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January 2016

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isual effects rule many of today's commercials. Whether wow-factor dynamic VFX, magical transformations or photo-real elements easily mistaken for the real thing, they play a lead role in spots of all kinds. Ads for the latest re- lease of a top video game, online tobacco products' sweepstakes, an iconic motel chain, and immunization against a hidden danger all use VFX to market their mes- sages. Here, studio pros weigh in. MPC — ACTIVISION'S CALL OF DUTY Fans of Activision's Call of Duty video game like to imagine themselves in the thick of the action. In the commer- cial trailer, Seize Glory for the new Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 from 72andSunny, a player named Kevin gets to do wall runs, thrust jumps and power slides through enemies and zombies. The trailer is narrated by Michael B. Jordan and features Seattle Seahawks' running back Marshawn Lynch and actor/model Cara Delevingne as a player who proves to be Kevin's match. MPC ( created VFX for the dynamic new com- mercial trailer partnering with director Wayne McClammy with whom they have worked several times this year. MPC crafted VFX for last year's Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Discover Your Power trailer, which netted AICP, D&AD and Clio awards. "Last year's spot had a camera on the shoulder of the first-person shoot- er and a celebrity guiding him through the game," says Andrew Bell, managing director of MPC LA. "This year, the trailer was more cinematic, with a celebrity narrator." Six different locations were depicted, from desert to snow; there was practical smoke, fire, explosions and rockets on wires. In-game assets served as templates for MPC to create digital characters, vehicles and weap- onry and for Legacy Effects to craft suits for humanoid characters shot in-camera. Thousands of photographs shot on-location served as the basis for extensive photogrammetry. "We were working in parallel with Activision. They were finishing the game while we were producing the spot," notes Zach Tucker, MPC LA's VFX supervisor. Previs for the six locations was done with in-game assets, to scale and with lenses so calculations would be accurate for the shoot at the old Hawthorne Mall and could be leveraged for MPC's interactive lighting. "We used the top floor parking garage for Cairo, a storage area for the zombies and the central courtyard for the biodome," says Tucker. "There were some large outdoor bluescreen shoots, too. By the time we got the footage and plates from editorial, we could drop our renders in, and we were 95 percent of the way there." Bell and Tucker were both "blown away" by the dedication of the actor playing everyman Kevin. "He did all his own stunts and was super-impressive," says Tucker. The extent of practical ef- fects in the live-action shoot was "really satisfying," he reports. "It was great for us because it gave us a lot to work with in compositing, although smoke and debris are some of the hardest elements to composite behind." Set extensions, aerial battles and a stunt with Kevin were composited with Jordan's clean live-ac- tion plates. MPC used Autodesk Maya and Pixologic's ZBrush for modeling and animation, Side Effects' Houdini for VFX, V-Ray for rendering, The Foundry's Nuke and Autodesk Flame for compositing, Baselight for color correction and Flame for the conform. While the software and hardware package was "fairly standard," says Tucker, "how we moved data in the pipe- line was unique to MPC." Bell notes that, "We had several offices working on the job around the clock, including London and Bangalore (India). We used F Track, which allows everyone to plug into the same pipeline and share notes and as- sets." Additional proprietary tools, such as shaders, were also deployed. MPC was also responsible for creating 175 versions of the trailer with different languages and end tags. FUSEFX — SKOAL AND MARLBORO Although prohibited from broadcast and cable advertising in the US, tobacco products are still producing commer- cials for online viewing. Two recent campaigns, for Skoal smokeless tobac- co and Marlboro cigarettes from Leo Burnett/Chicago, are packed with dy- namic VFX by FuseFX New York (www. The New York branch of the popular LA VFX studio opened in August 2014. The Skoal campaign, which also fea- tured a print component, promoted the "Skoal 4-Wheeling Jeep Sweepstakes." It invited players to vote to build the ultimate 4x4, then enter the contest for a chance to win a real final version of the customized vehicle. "Every week players could go to the Skoal Website and vote for a different option, choosing between colors, wheels, suspensions and interiors for the ultimate 4x4," explains Greg Anderson, creative director and senior VFX supervisor at FuseFX NY. He also directed both the Skoal and Marlboro spots. "Whatever at- tributes received the most votes became part of the final Jeep package custom- ized by Starwood, who's well-known in the off-roading community." To account for all possible Jeep configurations, FuseFX created some 150 unique, digital components for the Jeep, which was shown traversing three different digital environments: high- way, mudding and desert terrains. "We created each color Jeep with every option — different wheels, suspensions and interiors," says Anderson. "Since there was no CAD data, each component had to be individually modeled from scratch using only photo references." The mudding environment was "by far the trickiest" to create, he notes, due to "the complex water and mud simulations be- tween the car and water." The landscape was entirely CG, featuring digital trees, V Andrew Bell FuseFX created three digital environments and 150 digital components for Skoal's recent Jeep Sweepstakes campaign. BY CHRISTINE BUNISH

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