Computer Graphics World

March 2011

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n n n n Broadcast Coke: Siege Fire and ice don’t mix well. And that was cer- tainly the case in the all-CG Coke “Siege” commercial, as two cultures—one fire, one ice—clash on an epic scale. Set in a breathtaking, icy fantasy world, the 60-second cinematic story focuses on a battle between an army of fearsome fire warriors descending toward a peaceful community of ice-dwelling creatures. Accompanying the warriors is a huge fire-breathing dragon, which leaves a burning path of destruction in its ments and the characters,” he says. “Specifically, the visual brief was to create an animation that looked more like classic fantasy art than CG. Tat’s not a look you get for free in CG.” Creating a Fantasy Nexus, led by directors Fx & Mat, provided the initial concept art, which was then built out by Framestore. Some have compared the commercial’s visuals to those from the new World of Warcraft trailer, others to the style of the movie Kung Fu Panda. Yet, unlike those projects, this one has a softer style to the computer graphics, achieved through matte paintings (crafted by London-based Painting at Framestore’s in-house studio with a Vicon system, and crowd simulation created from Framestore’s own particle-based system. “It wasn’t a complex avoidance system, but it did the job in terms of cleverly managing the data and making sure there was enough variation in the crowds,” Harrison-Murray explains. “It was created by a guy in our commercials divi- sion, and I am sure we will build on it and use it again in the future.” For this project, the crowd system handled a group of 1000 war- riors in one scene and approximately 11,000 in another. Te most difficult character to create was the younger hero of the ice dwellers. “He wake and little doubt as to the likely outcome for the defenseless villagers—protected only by a tall, wooden wall surrounding their tranquil village. Suddenly, the city gates open and the villagers wheel out a sculpted ice dragon. With one blazing breath from the fire dragon, the ice sculpture melts to reveal a bottle of Coca-Cola, which is quickly consumed by the creature. Te warrior general gestures for the dragon to attack the castle battlements, but instead of emitting a giant fireball, the dragon expels an explosion of harmless fireworks into the air. Confused and without their greatest weapon, the army beats a hasty retreat, leaving the villagers to celebrate their victory with bottles of Coke. Te commercial, produced by Nexus, con- tained an impressive expanse of CGI, from furry creatures, fleshy beings, and vast crowds, to the metal armor, fire, smoke, fireworks, an- cient buildings and objects, towering snowy landscapes, rich forests, moody skies, and more. Tis expansive digital universe was built at Framestore. According to Diarmid Harrison-Murray, Framestore VFX supervisor, the studio’s brief was far from simple: Create a painterly-style epic film, set within a fantasy world. “Te directors were keen that it be filled with lots of detail and richness in terms of the environ- 22 March 2011 Framestore created the 60-second, all-CG commercial “Siege,” which contains a full range of digital imagery, from detailed structures and mountainous terrain, to digital characters, creatures, and crowds, to smoke, fire, and fireworks. Practice), textures, and techniques used in the final composites whereby the artists painted out some of the crisp CG detail to achieve the spot’s fantasy-like aesthetic. To create the different elements, the art- ists used a wide range of tools, including: Autodesk’s Maya for modeling, with sculpting and some texturing done in both Autodesk’s Mudbox and Pixologic’s ZBrush; Maya for previs; Adobe’s Photoshop for matte paint- ings; Side Effects’ Houdini for the main effects work (pyrotechnics, including fire, smoke, and fireworks) and far background environments (terrain and forest generation), along with Maya for the closer hero-character environ- ments; Houdini’s Mantra and Maya’s Men- tal Ray (from Mental Images) for rendering; Framestore’s proprietary software for the fur creation and grooming; Te Foundry’s Nuke for compositing; and Apple’s Final Cut for ed- iting. Animation was completed using mostly keyframes in Maya, while facial animation was achieved using a blendshape approach with the expressions sculpted in Maya. Te animators augmented the character animation with motion capture performed required the most iterations,” says Harrison- Murray. “He was tricky; he had a cat-like look but couldn’t look too primate-like, and he had to have the appearance of a good, honest, hard-working guy.” Moreover, the character is covered in fur—about a half million hairs. Another challenge was creating the fire. As Harrison-Murray explains, the directors wanted it to have the same dynamics and movement of real fire, albeit with a painterly aesthetic. Initially, the group produced the fire using a volumetric fluid renderer, but had to pull back on the rendering realism until the imagery blended well with the painterly world. “It’s hard to play with that many variables [in the sim] to get it to look the way we did in the renderer,” he notes. Te far background environments are most- ly matte paintings. Sometimes they started as geometry and later were projected back onto the geometry in Nuke. Te forest foregrounds, meanwhile, are CG, as are the burning trees. Te city walls were built with geometry, with an overlay of matte at the end. Not surprising, all the different elements within the scenes added up to quite a few lay-

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