New York City - Visual effects studio Guava (www.guavanyc.com) has completed “Wandering Eyes,” a comedy-driven spot promoting French’s Spicy Brown Mustard for Reckitt Benckiser via Euro RSCG, New York.
The spot fuses live-action footage and cutting-edge animation to create a funny scenario. The ad started airing in late March, and represents Guava’s talents in the area of character animation.
“Wandering Eyes” shows an incommunicative couple -- a container of mustard and a sub sandwich -- sitting under an umbrella at the beach. The mustard is clearly unhappy, which his mate ignores. She takes notice of a nearby hunk -- a bottle of French’s Spicy Brown striding down the beach with surfboard in tow. The sandwich is so hot for French's, she has to fan herself with an issue of "Garnish" magazine to cool off. As Spicy Brown continues his slow-motion trot along the beach, a voiceover states, "Spice things up with French's Spicy Brown." The final shot shows the tide receding to reveal a heart drawn in the sand with the voiceover "Food Loves French's," bringing the spot to a close.
Steve Talkowski, who directed “Wandering Eyes” for Guava, was immediately drawn to the commercial’s premise, and had a few new ideas to flesh out the CG characters’ personas. “I did a slew of drawings, exploring various takes on the relationship hierarchy between the sexy sub sandwich and her diminutive beach partner. After viewing the animatic, there were definitely some things I knew I could bring to the table to enhance an already funny concept.”
Talkowski took extra steps to give each character a unique personality. To give the female character -- the sub sandwich -- a more dominant personality, she was raised and put up on a beach chair. It was important to have her doing something so that when she spots the French's bottle, her reactions are conveyed clearly. Having her read a magazine killed two birds with one stone, since the magazine also serves as a fanning device two shots later. Her mate was relegated to the blanket on the sand with his pot belly accentuated to make him less attractive than French’s Spicy Brown character.
“Wandering Eyes” opens with a panning shot that shows a real actor walking in the foreground past the couple. This was a key touch because the live-action foreground element between the camera and the CG characters sells the idea that they are actually integrated within the live-action environment. Talkowski points out that the slow-motion shot of the hunky Spicy Brown surfer was inspired by the iconic image of Bo Derek running along the beach in the 1979 romantic comedy, 10.
“Because the client was especially concerned with this shot feeling as natural and realistic as possible," says Talkowski, "I shot footage of myself running along the water line carrying a surfboard. I then used this reference as a motion template for laying out and animating the surfer shots.”
At Guava’s studio, the elements were assembled seamlessly by rendering out various passes -- one beauty, one occlusion, and one shadow layer for each character -- that were fed to one of the studio's five Discreet Flame suites. The effect of harsh sunlight illuminating the sandy beach set made CG integration easier, given that only one light source had to be computed. To achieve the affect of sunlight bouncing off surfaces, Maya's Final Gather rendering technique was also employed.
Shot at Hullover Beach in Miami, particular care was taken with Florida’s beautiful skies. "During the shoot, we were very fortunate to have these incredibly clear, blue skies," Talkowski says. "However, we did find ourselves having to deal with the occasional thicket of white clouds emanating from nowhere throughout the day. These became more evident during our color transfer, as opposing shots went from clear blue, to blue with white clouds on the horizon. To avoid the jarring back-and-forth, we had our guys back at the shop go in and balance out the sky plates. I was extremely pleased with the final results, which provided for consistency in our sky plates throughout the spot."