Framestore Creates CG Dragon
April 23, 2013

Framestore Creates CG Dragon

Beautiful scenery, an army defending a castle perched on top of a mountain and a powerful voice announcing that “this summer a dragon is coming.” What you’re watching has to be the trailer for an epic fantasy movie with cutting-edge CG, hasn’t it? Well no, it’s a commercial for the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor chip, a Framestore production in collaboration with Ogilvy.

Framestore was approached by Ogilvy to direct the live action as well as the VFX on this ambitious project, which required the development of a completely new icon for the Snapdragon brand. Framestore directors Murray Butler and David Mellor developed the initial concepts with Ogilvy Chief Creative Directors James Dawson-Hollis and Bill Wright.

"Creating everything from concept to finish allowed the whole team to bring something to the table" says Framestore's Senior Producer Satoko Iinuma. "Collaborating creatively with Ogilvy was a unique and exciting process, helping us really push the boundaries."

Filming took place in Vancouver, which was chosen for its breathtaking scenery that provided the filmic backdrops. For the commercial to feel unmistakably like an epic dragon movie trailer, the production value needed to be as high as any Hollywood blockbuster. With the carefully balanced combination of set design, wardrobe, cast, lighting, direction and VFX, Snapdragon the movie came to life. The three-day shoot involving a plethora of gadgets such as helicams, underwater explosion rigs and spud guns, plenty of footage was shot on the Red Epic. Butler and Mellor with their vision and humor have created a memorable metaphor and icon for Qualcomm's product.

"To work with the actors and having an opportunity to push the intensity of performance was amazing" says Butler. "To collaborate with the team at Ogilvy on the script and the development of a brand icon was also great. I'm very proud of how it turned out - it's not everyday we get to play with castles, crossbows and shrinking dragons. I thought if I don't enjoy this one, I should go home now."

Developing the dragon meant creating a new icon for the Snapdragon brand. The character of Snapdragon needed to be badass yet not threatening. A creature that everyone wants in the palm of their hand. He's cheeky and cool with the ability to impress and intrigue. Creating the character required a VFX team exploring various textures, scales, color, patterning in addition to expressions both facial and physical. From initial concept to look development renderings, the team worked tirelessly to create the perfect form. The animation team worked on various iterations of how he would hold himself and move.

"Creating the Snapdragon character and sending him on his adventure was an epic experience. It's brilliant seeing it come together after months of hard work." says Mellor. "There were so many ideas during the process, some used, some shelved, that I wish we had more than 60 seconds to play with!"

In addition to the dragons, the VFX work included enhancing all the environments. Matte paintings were created to bring all the elements together in a dynamic way. Smoke trails, fire breathing dragons, water interaction and general atmospherics were all created in VFX. Compositing in Nuke allowed flexibility in the pipeline, maintaining a fluid collaboration between the team of artists.