• Pump up the Bass

    Framestore CFC Gets in the Swim with Audi

    London at night: late, but not so late that the city sleeps. The streets bustle with nocturnal activity. Pedestrians stroll the pavements, crossing roads at the appointed places, the traffic pausing to accommodate them. The traffic itself is the familiar urban mix of cyclists, buses, taxis, giant fish and, conspicuously, the Audi FSI.

    This surreal scenario is the setting for 'Fish', the latest commercial
    for Audi's FSI. The 40 second spot neatly communicates the fuel economy offered by the FSI, and the spot concludes at a petrol station where various fish can be seen lining up to guzzle at the pumps, as the tag appears, 'The petrol engine without a drink problem'. Produced by Helen Powlette for BBH, 'Fish' was directed by Frank Budgen for Gorgeous.

    'Fish' was shot at night at various London locations, with a slightly
    grainy look creating a verité feel. We might be looking at establishing shots for a 'London By Night' type of documentary, save for the car-sized fish patrolling the roads. The fish are glimpsed distantly at first - out of focus, swimming out of frame - but this swiftly changes. More fish are seen together and in close-up, and the car substitution motif becomes clear.

    The fish themselves are entirely CG, and the commercial is the result of 6 weeks intensive research, modelling, animation, compositing and grading by a dedicated team of Framestore CFC artists.

    The plates - the shots from which real cars would be removed and to which digital fish would be added - were filmed by Frank Budgen over several days at the beginning of January 2003. Inferno Artist William Bartlett supervised the shoot for Framestore CFC.

    Unusually for such a 3D oriented job, the pre-vis work for the spot was done in Inferno. This was partly to take the pressure off an already busy 3D team, and partly for the speed with which Bartlett and fellow Inferno Artist Murray Butler could use the Inferno's 3D tools to do a quick camera track and add fish, helping the team to get a clearer line on Frank Budgen's vision as soon as possible.

    "People here started work before the shoot, as soon as we got the job,"

    recalls Framestore CFC Producer Helen MacKenzie,

    "We had a list of 18 fish that the creative team wanted to include, though this was whittled down to 12 in the final version. Our team started the modelling work on these from home over the Christmas period."

    The fish were mostly ordinary freshwater varieties - trout, pike, salmon and so forth. They represent the average petrol guzzling town car, so a certain stolid, unexciting quality was appropriate. The exceptions are a strikingly beautiful manta ray lazily wafting itself under a bridge, and a John Dory halted at a junction that is somehow reminiscent of a hatchback with a Mohawk. These more exotic fish can be seen to represent the sportier car models - striking to look at, but guzzlers nonetheless.


  • "The preparatory work we'd done in December meant that we hit the ground running in January,"

    says Markus Manninen, Head of 3D Commercials, who, along with Technical Director Jake Menges, Lead Animator Virgil Manning and Lead Modeller Howard Sly, headed the 3D team. "We developed a pipeline that enabled us to smoothly introduce upgraded versions of some of the elements - rigs, shaders - as they were refined." Working in Maya, the team used a single, scaleable rig as the basis for all the regular fish, facilitating the numerous shots requiring large numbers of fish.

    A large Inferno team - William Bartlett, Murray Butler, Ben Cronin and Avtar Bains - laboured intensively to composite the work to the highest possible standard. The fish had to be seen not simply as passing through the streets, oblivious to the surrounding roads and people, but to interact with them as cars do - slowing down, nipping into gaps. Numerous supplementary passes featuring extras, buses etc. were comped in to enrich the urban fandango. For the spot to work, they really had to convince.

    With a shoot that finished on 5th January (though the cut wasn't finalised until a week later), Framestore CFC delivered 'Fish' - all 20 shots and 40 seconds of it - on 14th February. It's the kind of routine miracle that the company has delivered again and again.

    That a director of Budgen's stature came to Framestore CFC delighted and flattered the commercials team and is a mark of the high esteem that the company's creature work currently enjoys. In commercials (as well as film and television work) the last few years have seen an enormous increase in the range and quality of Framestore CFC's digital menagerie; 'Fish' adds a dozen or so more beauties to the keep-net.

    Related Links:

    Framestore CFC

    Back to 3D Festival

    Bartle Bogle Hegarty
    Helen Powlette
    Production Company:
    Frank Budgen
    Post Production:
    Framestore CFC
    Inferno Artists:
    William Bartlett
    Murray Butler
    Ben Cronin
    Avtar Bains
    CGI Supervisor:
    Markus Manninen
    Animation Supervisor:
    Virgil Manning
    Sophie Lodge
    Gwilym Morris
    Andrew Daffy
    Brendan Body
    Craig Bardsley
    Rosie Ashworth
    Don Mahmood
    Set up:
    Chris Syborn
    Look Supervisor:
    Jake Mengers
    Lighting and Texturing:
    Simon Stoney
    Jamie Isles
    Howard Sly
    Telecine Colourist:
    Dave Ludlam
    Matte Painter:
    Stephanie Mills
    Post Producer:
    Helen MacKenzie


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