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Ring of Fire Puts Beast in Whiskas Spot

Digital effects and design studio Ring of Fire brought out the beast in the average household cat in a captivating spot for Whiskas in a clever mix of stock footage and live-action, with a few CG tricks to make viewers believe that the family feline was running down a huge water buffalo on the African veldt in a wildlife documentary.

Ad agency TBWAChiatDay commissioned Ring of Fire to create two visually striking spots, which feature cats in their so-called natural habitat: the grassy ranges of Africa. The spots BUFFALO and ZEBRA present a comical twist as house cats are placed in the wild and feature the tagline What Cats Want. BUFFALO opens on an orange-and-white cat as it peeks out from behind a rock at a herd of water buffalo. While the cat dashes across an open space to hide behind another rock, a mother buffalo and her calf watch wearily; a bell jingles from the cats collar. The orange-and-white predator stealthily moves through the green grass toward the herd. A buffalo halts in fear when it sees the cat. The cat meows in attack, the buffalo cries out and the chase begins. Your cat has an inner beast, states the voiceover. Feed it. The spot concludes with a product shot of Whiskas cat food on a rock as the cat peeks out from behind. Whiskas. Made to satisfy a cats natural instincts. The second spot ZEBRA follows the same premise with a black-and-white cat that preys on a zebra in the wild.

According to Ring of Fire creative director Jerry Spivack, the main challenge was to match the stock footage shots to create a feeling of uniformity. Stock shots came from different stock houses, so matching the quality of these shots together was challenging.

As the stock footage was being cut together by editor Avi Oron at Bikini Edit, Ring of Fire continually reviewed each scene, shot-by-shot, with director Noam Murro (Biscuit Filmworks) to assess what he wanted the cats to do. Ring of Fire then devised a plan to best shoot the cat scenes and the scenes where the cat had to be placed in stock footage. Since there was already a lion in most of the stock footage, the artists at Ring of Fire had to create clean plates by digitally removing the lion.

The three-day shoot took place at Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley to provide the cats with an open environment exterior and a similar background behind them. On set we used a video switcher and playback of each select stock footage shot to line the cat in the right angle and perspective to the stock plate," explains Spivack. "Production also built small set pieces for the cats to work in that matched the environments of the stock footage.

Danny Yoon, inferno artist, and Gary Mortensen, rotoscope artist, used inferno for tracking and compositing and commotion on mac for additional matte support, as well as "a lot of blood, sweat and tears." The lion was removed with these tools using 2D compositing techniques. Todd Hemsley and Johh Ciampa were additional inferno artists, while Steve Edwards also did rotoscoping. Yoon was online editor.

Stock footage research was done primarily by Nickerson Research in Los Angeles, with additional work done by Ring of Fire and Bikini Edit (New York City). Machine Head in Venice, California did sound design and Margarita Mix in Santa Monica, California did audio post.

John Meyers was exec producer for Ring of Fire with producers Kim Evans and Zenta Kronitis.

Ring of Fire is located in West Hollywood, California. For more information check out www.ringoffire.com.

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