BUF Kicks an unusual goal

In ‘Secret Training Camp’, a commercial for Australian telco Optus released to coincide with the 2010 World Cup, the nation’s soccer team takes on a group of African animals under the cover of darkness. Paranoid US Director Thierry Poiraud turned to Paris studio BUF to combine real players with real (and sometimes CG) animals for the spot.

The spot shot by the Oscar winning DOP Andrew Lesnie.
click to watch

Making-of:
click to watch

10Jun/buf/M671
10Jun/buf/M973


Stumbling on the ‘Socceroos’ in action is a young boy wielding a camera phone, who witnesses the game hidden by a number of parked cars. Soon he realises that the Australian players are up against a formidable but unlikely team of wild African animals – a cheetah, elephant, rhino and a crocodile as the goalkeeper. “At first they wanted the whole thing to be in CG,” recalled BUF visual effects supervisor Lucas Salton. “To them it initially seemed so obvious that the animals had to be done in CG because there was no way that we could get an alligator to dive for the ball. Of course in the end, most of the animals and of course all the players are live action because we needed the interaction of the player’s feet on the ground and it had to match the boy who was watching.”

Production shot a cheetah, ostriches and elephants in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa while players were filmed in a studio against black to match the same lighting in Sydney, Australia. BUF then combined the plates and created CG rhinos and an alligator during two months of post-production in Paris. A major challenge of the spot was the extreme backlit lighting emanating from the vehicle headlights combined with a subjective camera viewpoint and hand-held nature of the shoot. “Because it was a secret area, the whole thing was lit by car headlights,” said Salton. “It’s got a very surreal atmosphere to it.”

10Jun/buf/M947
10Jun/buf/M022


BUF began modeling and rigging the CG animals about a month before the plates arrived, before matchmoving the shots and roto’ing the players out of the black footage. “Prior to the shoot, I had just come back from a safari holiday and I took a lot of pictures as reference that we used for the animals,” explained Salton. Artists relied on proprietary software, known as bStudio, for rigging and animation. For certain shots, BUF added smoke and dust to help integrate the players and animals. “When the real animal ran, it made a lot of dust behind it,” said Salton, “so we needed to add CG smoke and dust behind our CG animals and the players using our proprietary particle system.”

10Jun/buf/M140
10Jun/buf/M788


To help match the two different shoots, BUF used a HDRI setup. “It was very difficult being at night, especially with the backlit shots and the highlights on the animals’ fur,” said Salton. Compositing was achieved in BUF’s bColor which is a nodal compositing system similar to Shake and Nuke. Over the course of production, BUF’s staff ramped up from 10 to 20 and involved two Flame suites. The studio also worked in 2K to allow the director to move around the shots where desired.

Director Thierry Poiraud took up residence at BUF in Paris during post-production. “He’s very at home here,” said Salton. “He’s very involved in his movies. He breathes in your neck and is always around. That’s how we work with him – it’s a very intense collaboration.”

Ultimately, ‘Secret Training Camp’ plays out like a real football game when a CG alligator makes an unsuccessful leap to save a Socceroo goal, all with water, mud and dust flying around the goal area. “I think it was all about trying to find the fine line between what an animal could do,” concludes Salton, “but showing what a footballer is capable of.”

10Jun/buf/M154
10Jun/buf/M488


Credits

Client: Optus
Title: Secret Training Camp
Agency: M&C Saatchi, Sydney

Director: Thierry Poiraud
Production Company: Paranoid US / The Feds, Australia

Executive Creative Director: Ben We
Copywriter: Andy Flemming
Art Director: Paul Carpenter
Producer: Loren August

Executive Producer Paranoid US: Claude Letessier & Cathleen O’Conor
Executive Producer The Feds: Karen Watson
Producer: Alex Richardot
DP: Andrew Lesnie
Editor: Richard Learoyd
Post Production: BUF, Paris
Music and Sound Design: Claude Letessier & Michael Baird, Noise
Digital Account Supervisor: Karlee Weatherstone