In this quicktake with special making of breakdown videos, we take a look at some of the latest visual effects work in TVCs with alt.vfx, Method Studios and Mirada.
Woolworths – alt.vfx
This Australian Woolworths spot promotes collectible animal cards available at the supermarket, and features a CG cheetah created by alt.vfx under visual effects supervisor Colin Renshaw.
The spot was filmed on location with various stand-ins for the cheetah. “One of things that has always bugged me about previous commercials is that the cheetah never seems like it’s actually running fast enough,” notes Renshaw. “So we had a what you call a 4-wheel driving along as fast as we could possibly go and we had it pulling a marker sled. It means the camera has something to follow with all these crash zooms and tracking shots. Then we obviously had to remove all that and then put our cheetah in, and track it through, which was a bit of a fine track. The guys did an amazing job getting the tracks.”
One of the first things alt.vfx did was upgrade its grooming and fur pipeline – moving to a Houdini and Mantra process for this effects work after animating in Maya. “We had to write in cool displacement tools to kind of get the level of detail, the modeling detail that we had in the model was off the hook compared to what we’ve done before,” says Renshaw. “One thing that we really loved about Houdini and Mantra is just much greater, real-time feedback in the groom. You didn’t have to groom proxy hairs and then set it off to render for 3 hours, you can actually get a lot more interactive feedback.”
– Above: watch an altvfx breakdown of the spot.
For cheetah reference, alt.vfx looked to a single source of animal footage about a cheetah named ‘Sarah’, and then even named their model the same name. Renshaw, again: “Whenever we came back to it, we’d go, ‘It needs to look like Sarah.’ That’s where we started from. Then obviously through the animation process, in the latter part of the art of course, we were kind of starting to make it friendly, more playful, and more cat-like, I guess, or kitten-like when it interacts with the boy.”
Game of War: Fire Age – Method Studios
Method VFX Supervisor Benjamin Walsh noted in a press release, “One of the biggest challenges for the Method team was the schedule for completing such a large amount of VFX – a nail biting 11 days from final edit to delivery. We made the most of the two weeks prior to the shoot by building the hydra model and starting RnD on the FX and massive elements so we could hit the ground running once the edit was locked.”
“Our team did a phenomenal job in the time frame we had to work with” added Walsh. “The finessing of the spot with elements like falling embers elevated the spot and provided the attention to detail Method is renowned for.”
Lexus – Mirada Studios
“Each story had to work on two levels,” explained Creative Director Jonathan Wu. “You had these incredible worlds of ‘tall tale’ magical realism in the first half. Then, in the second, you move to a more grounded reality with the beautiful cars in the driveways, and the warmth of the family interactions around it. And we wanted each half to elevate the other.”
The CG imagery included the storybook landscape, train, car, car pieces and the teleporter. CG Supervisor Michael Shelton describes the process: “We knew we had to end on a beautiful Lexus ES. The challenge was working backward from that; our design and animation used real CAD data, but the steps to get us there needed to feel like a well-crafted watch. We wanted each component to be faithful to the real vehicle as it clicked into place – only falling back on the ‘magic’ in how quick things happen.”