Football (soccer) insanity is personified in a new 3D collaboration between Santo (Buenos Aires, London, Milan) and Bent Image Lab (Portland Oregon).
Helmed by mixed-media maestro Carlos Lascano, “Spirit of the Euro” is an outrageous romp through stylized CGI landscapes of Eastern Europe with an eccentric cast of chameleonic characters. The Coke-drinking, silly dancing, trumpet blowing, costume-wearing, song-chanting, stranger-hugging football fans are a unique combination of CG animation and real actors’ eyes—a first for Coca-Cola and a ground-breaking technique for cinema 3D stereo.
“I can’t say enough about working with Santo and Coca-Cola,” says Bent Executive Producer/Partner Ray Di Carlo, “They always have really great creative and are willing to experiment to push the limits of animation.”
Lascano, Bent and Santo were the perfect team to approach this outrageously crazy creative spot, which encompassed great storytelling, emotional charged content and technical innovation. Marrying live-action human eyes with 3D animation is a complex process but, as Director Lascano says, "it's worth the effort because it brings life to the eyes and a deeper human connection to the animated characters."
This stylistic approach was achieved through a culmination of techniques that Lascano and Bent Image Lab have developed independently and collaboratively.
The main character in “Spirit of the Euro” is a crazed football fan dressed in red and white Coca-Cola colors who flies a giant football shoe that runs on bottles of Coca-Cola and spews out a refreshing exhaust of carbonated bubbles in the shape of soccer balls. The soccer ball bubbles shower the city, transforming its many residents into fun-loving, crazy fans.
“These characters needed to capture viewers’ attention and the spirit of the game,” says Lascano, “but as the driving force behind the transformations, the main character also needed to possess both an irreverent attitude and an irresistible charm.”
When asked about his inspiration for this Coke commercial, Lascano explains, “every time my country plays football, an irrational passion emerges and my emotions range from sheer happiness to utter suffering. In every World Cup, I watch the game in bars and feel for a moment that all the strangers there are my closest friends.”
In describing the human eyes and CG animation composite technique in more detail, Lascano says: “We filmed the eyes of two dozen people. The idea was to achieve emotions that would translate into eyes darting in different directions, which were later incorporated into the characters’ performance. I also had the fun job of getting to choose which take would be appropriate for which scene and emotion, and how to create an animated performance that would seamlessly incorporate the live-action eyes.”
Bent’s CG team, using Autodesk’s 3ds Max, supplied tracking markers to the compositing team for the character eyes. The pre-planning was extensive. Halfway through production (after blocking the animation), the live-action eyes were shot, selected and locked. Using the tracking data, Lascano applied the eyes of his choosing to each CG character using Adobe After Effects. Thereafter, the animators worked with the eyes to add subtle facial expressions in order to achieve the performance that Lascano was after. Then, using both After Effects and The Foundry’s Nuke, the compositors incorporated the eye comps and CG animation into the finished cinema 3D stereo production.
Although the technique of combining real eyes with animation is something that Lascano has been perfecting for quite some time, this Coca-Cola spot is the first time the marriage has been seen in cinema stereo 3D.
“The look is uncanny,” says Bent Producer Marissa Weisman “The real eyes instantly fill the characters with that spark of life.”
“Carlos is an amazing talent,” Ray Di Carlo adds, “his ability to bring out deep emotions from audiences is unparalleled. He understands the romantic, caring, dream-self in all of us, and his directing hones in on the most important elements, the core of the human experience. Carlos’s essential understanding of life and his ability to translate that to the screen is the reason his ‘A Short Love Story' has had over 10 million views on Vimeo. I love working with him.”
Referring to the simpatico he feels with the Bent Image Lab team, Lascano says, “I needed the production process to allow for creative experimentation, and I knew this approach would demand very long hours. Bent and I share the same work philosophy—do what it takes to put only the best work on the screen. It’s great to work alongside people who love what they do and are uncompromising in their dedication to creativity. It’s a rare collaboration that brings out the best of all involved.”
The commercials comprise a 30-second and 45-second spot for Poland, and a 30-second spot for Ukraine.