In a new spot for California Lottery’s Red Hot 7s Scratchers, directed by Superfad for agency David&Goliath, having 16 chances to win on every ticket eliminates the need for cruel talismans. To this end, Superfad brought to life an animated world featuring a game-style foreboding Rabbit Foot Factory; inside this stylized environment were numerous realistic-looking rabbits (some live, some CG) hopping to their freedom.
The brief was wide open to interpretation at the pitch stage, and the crew explored several ways of executing the project. Superfad aspired to create an immersive experience, to create an environment that matched the eccentricity of the script. It wanted the factory to have the vibe of an old family business that has been passed down through generations—the latest owners putting the money in their pockets rather than back into updating the factory. Hence the old computer systems and outdated trucks in the scene. The factory is functioning, but barely.
Accordingly, Superfad decided to build the entire scene as geometry in 3D, projecting textures and applying matte paintings to the geometry, as the studio decided this would give the team the greatest degree of control to create an entire cohesive environment.
From the pitch process, the crew had already found the elements that it wanted to use to build the exterior of the factory, and the look and feel soon followed. Ideally, a person would need several weeks of art direction and many rounds of mood boards to get to the finished look, but because Superfad only had six weeks, the group had to hit the ground running and went straight into production. The crew was still designing the shots when the photographer went out to shoot the reference elements, so the group had to over-shoot to make sure it had enough elements to fall back on.
Once the process was under way and the shots were blocked out, the next issue to address was the rabbits. Superfad had scheduled a one-day shoot in a greenscreen studio to capture all the live action needed of the rabbits. Everyone was skeptical as to how much action they would get out of the rabbits, which was only heightened when the owner told the team that by putting a bunch of rabbits together in a studio the first two hours would be taken up with the bunnies mating. So from day one, Superfad was looking into R&D on the fur for the rabbits.
In the last shot, the group needed to have anywhere between 40 and 100 rabbits running from the Rabbit Foot Factory, and although the trainers were telling them not to worry, they were not sure what kind of performance, if any, they would get from the rabbits on the day.
Fortunately, Superfad was pleasantly surprised at what they managed to get out of the real bunnies on the day of the shoot. They used a RED camera and shot at 48 fps and 96 fps to get a sense of the motion of the rabbits. Says Superfad: "At normal speed they look like they scuttle, but once you slow those guys down you begin to realize what incredible little bodies they have and how languidly they actually do move. So, ultimately, we used our CGI bunnies in areas where we needed enhanced rabbit performance.”
To accomplish this work, the group used Autodesk’s Maya for the modeling and texturing, as well as for the smoke and steam effects. For the CG rabbit fur, the artists used Joe Alter’s Shave and a Hair Cut, a plug-in for Maya. Rendering was done with Infusion. In addition, they used Adobe After Effects for the 2D compositing, while final color correction was done in Flame. Adobe Photoshop was used for the spot’s matte paintings.
Superfad had an average of 12 artists working on this project at one time. The project was so popular, Hickey says, that other artists at Superfad offered their help as well.
The most difficult part of the project, technically, was the render time involved, given the project’s turnaround. The team had to sift through tons of reference pictures, from which elements were used or inspired the look of the unique models for the boiler, crane, factory, neon sign, cobblestone, and fountain.
The spot can be viewed at http://superfad.com/work/project/ca_lottery_rabbit_foot_factory.