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MPC LA Flies High for Jet Blue

MPC LA creates photo-real CG pigeon for new ad, ‘Recurring Dream,’ from agency Mullen Lowe and Smuggler’s Brian Beletic.

LOS ANGELES -- The beautiful star of Jet Blue’s Recurring Dream is a photo-real CG pigeon who reflects contentedly about the joys of flying in style including perks like room to stretch out, having all amenities within reach and enjoying a welcoming environment. Working closely with Beletic and Jet Blue agency Mullen Lowe, MPC’s team created the happy flyer and crafted his seamless integration into the commercial’s clever story.

In this Cinderella story, a pigeon dreams he is a graceful flyer joyously perusing the city from high above instead of from his usual lot on crowded sidewalks, dodging the feet of annoyed pedestrians. That story, which is very much an analogy for the perks of flying Jet Blue, was directed by Smuggler’s Brian Beletic. Beletic does fine work putting viewers shotgun for an aerial adventure, which even includes a flight pattern over a giant bird seed fountain.

“Brian [Beletic] wanted it to be clear our pigeon is at peace and having fun in flight,” said Zach Tucker, MPC LA VFX Supervisor. “Since pigeons in the real world are twitchy and nervous that meant we had to take a different approach for the animation. Making him feel sentient and more comfortable in his environment led us to reference flight behaviors more like an eagle and other large, confident birds. Pigeons are actually quite beautiful when their wings are fully spread, we just don’t get to see it often because they flap so much in flight. By making him more  graceful his behavior felt deliberate and free.”

“While the bird was being animated we worked on the 2D side with Brian and the agency retouching the footage,” said 2D Lead Artist Blake Huber. “The plates were shot in Canada, so we needed to remove signage and other distracting objects from the footage. The biggest challenge with compositing the hero pigeon was fitting him into each environment properly. The lighting of the spot is varied at different moments as we are moving around so much. We go from profile to overhead to street level very quickly. We had to keep a close eye on how the bird looked in not only each shot, but how those shots played against each other. Mark Gethin’s grade of the spot determined how the bird would look and feel in the environment, but sometimes from shot to shot the bird would pop differently so we would have to make adjustments to compensate for how a series of shots would feel next to one another.”

MPC was also tasked with instilling some human behavior viewers could empathize with. The pigeon’s flight pass over the bird seed fountain, soaking up the atypical abundance of food, required extensive R&D to ensure the bird seed did not look like sand but instead a hyper real version of a bird’s fantasy of a huge bird seed fountain. The groom on the pigeon was done in Houdini, so its feathers and movement look life-like.

“The 3D team did such an amazing job lighting the bird and were able to give us the pieces we needed to really sit him into the scene without too much difficulty,” Huber said. “The neck iridescence was an area that required quite a bit of R&D on both the 3D and 2D side to really give the feeling that the surface would appear to change color as the viewing angle shifted.”

“Taking something ordinary, like a pigeon, and making it engaging and dream-like means taking a subtle approach,” Tucker concluded. “We wanted it to look real but be just different enough that you feel connected, and happy to be along for the ride.”

Source: MPC LA

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network, Jennifer Wolfe has worked in the Media & Entertainment industry as a writer and PR professional since 2003.