A huge challenge with 13 commercials done, fur, hair, cloths, body skin simulation, facial animation and what not, all done during a period of 6 months and a big team of 16 people for Orangina.
I can’t even start describing the amount of work and how complex was to plan the delivery of so much material in such a short time, from look development to animation, fx and all the rest it was quite a challenge and thanks to a superb team we managed to put it all together without killing ourselves in this 6 months marathon.
We started with a very long design stage in which drawings, zbrush models, different sources like cross referencing these animals with well known people, for example Rihana was the leopard, we managed to narrow down the design and concept so the director and us were all making these characters move forward and considering the amount of work the dedication of both the agency and director and production company was superb as we needed these routine moments to nail it.
The personality of each of them is actually narrow down by using real actors on the shoot so the director, agency and editor could all relate to a common idea which was later “copied” but us, so in terms of animation and editing very little changed from the day of edit was closed to the moment we deliver the job. I am a great believer of this technique so you can make sure there are no surprises later on by miscommunication or even worse, non-spoken-agreements.
Funny enough a number of techniques were used for the skin/hair, for example some were not actually hair but a texturing tricks while others were indeed using hair systems, and the way the job was structured was to deliver the “easy” first so we can ramp up the production in a natural way and by the time we enter onto the big ones we have all the elements sorted so we only needed to solve one more problem, like the dynamics for the hair of the afghan, or the skin deformation on the shoulders for the bear and puma.
Also interesting was the use of cloth simulation in Maya for which we have stablished a very advanced communication file format giving us the flexibility to easily pass data up and down, and of course our swiss army knife known as Houdini too.
For the case of the afghan not only the cloth had cloth simulation but also the breasts so they move naturally, which meant a two stage simulation that was later transfered back to XSI.
For shots like the puma one the contact with the boy was key so we have to rotoscope his movements and make sure it disturbed the hair too, animation of course could not be changed until we had a full iteration of cloth simulation, hair, contact simulation and render as many features of the facial expression could not be seen without the hair. An interesting visual effect is that we needed to be very extreme so those initially simple expressions were readable.
And of course the fluids were done for real, we just deleted the reference actor and kept the liquid which of course forced us to commit to the actual timing and positioning of the actor for his right hand. In cases like these you have some room to play but of course the constraints are sometimes so big that there is not much to do after the fact, therefore on these occasions on set I tend to ask the director to take many variations as he needs to have some extra room for manoeuvre once the character is there.
Interesting enough this combinations of life action and CG help a lot sell the reality factor, for example, the bottle is real but the hand is not, the character is not, but the background is so we kind of take a different approach of minimising the amount of CG as much as possible.
And one of my favourite ones as it is so subtle yet so difficult to get a character to think/breathe.
And the hind which was one of the first batch, not that it is easy but clearly is not as hard as others… here we found ourselves fighting with the lighting to make sure it felt natural as no matter what we did the closeness to the refrigerator was a major issue with her reflections.
Or the horse which prove very tricky against all odds due to the underwear and the hair colour giving this mid tone that felt too human or too cartoony so finding that middle ground took us a bit of time. Also the animation on some shots is so extreme we did have to change the topology of the neck to accommodate the distortions.
And of course one of the most difficult ones where the very extreme leg deformation did took us in very strange routes in terms of rigging and shape blending and texture distortion, thanks to XSI ICE we managed to put it together in a was that was very fast and almost automatic but I must say these extreme movements were a real pain.
All in all I think we all managed to put the level up on this new series of commercials and after five months of work I can now go back to other jobs that will spice up the rest of the year with new adventures.
Director: Tom Carty Agency: Fred & Farid Production: Gorgeous Task: VFX Supervisor / Animation Supervisor