MPC collaborated with M&C Saatchi and Independent to deliver a fully CG commercial for the makers of Ribena, bringing the famous Ribena berries to life (again). Working closely with director Peter Szewczyk, MPC was tasked with creating photorealistic characters and environments to promote the new Ribena Plus product range.
MPC’s brief was to take Ribena’s berry character to the next level of realism while retaining its personality and ability to perform. Taking this into account, MPC’s team of concept artists developed a mood board for the hero character and his ‘immunity support’ shield. Once the look was signed off, MPC’s CG team led by Christopher Antoniou was responsible for modeling, rigging and animating the berry as well as three other characters: a squirrel, a woodpecker and a fish. "We rendered in RenderMan and Mental Ray, we rendered all the elements that used 'Furtility' (MPC's in house fur system) - the squirrel etc - and the berries were all rendered in RenderMan. In Mental Ray we rendered the far background and the fish."
The reason that Mental Ray was used for the background was that the team used Maya's Paint Effects, "and that was just easier in Mental Ray," says Antoniou. Paint Effects within Autodesk's Maya is a powerful tool which allows you to quickly create entire worlds of plants, effects, and structors all with simple paint strokes. As such, in every shot with foliage, one can see subtle but realistic movement of the leaves and grass. Nothing is still, everything has life. "Paint Effects has its own dynamics and animation," notes Antoniou. "For distance items, for example, the branches we could just add them and then just say how much we wanted them to move, but the close-up leaves etc were hand animated. As a rule anything that went into RenderMan had to be hand animated."
Each of the characters presented a unique challenge. MPC’s proprietary Furtility software helped create the realistic fur and feathers needed for the squirrel and woodpecker. Antoniou, who has worked at multiple facilities in London at a senior level (Framestore, Cinesite etc), commented, "Personally, I think this is actually the best fur tool at the moment. It just gives more realistic fur, especially compared to things just out of the box (standard software packages)." Not all the hairs on the characters were procedurally handled. The whiskers for example on the squirrel, are hand animated. "We made them really quite transparent with a lot of spec," adds Antoniou, "and with some rigging so that when the character moved they had some offset and when they twitched they had secondary motion."
The whole spot was created first as an previs animatic. The director (who came from 3D as an ex-lighting TD) worked very closely with the team. Initially the TVC was meant to look like it was filmed by a keen berry. In the end this animatic version was dropped in favor of the animatic that was approved by the agency and client and used for final animation.
Example 'shot70' out of previs
The rig for the berries had to be incredibly flexible to accommodate the character performance whilst retaining a certain level of realism. The other difficulty is animating a character with such small arms. The berries come from 2D animation, as the campaign has progressed over the years. The MPC team had to 'cheat' a few shots to allow the berries to perform the moves, their arms for example need to be creative in length to remain iconic and yet swing from branches and carry a shield. The shaders were also updated to include sub-surface scattering and the faces were finely adjusted to have details such as freckles.
The water was done with RealFlow in quite a reasonable simulation, especially for a TVC. The fish model was down res'd to use as a collision item for the simulation. The water shot ended up being one of the more complex shots in the three month production cycle.
Michael Gregory led the 2D team responsible for integrating the CG characters, environments and matte paintings. Gregory's team comped in Nuke. The approach was to pick a shot and do 'look dev'. "With a job like this you need to lock it down and work out how it is going to look, and the defocus etc," says Gregory, "and so it was at this stage that I sat down with the lighting team and worked out what we needed out of Maya, such as nice reflection passes for the berry, whisker passes, different specular highlight passes for the squirrel. So when you see light shimmering over the squirrel it is not just tones of red but there are shades of blue in there. We had a bunch of bespoke passes that we could combine. We organized a template and made sure everything looked the same. It took about ten days up front to get everything the way we wanted it. Key was to make sure the berry did not look dry, but having lots of different color variation in his fill light" he adds.
Look dev for the background
The final shots would be a multi-pass render solution fed into templates worked out by Gregory. The final 2D comp team was four artists: (Gregory plus Sam Miesels, Kim Ranzani and Andrew Roberts). Key to compositing was getting a base of references to establish the look. Collecting a library of wildlife images helped to establish a moodboard which the artists could refer to for the grade and depth of field.
An example of 'Sh70' being built up in layers.
On top of the CG, MPC added 2d water elements, atmospheric particles, lens flares and camera shake to sell the shots. To accommodate the shake the whole spot was rendered and produced slightly over size so that there would be no requirement to blow up the shot to allow for the shakes.
The final spot:
Director: Peter Szewczyk
Agency: M&C Saatchi Agency
Agency Producer: Ronae Rayson
Creatives: Orlando Warner and Morgane Alexandre
Production Company: Independent
Production Company Producer: Verity White
VFX Supervisors: Michael Gregory and Christopher Antoniou
VFX Producer: Scott Griffin
2D VFX Team: Michael Gregory, Sam Miesels, Kim Ranzani, Andrew Roberts
3D VFX Team: Felix Balbas, Nicolas Chombart, Tim Civil, Oliver Chaffe, Jama Djurabaev, Dominic Edwards, Fabian Frank, Raju Ganesh, Benn Garnish, Maurizio Giglioli, Henrik Karlsson, Prashant Nair, Inigo Roy, Nicolas Seck, Megha Thakar, Ting Yun Lu, Roberto Zincone
Telecine: George K
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