-set vfx supervisors Scott Boyajan (who also served as project producer) and Westley Sarokin oversaw the project for A52. A52s 3D animators were Gauthier, Jeff Willette and Craig Halperin, and Sarokin also supported the project as 2D animator.
Established in 1997, West Hollywood visual effects and design company A52 (www.A52.com) creates imagery for commercial and music video projects.