LOS ANGELES — MPC LA (http://www.moving-picture.com) created a photoreal pigeon that stars in JetBlue’s latest commercial, which shows the parallels a bird in a crowded city shares with today’s airline passengers. Recurring Dream shows the bird stretching out, spreading his wings, and smoothly gliding above a crowded city, enjoying the freedom, benefits and dignity everyone deserves.
The spot was conceived by agency Mullen Lowe and directed by Smuggler’s Brian Beletic. MPC worked closely with the production to craft the happy flier and integrate him seamlessly with the surrounding visuals.
“Brian [Beletic] wanted it to be clear our pigeon is at peace and having fun in flight,” explains Zach Tucker, MPC LA VFX supervisor. “Since pigeons in the real world are twitchy and nervous, that meant we had to take a different approach for the animation. Making him feel sentient and more comfortable in his environment led us to reference flight behaviors more like an eagle and other large, confident birds. Pigeons are actually quite beautiful when their wings are fully spread, we just don’t get to see it often because they flap so much in flight. By making him more graceful, his behavior felt deliberate and free.”
MPC also retouched the footage, adds 2D lead artist Blake Huber. “The plates were shot in Canada, so we needed to remove signage and other distracting objects from the footage. The biggest challenge with compositing the hero pigeon was fitting him into each environment properly. The lighting of the spot is varied at different moments as we are moving around so much. We go from profile to overhead to street level very quickly. We had to keep a close eye on how the bird looked in not only each shot, but how those shots played against each other. Mark Gethin’s grade of the spot determined how the bird would look and feel in the environment, but sometimes from shot to shot, the bird would pop differently so we would have to make adjustments to compensate for how a series of shots would feel next to one another.”
MPC was also tasked with instilling some human behavior viewers could empathize with. The pigeon’s flight path takes him past a birdseed fountain, where he can take in an abundance of food. This required extensive R&D to ensure the birdseed did not look like sand. The groom on the pigeon was done in Houdini, so its feathers and movement look life-like.
“The 3D team did such an amazing job lighting the bird and were able to give us the pieces we needed to really sit him into the scene without too much difficulty,” Huber notes. “The neck iridescence was an area that required quite a bit of R&D on both the 3D and 2D side to really give the feeling that the surface would appear to change color as the viewing angle shifted.”
Maury Loeb at PS260 cut the spot, which features original music by Barking Owl. Eleven Sound handled audio post.