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October 2013

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the story unfolded. "Once you're in the situation, the creative juices take over and you film what's right for the moment, but the previs is the template for what you can achieve," Boyd explains. One of the actors, clad in a leotard and tracking markers, performed the swimming scene — wiggling his goggles-wearing head to loosen up at poolside, diving into the pool and, in a POV shot, gliding underwater to the other side. "Even before we did it, we said this is going to be awesome!" Boyd recalls. MPC animators keyed back the water from the dive and composited it over the top of the fully CG hamster, adding more CG bubbles for greater interaction. They studied reference footage of polar bears to see how their fur reacts with the water and the animals' momentum. They used Side Effects' Houdini for the hamsters' fur throughout, tapping their own VFX wizardry to create "the ripple of movement," says Boyd, and "writing quite a few tools for the bubbles and procedurals for the underwater fur." Another challenge was creating the transformed hamsters' super-cool new hairstyles. "It was really hard to style the hair; I spent a lot of time studying how real hairdressers would sculpt a haircut and copied the techniques, layering in the fur and using 3D shaders like gel," Boyd explains. "Our sole goal was to make them look handsome and golden. I showed my wife the results near completion, and she said, 'They're really good looking; can I have their numbers?' So I knew we were getting somewhere." Jeffrey's ability to get the actors to nail their performances "made life easier" for the animators, who translated their expressions to hamster faces. "Generally, what the actors were doing served as a very good guide for us," says Boyd. "We just added more weight to the heads on the beach run and in the gym, and some cheeky flicks of the ears." The new Kia Soul was shot in-camera. An enhanced nighttime city was composited in the background for a running footage sequence. MPC animators used Autodesk Maya for animation and rigging, Houdini for fur and rendering, Autodesk Flame for compositing and Autodesk Smoke for removing camera rigs and background replacements. MPC colorist Mark Gethin manned FilmLight's Baselight for color grading "making everything look filmic and beautiful with richness and depth of color," says Boyd. The :90 spot is targeted for digital distribution; the :60 airs on broadcast and cable, and in cinemas. Boyd says the spot "was a really fun job to work on — you can tell when you watch it. Everyone on the team had an absolute blast." At MPC, Jake Montgomery was compositing supervisor and Stew Burris animation lead. Angus Wall edited at Rock Paper Scissors; the music track is Lady Gaga's "Applause." MPC is spreading its VFX expertise to new turf with the opening of a studio in Amsterdam, providing highend VFX, motion graphics and color grading for the Dutch market. The new boutique-style facility is housed in Spaces, a multimedia complex in the city, and is tied to all MPC studios globally through an integrated production network that allows artists and technologists to collaborate on shared projects. Yurbuds Earphones Portland, Oregon's Bent Image Lab ( helped a runner seamlessly traverse a variety of terrains while wearing Yurbuds earphones in a new live-action spot from Martz Agency/Scottsdale, AZ. Directed by Harvest Films' Mark and Matt Hoffman, the commercial follows a runner from a country road through a wheat field, up snowy mountains, across a vast desert and past idyllic waterfalls while wearing his Yurbuds earphones. It concludes with a 3D end tag in which the ribbon of road transforms into a curved earbuds cord. "What was interesting for me in this spot was that we had every kind of visual effect: matte shots, greenscreen, practical effects and a live-action transition to CG," says Bent Image Lab VFX director, Paul Harrod. "Our VFX had to live up to the beauty and majesty of the live-action plates." Indeed, some of the landscapes were real, untouched locations: the waterfalls, the wheat field — "the farmer delayed his harvest a couple of weeks so they could shoot there," he says — and a magnificent mountain vista. "The most VFX-looking shot in the spot is 100 percent real: an absolutely crystal clear day with a view of Mt. Hood that seems unreal," Harrod chuckles. "Our VFX role would have been quite a bit more expansive had they shot a week later since there was a big fire in the area." The snow scene was set up specifically for VFX, however. "The runner was in a heavy blizzard in a high alpine location and at the time of year they were shooting — July — it was impossible to get that practically," he explains. "They shot practical snow on greenscreen with a hand-held camera and combined that with a forested landscape from an old photo of mine at Mt. Hood. The practical effects team did an amazing job: As it appears the runner is climbing to a higher elevation and the snow is accumulating, you can feel the wet and cold. We augmented a couple of shots of the storm with more CG snow." Bent also created large sand dunes behind the runner, who was traversing smaller-scale dunes at the Oregon coast. "It needed it to look like the Sahara," says Harrod. "We added lens flare and got rid of all the Vapor Trail: This Nike Football spot features visual effects created by The Mission. ATV wheel marks that crisscrossed the landscape." The Bent team worked from a set of storyboards and did a tech scout but didn't previs the different terrains. "With a tight location shoot you end up working with what you're given," Harrod notes. "Like the dunes: We initially thought it would be one location where we'd extend the existing dunes a bit and get rid of some mountains in the background, but we ended up with an even better shot looking out toward the ocean. Our job is to be quick enough on our feet so we can provide the elements required for the shot." For the transition to the Yurbuds end tag and logo, Bent had to take the live-action plate of the country road and match its perspective with the CG model of the earbuds cord. "We tried a few different things because the shoot was using a Russian Arm to get beautiful boom shots. But none worked with the transition, so we used a locked-off shot," he explains. "We created an effect where the texture of the CG cord crawls up the length of the road and it appears the road is curving. Then we animated the CG model. It's never simple to match move the CG to the live camera; the shot they were using had a strong impact with the camera close to the ground." Bent used Autodesk's 3DS Max for animation and modeling, and Nuke for match moving and compositing. Jesse Jones was the animator and Evan Thomas Phillips the compositor. Bent's Brent Heise edited the spot, with Kye Krauter serving as editorial supervisor. Ram Trucks The new spot for Ram Commercial trucks, with VFX by Dallas/Santa Monica-based digital studio Reel FX (, takes viewers on a picturesque and precarious ride, as the latest vehicle from Ram's commercial fleet hauls a hefty load of construction equipment up a cliff-side road to a construction site with an incredible view. Directed by The Chartrands of Lucky21/Dallas for The Richards Group/Dallas, Blow is an example of virtually undetectable VFX, says Reel FX creative direc- Post • October 2013 21

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