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R!OT Cleans Up With Hoover Spot

R!OT Santa Monica provided color correction, vfx and animation for a Hoover spot in which a vacuum cleaner undertakes the monumental task of cleaning up Monument Valley, Utah, best known as the location of the John Ford westerns.

Conceived by Pittsburgh agency Ten/United, KING OF THE HILL shows a Hoover Wind Tunnel Bagless vacuum in the majestic park resting atop what appears to be a towering butte. Closer inspection, though, reveals that the "butte" is actually a pile of carpets, neatly stacked 5000 high. The self-propelled Hoover vacuum proceeds to suck up bits of dirt and dust deposited on the upper most carpet by the desert winds.

Aero Films produced the 30-second commercial for the agency. Co-directors Michael Hartog and Bill Ahrens shot background plates in Monument Valley and show the vacuum cleaner and other practical elements against blue screen on a special effects stage using similar camera moves. They also used a motion control system to record a 24-hour, 360-degree time-lapse shot of the Monument Valley environment as a source of effects elements. Hartog additionally supplied high-resolution digital stills taken at the park.

Post work at R!OT Santa Monica began with the film transfer as colorists Ken Van Deest and Bob Festa collaborated with Hartog in establishing the bold color scheme. "We went for an extremely saturated look," Van Deest recalled. "Michael kept pushing for richer colors."

Van Deest added that once the look was established, they concentrated on applying it evenly to all of the many effects elements that came their way. "Film arrived from different places at different points in the production - for us creating consistency was key.

R!OT's animation team, headed by lead 3D artist Hans Payer, created the tower of carpets as a CG element. Compositors Verdi Sevenhuysen, Kiki Chansamone and Les Umberger added the vacuum atop the pile and composited both into the background environments. In nearly every shot, those backgrounds were not ordinary production shots but rather complex digital reconstructions. To facilitate those reconstructions, the animators built a CG model of the valley environment. The compositors then used Discreet's inferno to project elements from the time-lapse footage and Hartog's digital stills onto the CG model to give it realistic colors and textures. The background and foreground environments were also enhanced with dust, storm clouds and rock formations gleaned from production footage.

"In the commercial's second shot, only the extreme right-hand side of the frame comes from a production shot," Sevenhuysen said. "Everything else was constructed in post. We used 30 different passes of dust and smoke in creating the scene."

The computer model was substituted for all or parts of the real backgrounds in shots throughout the commercial to provide better control over the look and pacing of the shots. "The CG model offered the freedom to design camera moves in post-production," Sevenhuysen added. "It would have been impossible to shoot live with the degree of control over speed and movement that we were able to produce in post."

The commercial's last shot, showing the Hoover vacuum resting triumphantly on the spotless top carpet, is completely artificial. The vacuum cleaner itself is a 3D model with an image of a real machine projected onto it.

Other R!OT artists included Shuichi Suzuki, 3D modeler; Eric Ebling, 3D tracker (along with Payer); D. Todd Davidovich, exec producer/producer.

Bill Desowitz's picture

Bill Desowitz, former editor of VFXWorld, is currently the Crafts Editor of IndieWire.