Working in the gutter!

xyz studios recently needed to paint the town yellow for a Sensis yellow pages ad. Miniature motor bikes drive down the gutter and footpaths of an inner-city street, and in so doing, painting the world a handdrawn yellow. The spot is interesting for the 3D overlay and the need to often rebuild all the live action in 3D. The workflow highlights the recent move towards both shortrun freelance teams and the use of Shake since its price drop.

The blending of 35mm film with photoreal 3D animated vespa scooters leaving behind a wake of hand drawn illustration create an engaging, unique visual image. The spot launches the rebrand of ‘Yellow Pages’ to just ‘Yellow’ and also created “a gigantic creative and technical workload,” according to animation director Tim Kentley of XYZ Studios .

You can view the final result by

downloading a QuickTime movie of the finished commercial.

On set shooting 35mm

The rebrand for Sensis ‘Yellow’ employed a yellow and black hand drawn 2D illustrated look as a key visual device in its styleguide. To take this static image into the moving image, XYZ employed photorealistic computer generated vesper scooters complete with two riders motion tracked into live action 35mm film plates. As they drive through the cityscape, they leave in their wake a hand illustrated black and yellow wake that grows dynamically over the quickly moving terrain – transforming the ‘real world’ into the ‘yellow world’.

On set and shooting in Panasonic HD

The spot was an ambitious and complex one, driven on a tight timeline of 7 weeks from go to on air. The live action, directed by Tim Kentley, was shot on location on Fitzroy and Acland st, St. Kilda, literally down the road from XYZ Studios and a total of 16 Shots required intensive visual effects. ” Each shot was designed with the framing of the miniature 3D Vesper scooters in mind. This meant shooting at very low angles which was achieved by using stedicam, rigged to a ‘go-cart’ dolly. For two shots, due to the size physical size of even the smallest 35mm cameras, we could not get low enough on the ground. This was resolved by re-shooting them on a Panasonic HVX200 HD, hand held while been towed on a mountain board” explains Kentley . “With a good grade and motion stabilising in post – they intercut seamlessly with the 35mm,” he adds.

There remained a fair amount of clean up and roto, here a third actor was removed including reflections.

For the 35mm cine footage all the rushes from the shoot were telecined at HD direct to disk. From the offline, final shots were motion tracked in 3D so the ‘scooterSquad’ could be animated seamlessly into the scene in 3D. The 3D team reconstructed the scene to cast shadows, reflections and create the yellow wakes that grow over the landscape. The final mastering was done 720P HD in case a cinema version was required.

The camera tumble shot done by Patrick Felgueras - a very complex but cool shot.

Detailed measurements and comprehensive environmental photos were collected on location, to use in post when reconstructing sets and creating accurate lighting and reflections in the CG objects. The project was composited in Shake, to hear a detailed discussion of the visual effects breakdown listen to this weeks podcast as Tylney Taylor and Tahl Niran discuss their role in the gutter – and the fun they had helping to animate and composite the shot.

The spot was an ambitious and complex one, driven by a ridiculous 7 week timeline from go to on air. “In this time we had to develop the creative, previz in 3D, find locations, cast, shoot and post the spot. Which worked out as 3 weeks pre-production, 2 day shoot and 4 weeks in post,” says Kentley. “We ramped up an amazing team of 16 people working through the nights to get the 16 vfx shots mastered and out the door!”

06Nov/xyz/gpyr_yellow_3dstreet The background was rebuilt with comps, cards and 3D geometry to allow the yellow to go over it – and also make the ground higher, or closer to the lens. One shot in at the climax of the spot, where the camera tumbles over the scooter, was impossible to get in camera and employs photoreal cg to create a seamless camera tumble into the live action plate. Finally render passes used advanced techniques like final gather and ambient occlusion were composited together in Shake with the hand drawn 2D illustrations to stitch it all together. “With a myriad of high end visual effects being employed for almost every shot of the ad, the technical work load was immense” says Kentley, ”but the result, a unique blend of film, photo real 3D animation and stylised 2D animation to launch the new brand for Yellow”

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