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January 2012

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vfx Spots for Visual effects in commercials can range from subtle to invisible to in-your-face and over-the-top. The VFX pros we spoke to this month specialize in spot work, and while their work varies from client to client, they all agree that troubleshooting is a big part of the job when trying to meet clients' expectations as well as looming deadlines. STAR LIGHT, STAR BRIGHT Visual effects artist Jesse Newman ( has been working as a freelancer for the past six years, collaborating with studios that include Charlex, Framestore, Suspect and The Mill. His recent work on a commercial that launches rocker Avril Lavigne's first perfume called on him to spend six weeks at Suspect — partly troubleshooting how they could achieve the look they were going for. The Black Star commercial features the singer walking amidst a star field and plucking the fra- grance's glowing, star-shaped bottle from the nebulae. The space environment, with its twinkling stars and gaseous clouds gently surround her. After spraying on the fragrance she turns to the camera and tosses the bottle at the viewer. "Personally, one of the things I really like about a job when I am given a board, is that it is defined as far as the end look, but it's not really established how it's going to be created," says Newman. "For that one Avril was going to be living in a nebulous world — stars and that sort of thing." About a month prior to starting work on the spot, Newman had come across Red Giant's Trapcode's Form and started playing with it. "Usually, what I do when I encounter a new plug-in like that is kind of dive into it and mess around with it for a day or two to really push it," he explains. "That set seemed to be user friendly, with the different controls that you weren't getting lost in. You still had some control over it and it was not a completely random experience. I pretty quickly set up a star field environment, and then worked with the client on different versions." The background for space setting is imagery that Newman downloaded from the Website. "It's a great resource of free high-rez imagery," he says of the site. He then painted out stars in photos and added his own, based on a flickering light that he picked up from the live action shoot of the singer. "I like to use as much live action as possible, and even though I was using Trapcode Form, I isolated one of the live-action elements of the lights flickering and used that as the basis for a star particle. The particle and stars she is walking through are all based on one of the out-of-focus light elements from another shot." He then created a 3D scene in After Effects and added camera moves to help tie the different elements together. Initially, Newman says he did tests to determine the best way for the singer to interact with the galactic elements. He tried having her walk through some of it, and even tried hav- ing the spot's soundtrack affect the way the stars responded. "Ultimately," he notes, "I decided to pull back on both of those explorations." 26 Post • January 2012

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