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Speedshape Brings Holiday Tradition to Life with Visual Effects for Annual Hess Toy Campaign(December 22, 2009)
Digital production studio Speedshape recently helmed VFX for the annual Hess Holiday Toy commercial campaign, unveiling the brand-new Hess toy. A tradition embraced by children and collectors alike, the series dates back to 1964 when company founder Leon Hess aspired to offer families an affordable, quality holiday toy. This year, Hess places something different under the tree — two toys, in fact: The 2009 Hess Race Car and Racer.
Continuing the holiday commercial tradition, Hess ushers in its unique, new fleet, with a splendid two-spot campaign that brings the racecar duo to larger-than-life scale via dazzling VFX by Speedshape. From the broad stokes of the wintry environment development, to the subtleties of Christmas décor and the dynamic animation of the racecars, Speedshape created CG animations, matte paintings and 3D renderings, delivering a total of 23 full CG shots, 17 CG live action integration shots, as well as all compositing and finishing.
“Mountain Race” places the Hess Race Car and Racer in head-to-head action set in a twilight winter wonderland. Traversing amid CG snow-capped mountains and icy tunnels, the racecars finish the race in a jubilant town square filled with children gleefully awaiting their arrival. Next, the spot cuts to a live-action environment where kids attired in Hess pit crew jumpsuits demo the toy’s intricate features: flashing lights, revving sounds, and the touch release compartment storing the smaller race car with a pull-back motor. The spot concludes with a brilliant combination of CG and live action miniatures: The toy racecars parked outside a Christmas adorned Hess Express station.
The second spot, “Pit Crew,” takes the season’s merriment ‘round a festive Hess-endorsed racetrack. As the racecars lap, a children’s pit crew carols a muscle car doo-wop before giving their life-size Hess Race Car a tune-up. The spot again cuts to a live-action environment to demo the toy, before concluding with the race’s finish: Santa waving the checkered flag.
To view “Mountain Race” & “Pit Crew,” please got to:
“We created the 3D renders of the racecars with a combination of HDRI environments for distant environmental reflection and lighting, and built full 3D environments for closer proximity reflections -- not forgetting the great key and fill lighting from the team,” comments VFX Supervisor Connor Meechan. “This combination coupled with our compositing pipeline made it possible to bring to life our client’s vision and then exceed it.”
Live elements were shot outside Toronto, with Speedshape working closely on-set with Sparks Productions to ensure every aspect of the live action shoot would work within its creative pipeline. Speedshape captured HDRI environments and images for digital props and reflections, and shot footage of various groups of talent for crowd simulation sequences. Additionally, Meechan and CG Supervisor John Ikera traveled to Leavenworth, WA for a shoot that would be used to re-create the Christmas village via image modeling the entire town.
“We did a lot of front-end preparation and planning before we arrived on location, allowing the integration of CG with the live action to go quite well,” remarks Meechan. “Plus, working with Dale Fay [Sparks] was very helpful, he has a lot of experience directing visual effects pieces.”
Speedshape overcame significant challenges with set extension and zone and clone crowd compositing on particular shots. The biggest challenge, according to Meechan, was creating the myriad of environments unique to each shot: “There were assets that we repurposed from shot to shot,” says Meechan. “However, each shot was unique enough to keep environment development interesting for us. Given all the challenges and our parameters, I am extremely proud of what our team achieved.”
In post, Speedshape utilized projected matte painting techniques coupled with dynamic vehicle animation, lighting, and texturing, all topped off with snow FX generated in Houdini to bring the vision to life.
Speedshape’s pipeline utilized an array of software, including 3DS max and Maya (3D), V-ray (rendering), Houdini for FX, Nuke for compositing, Scratch (final color and DI), and Final Cut for titling and conform. All these platforms, talent and activities were put to use in Speedshape’s state-of-the-art facility in Venice, CA.
“The Hess Toy Truck tradition is one of those rare ‘Rockwellian’ gems that has survived modern day hoopla, recalling a simpler time in terms of the holiday season," adds Speedshape’s Managing Director in Los Angeles, Steven Spieczny. “The Hess commercial tradition elicited inspiration for the entire Speedshape team to thrive on and we look forward to being a part of the 2011 campaign,” concludes Spieczny.
Client: Hess Gas
Spot Title(s): “Mountain Race” (:30) & “Pit Crew” (:30)
Airdate: November 2009
Where Shot: Toronto, ON, Canada
Agency: GREY NY
Exec VP-Acct Mgmt: RICK CUSATO
Producer: DAVID CARDINALI
Creative Director: BOB SULLIVAN
Art Director: PATTI KENDALL
Production Company: SPARKS
Executive Producer: ANDREW CROSBIE
Producer: BARBARA ZUMER
Director: DALE FAY
1ST AD: KENT PARKER
DP: DEAN CUNDEY
CGI/Post Production: SPEEDSHAPE
VFX Producer: JAMISON HUBER
Associate Producer: CARL SEIBERT
VFX Supervisor: CONNOR MEECHAN
VFX Supervisor: NORDIN RAHHALI
Concept Artist: MICHELLE MOEN
Matte Painter: ROCCO GIOFFRE
2D Compositing: SIMPLE TRICKS AND NONSENSE
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Related Keywords:Speedshape, Hess Holiday Toy, Leon Hess, The 2009 Hess Race Car and Racer, “Mountain Race”, “Pit Crew”
Source:Digital Media Online. All Rights Reserved