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Rhythm + Hues Teaches Target Dog New Tricks

Rhythm + Hues Commercial Studios, collaborating with Peterson Milla Hooks/Minneapolis, has created a new campaign for Target featuring a fully CGI dog who has learned a whole lot of new tricks.

The Target ads are fresh and hip so we were thrilled to be a part of this campaign, says Amy Hassler, exec producer/director of marketing. It was a creative convergence for our studio on a variety of levels: it showcased our art direction and seamless Flame compositing capabilities and gave us the opportunity to create a CGI version of the iconic Target dog.

The campaign, which began airing in July, features a modern re-imagination of Busby Berkley inspired choreography combined with hip hop. In addition to the CGI dog, the spots include live-action dancers, kids practicing karate and babies.

Visual effects on the spots were helmed by six-time MTV-award winning Flame artist, Eric DeHaven, whose work has been seen most recently on the Music Video of the Year, Outkast HEY YA.

The Target job was an exciting opportunity to work with a new client whose work I respect immensely, said DeHaven. We had a high standard to live up to. I was involved from the initial conception to the final day of delivery.

Led by the agency creative director Dave Peterson, the creative team (including animation directors Craig Talmy and John-Mark Austin) collaborated on the final design of each shot, which made this project go very smoothly, DeHaven added. We were able to pick the best way to accomplish each idea in the most efficient way (i.e. making props or creating CGI elements to be composited.) Pre-production paid off during the shoot because we knew exactly what we needed to shoot and how to do it; the entire crew was on the same page. Filming lasted nine days; we had a lot of ground to cover because each spot was actually comprised of three small spots. There were twelve major set changes and setups including talent and VFX plates. Since we created a fully CGI Target dog, we were able to use Rhythm + Hues proprietary technology (designed for some of our big Feature CGI character work) to capture 360 degree HDRI imagery of the sets. This enabled us to assist in the lighting setup and various texturing of the final dog renders.

Every shot in the campaign had to have some work done to it. One of the more challenging shots for me was the scene design for Pop Tarts in spot four. We initially decided that this scene would show a girl in a small house in the middle of a field of trees covered in oversize strawberries, with a vast landscape and mountains of red grass in the distance. This would be next to impossible to shoot so I proposed using a matte painting and breaking it up into individual elements that I could manipulate in 3D space within the Flame. The net effect is that everything looks real from a short distance, yet as you get very close, your mind notices that each element is a flat object. This is a fun technique and fit within the fantasy world Target wanted to see. It also allowed for greater flexibility when designing the shot as we could move anything in the shot anywhere we wanted trees, bushes, etc. and could move the camera in many different ways.

The project as a whole was challenging as each sequence presented its own problems and issues, DeHaven adds. Most people who have seen these spots dont realize the Target dog is fully CGI; he looks so real and lifelike. The ability to have complete control over such an integral character as the Target dog is so important. In many cases, we were making small adjustments to his animation to make the red Target logo on his face more visible and on screen more of the time. With a real dog, it is nearly impossible to be so exacting.

A complete digital studio, with live-action, CGI animation and vfx, design and post-production services, Rhythm + Hues Commercial Studios draws upon the talent and technical firepower of one of the worlds premiere effects and animation facilities, Rhythm & Hues Studios. Adjacent to the 70,000 sq. ft. facility which houses hundreds of digital artists and staff, the 7,000 sq foot boutique facility of Rhythm + Hues Commercial Studios is dedicated to the highest quality of commercial production while committed to providing outstanding client support.

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Rick DeMott
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