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Concrete Makes Lions Sing

Concrete recently completed full offline and online post work on a new Samsung viral titled: SAMSUNG LIONS for The Viral Factory. The viral was directed and produced by The Viral Factory. They approached Concrete for initial pre-production advice to create the viral for Samsung.

The brief was to create a film that appeared to be a snippet of a holiday safari video that had accidentally caught an extraordinary moment. That moment was a pride of lions breaking from their standard "lazing in the sun" pose and performing a rendition of THE BANANA SONG ("Daylight come and me wanna go home").

The lions needed to mime the words to the song, whilst rocking and dancing to the beat. As an additional twist, a half-eaten gazelle carcass was to then jump up on its hind legs in mid-performance, to add a rap solo. Ed Robinson, Creative Director at The Viral Factory commented: "The ATL work uses the concept of 'telling the whole story' behind an intriguing still because sometimes that story is more exciting than you might expect. We needed to "viralize" that thought and hit upon singing lions!"

From a production point of view, the core requirement was that the footage must appear as an amateur holiday video shot from the back of a safari vehicle and that the lions look real beyond question. "For post production, this meant the complication of very shaky, hand held camera work and photo-realistic lions," explained David Cox, Senior VFX Artist and Joint MD at Concrete. "The feeling was that CGI lions would neither be convincing enough nor feasible within the three week postproduction schedule. Another discounted avenue was to shoot a lion or two against green screen in the U.K. Surprisingly, trained 'acting lions seemed hard to come by in London."

The production route chosen was to dispatch cameraman, Dewald Aukema to Kenya to see if he could film lions in their natural habitat. He would photograph lions with the camera locked off in high definition, with the framing set to be the widest required. This allowed the shaky camera work to be added in postproduction. It also meant that real lions would be used in their natural habitat, helping with the credibility factor.

The plan at Concrete was to then cut, paste and morph bits of real lion to create the required performing ones. Aukema was fortunate enough to return with a base set of lions lounging around, occasionally getting up, rolling over, yawning and generally doing what lions do. It was decided that the rapping, half eaten gazelle would be a model-build, shot against green screen and brought to life by two puppeteers in green suits.

Concrete's Senior Editor Matt Hall began the postproduction process. He created an enormously complex offline extending to some 30 layers in order to cherry pick the best bits of lion head, leg and body movements and loosely assemble them in time to the music. This meant that all of the visual effect schedule could be devoted to smoothing out the composites to create a realistic effect.

Compositing on the viral was carried out in Mistika and Smoke by David Cox and Mustafa Pertev. Each lion was treated in turn, having its base body cut out and added to a clean background. Shadows were added for realism and Mistika's strong color grading ability was called upon to match lions that had been shot in differing daylight. Then the head movements and lip sync were added. This was done by finding parts of lion yawns, morphing them together and creating a mouth opening and closing. These were then animated in Mistika and stitched on to create each singing lion. Similar methods were used to create the jigging lions, using different body, tail and paw takes to create motion in time with the track.

The gazelle was matted from its original green screen background and added to the lion composite. A patch of flattened and blood soaked grass was added beneath it, with the final touch an animated mouth, again created from alternative takes.

Matt Hall and David Cox at Concrete then got the project.

Ed Robinson, Creative Director, The Viral Factory said, "They lifted and shifted, rocked and warped until the lions where a tight musical unit. Clever chaps they are. We also shot a half eaten corpse of a gazelle dancing and raga toasting along with the tune in a green screen studio in London and this was effortlessly dropped in. We think it's suitably odd and strangely believable."

"Creation of the camera move entailed some lateral thinking at Concrete. Camera moves created in postproduction often feel animated. Also, this particular film needed to recreate the camera work of an amateur that did not know what was going to happen next. This meant the camera had to react to what was happening with the lions, not predict it." Cox explained.

The method used at Concrete to create the camera move worked perfectly. The locked off "wide" composite had a grid added to it and was recorded to DVD. This DVD was played on a large plasma screen in Concrete's kitchen. Various runners were then given a handy-cam camera and asked to point it at the plasma screen, zooming in to frame the subjects, as they felt appropriate. Since they had not seen the composited action, their reactions in how they moved and zoomed the camera were very natural.

One of their efforts was chosen and digitized back into Mistika, where the grid was tracked so that the recorded camera move could be added back to the original HD locked off frame. Motion blur and de-focus effects completed the illusion.


Client: The Viral FactoryCreative Director: Ed RobinsonCameraman: Dewald Aukema, The Viral factoryPost Production Facility: ConcreteSenior Online Operator: David Cox on Mistika, ConcreteOnline Operator: Mustafa Pertev on Smoke, ConcreteSenior Offline Editor: Matt Hall on AVID at Concrete