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Digipost pulled out all the stops on a recent TVC project, delivering one very cool looking spot for the new Cascade Premium beer campaign, ‘The Natural Order’.
A small team of VFX artists and compositors worked for 18 weeks to bring the new look Urban Tiger to life in 3D, along with a bevy of shady characters that includes a stupid Chimp, a greedy Pig, a slimy Snake, a 'Mad Dog' Rottweiler and a waitress that is pure Fox! Oh yeah, and a whip cracking dominatrix Poodle called Fifi whose sauciness mostly ended up on the cutting room floor. The live action was directed by Jesse Warn of Film Construction and it took a team of 4-6 artists 18 weeks, from character design, supervising the shoot, high res print stills and then working through 52 shots in a 60 second commercial.
It was decided there would be seven 'hero' heads to be tackled with 3D. Cunningham explains: “We had to come up with a way to track the actors’ heads in some fairly fast-paced and dimly lit scenes. We hand-built battery powered tracking helmets covered in little lights for the actors to wear and we also had them wearing furry balaclavas to give us lighting reference for the fur and a blend point for the necks.” The three nights of shooting on location in the seedy underbelly of Auckland was supervised by Cunningham, who worked alongside Academy Award winning DoP John Seal and prosthetic specialists Glasshammer creating the background animal heads.
After the shoot the 3D team continued production of the hero animals and once the edit was locked off they began tracking the plates. A new tool to Digipost's pipeline is the camera and object tracking software Syntheyes. Cunningham recounts: “we tested several options and Syntheyes was by far the most powerful, reliable and fastest tracker for what we needed. We could show the software what it was tracking and that gave us rock solid tracks even though in every shot the camera was moving and zooming”.
The other big technical hurdle they faced was a whole mountain of fur. Maya remained the main solution for the team but they needed to add Renderman to realise the fur. Cunningham: “Renderman made the fur not only doable but also look great. It wasn't too hard to light and the deep shadow system looks fantastic”. The skin was rendered with Mental Ray to make use of the available skin shaders and then the passes were later combined into the beauty pass.