Super Spots
March 11, 2011

Super Spots

This year’s Super Bowl ads were a cut above those from previous years. Some of the more interesting commercials containing a good deal of digital work are highlighted in the March 2011 issue of CGW. They include the all-CG 60-second Coke “Siege,” featuring an epic fire/ice battle; live-action dogs with CG limb replacements that serve as wait staff at a house party in Budweiser’s “Dog Sitter;” a CG beaver that repays his gratitude to a driver in Bridgestone’s “Carma;” a 3D black beetle whose movements through a lush forest resemble those of a Volkswagen Beetle in “Black Beetle;” an escalating car heist that incorporates live action and CGI, including a water-simulated Poseidon, for Kia’s “Epic Ride;” and digitally altered video clips of stars from iconic TV episodes who are re-dressed in team gear for the NFL’s “Best Fans Ever.”
In addition to those, there were other spots that aired during the big game that were worth watching.

Chevrolet “Volt”

Chevrolet took the audience of the 45th Super Bowl on a trip through time with their spot for the Volt created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. Directed by Filip Engstrom, the script highlights epic moments of technological genius, from the initial harnessing of electricity by Benjamin Franklin to subsequent iconic American moments that rely on an evolving electrical current, such as the television, the Apollo moon launch, the electric guitar, the personal computer - and finally the Chevy Volt.

MPC LA collaborated with Filip and the Goodby team early on to establish an efficient workflow and an effective creative for the film, which was set on a fairly tight deadline.

While the scenes were shown historically, Goodby creatives Tyler Magnusson & Matt Rivitz wanted the story to be told through the eye of a single camera, which effectively time-traveled. Each set was dressed according to the relevant technology; however, the grade remained relatively constant, to appeal to a seamless flow of windows into these moments of ingenuity. From the first frame, the viewer had to feel a charged energy speeding through the ages to our present day.  The pace had to be fluid, vivid, recognizable and believable. Each invention required MPC to design the look of the electrical current to define each moment quickly and effectively.

There were three large scenes thath specifically required MPC involvement. The initial Benjamin Franklin sequence, the Apollo launch, and the Jimmy Hendrix/Woodstock crowd shot.

The thought originally was to create the kite in CG, but with a bit of puppeteering and practical effects, everyone felt the kite worked well in camera. Fortunately there were some great particle elements to work with. Further animation was added to the kite in  Autodesk’s Flame, the skies were replaced, a CG kite string was added, and a few other embellishments were done.

The electrical machine and laden jar itself was another great practical prop created by designer Jeremy Reed and his team. MPC had to create an interesting way of capturing the lightning itself. There seemed to be no official documentation to describe Benjamin Franklin's experiment, so the team had to make up their own visual interpretation. This was a combination of live action sparks, lightning, and finally the jar itself, which was lit in flame using 2D elements.

This led to the Edison light bulb. The director and creatives wanted to add a little something to the initial trigger of electricity so animated frames of energy pulsing around the globe were created. The element itself didn't provide much light on set so the wide shot was tracked in 2d3’s Boujou, created proxy geometry of the work bench and all the objects upon it. This was used to build MPC's own lighting/shadow passes in 3D to enhance the effect.

Re-creating the Saturn V launch sequence was a real challenge in such a compressed timeframe. After an initial pre-vis of the sequence to fit the edit, the MPC team worked up until the last minute to make the shot as dynamic as possible.

Part of the challenge was that a rocket is never seen from the angle the team was viewing it from, so a lot of reference imagery was pieced together to determine the look and feel of the takeoff moment.

Technically, the smoke and fire of the blast-off was the most challenging part.  Maya Fluids were used for the smoke, and some really nice tricks were developed to give the compositors a variety of passes to tweak the look in 2D to bring the whole shot together.

The Woodstock crowd shot was a challenge as the team had only 2 hours and 120 extras to shoot crowd plates. This meant no costume changes and roto all the way! The plate of Jimmy was a handheld shot whilst the crowd plates were locked off with a slightly wider lens. A combination of atmospheric elements and sunshine were used to add to the matte painting which contained hippy campervans, tenets and speaker towers.


Budweiser’s “Wild West”

With Super Bowl XLV broadcast into millions of homes last Sunday, brands geared up their most entertaining ads for the massive audience. One of the most memorable was Super Bowl mainstay Budweiser's Wild West, a highly entertaining spot starring Coen Brothers darling Peter Stourmare, set in the dusty frontier world of the popular American imagination.
But before agency Anomaly could pitch the spot to Budweiser - they engaged Launch, a leader in commercial test production, to create a CG animatic of their idea.

In Budweiser's Super Bowl spot, “Wild West,” fear grips a small town - ladies fling shutters closed; men flee down alleys - as a villainous cowboy arrives, loads his six-shooter, and steps into the swinging-door saloon. As the ladies of the house flee upstairs to safety and the nervous bartender struggles to compose himself, the varmint walks menacingly toward the bar, his boots clomping on the wooden floorboards. From beneath the veil of his hat, the intimidating man declares, as he fingers his six-shooter, "Give me a Bud." The bartender squeals in fear, "We just ran out."

Meanwhile, the spot cuts to film of a four-horse wagon charging across the prairie, loaded with cases of ice-cold Budweiser. The treasure arrives at the saloon just in time for the bartender to slide a beer toward the cowboy, who effortlessly flips the cap off and takes a swig. The delicious taste brings an immediate transformation in the formerly menacing man, who smiles, places his gun on the table, and launches into the lyrics of Elton John's Tiny Dancer. The shocked customers pause for a moment and then join him in his revelry. Soon, the piano man begins tapping out the notes and the whole place is swaying, arms locked, singing in unison from the floor and balconies alike.

"While we have many projects of this size and scale currently in production, this idea really stood out for us, with its unique combination of history and humor," noted LAUNCH Director Ryan Zorad, who took the lead on the project. "Whenever people think of the Wild West, there are a number of instant iconic things that they look for and recognize, and that includes shot selection - thus the wide shots of the running horses or the close-ups of the cowboy's spurred boots hitting the ground. Everyone was excited right from the start to see to what degree we could accomplish this look and feel. The level of detail that the agency provided set us up for success from the beginning. They had a solid starting idea and we just had to hammer out the visual execution."

As with all animatics, the final spot is expected to vary to some degree from the preproduction piece. "There is always some spontaneous creativity when you get a director really going to work, especially with a period piece like this, in which there are so many possible dimensions that could be incorporated," continued Zorad. "Nonetheless, our role is to lay the foundation for a great spot, setting the overall tone and look and laying out the basic storyline before the live-action director takes control."


Carmax “Kid in a Candy Store”

What do a geek, a mermaid, a wrestler, a hippy and an acrobat have in common..? In this spot for Amalgamated they feel like a "Kid in a Candy Store" as customers at Carmax.
Tom Kuntz led the charge in this humorous new campaign which will feature two spots in Super Bowl XLV, with Framestore creating digital matte paintings and providing augmentation of live action plates.

"It's been great working with Tom again on this campaign" says Framestore EP, James Razzall, "We worked together closely to layer in those additional details- adding crowds and flying saucers, replacing skies/backgrounds and bringing the mermaids tail to life".

The spot is anticipated to be a hit when it first airs on Feb 6th- which is an excellent start for the client's first venture into the limelight of the Super Bowl.

The Framestore team also turned back the clock a few decades for the Carmax spot “Gas Station.” In addition, the crew handled the epic spot Coke “Siege.”