Santa Monica-based visual effects boutique designs CG characters and brings them to life for Kohler’s ‘Never TOO Next’ campaign.
SANTA MONICA, CA -- Visual effects boutique JAMM helped take toilet technology to the twenty-second century with the striking VFX for the latest addition to Kohler’s “Never TOO” campaign. Created by DDB Chicago and directed by Dante Ariola of MJZ, the “Never TOO Next” ad welcomes the advance of technology, and the bathroom is no exception, thanks to the cutting-edge features of Kohler's Veil Intelligent Toilet.
Set in the not too distant future, “Never TOO Next” portrays a case of tech-on-tech love when a group of robots attend a sophisticated housewarming party. In the hard-to-navigate world of human social customs, the robots are relieved to find a kindred high-tech spirit when they convene in the restroom and discover the multi-functional Veil Intelligent Toilet by Kohler.
For this project, JAMM’s CG team brought to life the incredible concept art for the robots created by Dante Ariola and his production designer Christopher Glass. Dante directed actors Erik and Neva to capture live action footage of the automaton couple, whose movements the JAMM team matched with CG later on. This allowed them to use the actors’ performances to give the behavior of the robots an uncanny human-like quality.
“Our CG modelers designed and assembled the CG robots in a similar manner to how you would in the real world,” commented VFX Supervisor Andy Boyd. “We modeled all of the bolts, hydraulics, sculpted panels, support structures and wiring so that the robots would move and articulate realistically.”
The robots were modeled in Z Brush and Maya, the latter of which was also used for rigging and animation. All the animation was imported from Maya into Houdini for look-dev, lighting and rendering. Houdini made it possible for the team to manage the huge number of complex materials and helped to ensure that they would respond in a consistent and physically accurate way to each of the commercial's different lighting environments.
Dante’s designs had translucent and refractive paneling that showed off some of the complexity of the robot's internals. There were many different kinds of materials all reflecting off one other, and glowing or bouncing light around, while also being refracted through the exterior panels, something that has always been extremely difficult to create in CG but so rewarding when achieved.
JAMM’s comp team seamlessly integrated the CG robot renders into live action back plates and made them the life of the party, explained VFX Supervisor Jake Montgomery, “We wanted preserve as much as we could of the actors’ performances, while still maintaining the visual design and concept of the robots. Our comp team used a combination of Flame and Nuke software to carry out the CG integration and 2D clean up. The new Flame UV tools were especially helpful for the fine-tuning and locking of performance lineup to the CG.”
JAMM was given room to explore the facial design of the robots and try out different techniques and looks, Montgomery added, “We did beauty work and eye treatments and blended in some of the real features of the actors into the CG robot faces. We're very happy with how it turned out, you can really see both Erik and Neva's performances, just on photo-real robot faces.”
Dante entrusted the JAMM team to bring his creative vision to life with complex CG-heavy photo-real effects. He had previously collaborated with JAMM founders Andy Boyd, Jake Montgomery and Executive Producer Asher Edwards prior to them starting JAMM in 2014.