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No Animals Worked Hard During the Making of This Film
Fancy a little help around the home? Fond of animals? Then do we have a commercial for you! Cityside, the new spot for Dairy Crest's Country Life Spreadable butter - created by Grey Advertising, produced by Outsider Films and directed by Dom and Nic - features some truly amazing creature animation from Framestore CFC.
Framestore CFC's Commercials 3D team have been enjoying a highly fruitful and prolific relationship with top directorial team Dom and Nic of late. 2005 alone has already seen the internationally acclaimed Hector's Life spot for Renault Espace and the brilliantly dark promo for the Chemical Brothers' Believe single. Now the roll continues, with a spot that features a host of countryside critters rabbits, squirrels, hedgehogs and assorted birds all lending a hand to a beleaguered mum facing the post-breakfast clean-up.
We open with our heroine seeing the kids off to school and finding herself left with a very messy kitchen. She pauses to butter a slice of toast with Dairy Crest's Country Life Spreadable, and as she does so a benevolent invasion of country life forms comes pouring through her open window. In addition to the CG creatures, there are also real animals to be seen - a duck, ducklings and a walk-on part for a lamb. Busying themselves around her, the creatures take on a variety of tasks, each after their own fashion: a rabbit buffs an ornament with its tail, a pair of hedgehogs roll themselves through some spilled cereal, picking it up with their spines, and so on. As the last morsel of toast is consumed, the animals mission accomplished - leave the way they came in.
This intricately choreographed and richly animated spot was created in just 12 weeks by a 15-strong team of Framestore CFC artists, animators, and technicians. The two-day shoot at Black Island Studios in Acton was supervised by Mike McGee and Jake Mengers for Framestore CFC, and they ensured that all the necessary plates and elements were collected.
Says Mengers, who supervised the modelling, fur and lighting of the creatures, "We'd pre-vizzed the spot in the usual way, with rough grey-scale models, and had come up with a sort of wish-list of things that might go in. Dom and Nic were quite clear that they wanted a high level of interaction so the creatures needed to be aware of each other and react accordingly. This made our task trickier, with all the interacting shadows etc. What we discovered early on was that we had to avoid having too much going on at once. If you create an overly busy visual environment, it just looks a mess. So we refined the activities down to a point where the spot still reads well on a single viewing, but also really repays repeated scrutiny. It's the same balancing act that Pixar manage to do so well in their films."
Framestore CFC's Animation Supervisor for Cityside was Dale Newton, who is delighted with the finished work. "I love the feel of it it's a slice of life, but with a fantastical twist," he says, "Each of the creatures had to perform individual tasks with a certain character, but at the same time maintaining a natural feel as a wild animal - there was a fine line between performance animation and creature animation." Newton and his animators combined studying hours of footage with going out to parks and the city farm to get inside the animals heads. Birds in flight, Newton says, proved the trickiest to procure footage of. "A robin moves incredibly quickly we worked at a sub-frame level to ensure the final motion blurred renders felt life like."
The creatures were created entirely in Maya with no additional plug-ins needed, although, as Mengers puts it, "We pushed fur to its outer limits." One virtuoso element the 3D team created was a rim-light pass for the pan along the window, with a delicate translucency added to the squirrel tail edges and the creatures' ears which really helps sell the shots. Whilst three months is a long time for a commercial to spend in post, the team still found deadlines nipping their heels. This was in part because they tried to keep the final look of some of the creatures as open-ended as possible, as there was a range of input on which direction they might take.
It's worth noting again that superb creature work alone is only half of the story - spots as good as Cityside are a marriage of great 3D and 2D work. Even before Mengers and his team began to render their creatures, Inferno Artist Ben Cronin had begun painstakingly cleaning the plates in preparation for the work ahead. The compositor's role here is not simply to place the 3D animations convincingly in the shots, but also to subtly enhance the look and feel of the spot through the crafty application of Inferno's box of tricks. Cronin added 2D touches throughout the spot, including enhancement of the cityscape backdrop, props that move when touched by the animals, a lovingly crafted slice of toast, a slight adjustment to the mother's clothing, morphing bin bags and countless other grace notes. His favourite shot? "The hedgehogs, no question. They're so beautifully rendered, I was convinced they were real - and I comped it!"
Background plates were graded and the final Telecine created in Spirit by Steffan Perry, who kept the look of the domestic interior as natural as possible.
Cityside starts airing in the UK on 8th August, and if, when you see it, it reminds you of something you may have seen before, just give a little whistle?
Client Dairy Crest
Client Contact Richard Tolley, Foods Marketing Director
Agency Grey Advertising
Agency Producer Zoe Barlow
Creatives Adam Chiappie and Matt Saunby
Production Company Outsider Films
Directors Dom & Nic
Production Company Producer John Madsen
For Framestore CFC
Supervising Technical Director Jake Mengers
VFX Supervisor Mike McGee
Animation Supervisor Dale Newton
Inferno Artist Ben Cronin
Animators Nicklas Andersson, Michiel de Kraker, Don Mahmood, David Mellor, Quentin Miles, Dale Newton, Craig Penn, Dean Robinson
Technical Directors Laura Dias, Alex Doyle, Chris Syborn
Render Support Rob Richardson
Colourist Steffan Perry
Producer Rebecca Barbour
Related Keywords:Outsider Films , Framestore CFC