Marcelo Souza from Seagulls Fly in Brazil takes us for a drive round the block in their Volkswagen.
he Brazilian VFX Studio 'Seagulls Fly' brought concept ideas for this Volkswagen Ad from a mixed bag of sources. First,
AlmapBBDO, VW’s Ad agency, came up with the script for
the film. References to 'Robots' and ‘Charlie's Chocolate Factory’ were already there, but they needed Seagull to improve on that idea. “Then,” explains animator Marcelo Souza, “we had our first pre-production meeting with the director of the film, Luis Carone, from O2 Films production company.” Luis Carone brought some references from the animated film ‘Robots’ by Blue Sky Studios. That was one of the first references in terms of look, shading, mood, (without the rusty parts of course). The main breakthrough was made with the Big Weld Factory in mind.
The Seagulls Fly crew went into their first meeting on the project determined to create something with its own flavor and comedic license. Present were Paulinho Visgueiro (Lead of Concept Design Area), Fernando Reule (Partner and Head of Production), FlavioMac (Partner and Lead Shader of the VW), Marcello Souza, and Luis Carone (O2 Films` Director). Many references were discussed until the idea came up to use the VW logo itself as the factory frame. So we built up our first guides to the movie, the mood etc. Although it had to be a factory, it would be cleaner, futuristic and appear to be environment friendly. Hence, lush green forests surround the building, and the factory itself is a glass structure using the sunlight as much as possible for natural light.
“We also used many direct references from the real Volkswagen Buildings,” explains Marcelo. “The real buildings have an impressive structure and very modern look. There are some glass towers full of cars up to the top! That was really inspiring.” The main character was born from one personal character developed long ago by FlavioMac, called Bug, This character has always been like a mascot for Seagulls Fly, and especially for Flavio. “Everybody loves its design and it stays fresh as time goes by. The character is basically a big head over a single wheel, and it's very simple and expressive,” says FlavioMac. “The director loved Bug’s look and we decided to use this form-factor as reference to build a ‘brother’ for it. From that point on, our guys from the concept design created the Beetle Robot.”
It was essential that the Seagull crew were able to follow the entire pre-production process. They worked closely with O2 Films on the live film shooting, and this helped a lot on the post-production stage. “We were there putting tracking points where needed,” explains Marcelo, “working on all these technical aspects with the Director and solving shooting problems as they appeared. It was great to work with a Director that besides being incredibly talented also has a technical background. Luis Carone and O2 Films really understood how this part of the work could affect the final quality of the film.”
The production deadline was incredibly tight, so there wasn’t much time to create, build, animate and render the whole show. “We had to match many cameras and track every single shot, because the camera is always moving. That was a bit challenging because the perfect track needed to be done before any render,” says Marcelo. Seagulls Fly did a lot of rotoscoping work as well, because some scenes weren’t equipped with the green screen backdrop to help them out. The company had to buy 13 eight-core machines for rendering purposes. The external renders used FGathering.
Seagulls Fly's Studio is a unique place. The Brazilian outfit has a great team of high-level artists and many of them are friends inside and outside the studio. “There's a bunch of specialists on everything,” says Marcello. “Most of them are generalists but with stronger points on specific areas. But the studio doesn't have a tight rule on this. If you like to animate and do it well, that’s great. But if you are a modeler, there's no problem taking some time to help on the animation. Every single person here was chosen because of his potential to be a great flexible artist.”
There are four different production areas at Seagulls Fly working in very complementary ways. These are the Print Area (Photo Manipulation, Digital illustration), the Animation Area (3D and 2D), the Web Design Area and Concept Design Area. So there is always a lot going on even when there is not a specific animation job in production. This is a very strategic and powerful structure because it allows Seagulls Fly to deliver websites using top notch 3D elements and animation, mixed with great concept design or do digital photo manipulation using 3D elements or just matte paintings from the concept art team, and so on.
Marcelo Souza joined the team last year and was one of the first ones to work in the new Seagulls Fly studio located in São Paulo, a city considered by many to be the financial and advertising heart of the country. “We are currently hiring new guys for all of the company’s areas in São Paulo and in Rio de Janeiro, where the company’s headquarters are,” says Marcelo. “We are definitely planning to increase our animation portfolio this year and to celebrate Seagulls Fly’s tenth anniversary with a blast!”