Asylum Turns the World Upside Down

Floating people, couches and fruit are all part of World Upside Down, an Ad Council spot with visual effects by Asylum. Directed by Derin Seale for agency Cramer-Krasselt, the :60 spot is aimed at raising awareness for disaster preparation. Asylum Lead VFX/Inferno Artist Rob Trent takes fxguide through the compositing work.

Click to view a QuickTime movie of the spot

fxg: It’s a deceptively simple spot, I think. What were you asked to do originally?

Trent: For a while it was always about a gravity effect that was to go pretty much vertical – straight up and down. They didn’t want too much of a rotational effect in the early stages of it, but we did put a little bit of that in the end. It was shot very much off the original boards, so what you see in the spot is what was was planned.

09Nov/asylum/adcouncil1fxg: Did you always know what approach you’d take to removing rigs and adding in elements?

Trent: It’s funny, actually, for a lot of the time in the pre-pro stage we were thinking of doing the composition a little bit tighter and using trampolines to accomplish the zero gravity in the middle of the commercial, when you’re not quite sure whether they’re going up and down. We were going to try and achieve that with some nice close up shots of the actors jumping on trampolines and get their hair floating and all that stuff. But about two days before the shoot they decided to use harnesses. So we did it all with puppeteering and rigging on set.

fxg: Did you shoot any of the props on greenscreen?

Trent: We had the good luck to have two Phantom cameras on set, so we stole one of them off for a second-unit shoot for a few hours. Me and the CG supe, Zachary Tucker, took turns working under some lights (that made you feel like you were out on the surface of the sun) dropping pretty much every prop from the scene through a tall greenscreen. We got up a ladder and the second-unit DP kept the camera rolling and we were able to dress in all those elements, doing an elegant rotation through space after the fact. Some of the heavier elements, like the couches, were rigged on ropes.

09Nov/asylum/adcouncil2fxg: How were the actors shot?

Trent: The actors were all shot in the real set. The director wanted to do as much on set as possible. In the end it worked out in our favour because the lighting marries them in so well. But it was a big clean-up job, quite a lot of which was done in Shake by Jason Bidwell.

fxg: Can you take me through one of the toughest shots?

Trent: One of the toughest shots was the first shot of the father floating up in the kitchen. All that was shot with the props on set, sitting on the counter tops and surfaces. Originally they didn’t want the props to float up as fast as the actor does, but then he does float up pretty high so it didn’t make sense for the props not to go up too.

So we had to create a clean plate, 3D track the scene and then re-track the elements in and try and introduce as much of a small sense of parallax as possible for some of the more noticeable elements. All that was done in Flame, but there were some CG elements done for a few of the shots, like the dining table and chairs which go up as the mother is rising.

09Nov/asylum/adcouncil3fxg: What kind of artifacts did you add into the shots?

Trent: We have a pretty big library of elements here, so I did add in some things like glass and dust about half way in where it becomes more chaotic and when the TV smashes. It’s all pretty subtle and in the extreme foreground and out of focus so that you get a sense of the whole space, rather than being able to focus on just one element.

Credit List
Client: Ad Council; FEMA; New York City Office of Emergency Management; Red Cross in Greater New York

Spot’s Title: “World Upside Down”

Air Date: September 2009

Agency: Cramer-Krasselt

EVP/Chief Creative Officer: Marshall Ross

GCD: G. Andrew Meyer

Co-Executive Creative Director: Dean Stefanides

Co-Executive Creative Director: Larry Hampel 

Senior Art Director: David Levy

Copywriter: Andrei Chahine

VP/Director of Broadcast Production: Sergio Lopez

Prod Company: 

Director: Derin Seale

EP: Frank Scherma

Producer: Samantha Storr 

Head of Production: Cathy Dun

Editorial: Whitehouse Chicago

Post/Effects: Asylum
EP: Michael Pardee

Bidding Producer: Michael Hanley

Producer: Ryan Meredith 

Lead VFX/Inferno Artist Supervisor: Rob Trent

Inferno Artists: Miles Essmiller, Mark Renton

CG Supervisor: Zachary Tucker 

Lead Modeler: Greg Stuhl

Modeler: Toshihiro Sakamaki

Trackers: Tom Stanton, Apirak Kamjan, Michael Lori

Lighter: Aaron Vest

Animators: Michael Shelton, Steward Burris
Texture Painting: John Hart

Roto/Paint: Jason Bidwell

Roto: Elissa Bello, Stephanie Ide, Scott Baxter, Hugo Dominguez 

Roto/Shake: Johnny Weckworth