Computer graphics and visual effects bring bees to life with an ideal blend of design, elegance, and craftsmanship.
When agency "goodness Mfg." (gMfg.) was preparing to launch a campaign for Toshiba's new ultra-premium KIRAbook ultrabook, it turned to Logan and its live-action arm, Logan & Sons, to create a memorable spot introducing the product.
Working with gMfg., Director Jens Gehlhaar led a team that handled all production, modeling, texturing, animating, and compositing on what ended up as fantastical tale crediting the KIRAbook's origins to a swarm of magical bees that assemble the prototype deep within a mystical forest, thanks to the use of visual effects.
While the bioluminescent bees are a CG creation, Logan filmed "Kira"on a stage with a real vibrant forest set built by Production Designer Robert Fox. The bees swarm over a stump day and night to construct their towering KIRAbook and impress their queen, all in a sequence captured via a time-lapse process done practically on set using a dozen crew members and a light gag designed by DP Florian Stadler and his gaffer.
The crew adhered militantly to an approved previsualization to integrate the CG elements and filmed back plates. However, the modeling, texturing, animating, and compositing still required an enormous effort.
"Being so close-up to a complex creature whose visible surfaces include leathery, metallic, furry, and glassy bits was quite a challenge," states Gehlhaar. "While the bee's fur was supposed to be silver, we quickly realized that, in an overwhelmingly green forest, the reflectivity would cause the bee to appear to be green. As soon as we'd shift the hues toward colder silvers, the bee would stop looking integrated - a conundrum caused by the fact that these creatures do not exist. But with enough tweaks, our crew nailed the look."
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Logan also paid special attention to the entire look of the bees. Working from agency descriptions of the bees as metallic creatures with blue bioluminescent accents, Logan tried several iterations before settling on the final bee design, studying the architecture of the wings and movement of the proboscis from archival nature films. In order to convey the emotional narrative of the spot, however, Logan had to take a few design liberties, giving the insects the ability to cock their heads and adding slightly larger eyes to give audiences the impression that they could tell which direction the bees were looking.
"We needed to tell a story of creativity, rejection, insistence, and triumph, and conveying that kind of emotion required us to anthropomorphize the bees a little bit," explains Gehlhaar. "The goal was never to 'go all Disney', but we employed a few subtle tricks that aren't scientifically accurate. While the language of film - the framing, the camera movement, the editing - can communicate a lot of plot even with seemingly emotionless insects, the little modifications we made really brought the bees to life."