NEW YORK — The Mill recently provided production and post services for a new, fully-CG spot promoting the United State Marine Corps. Conceived by agency J. Walter Thompson Atlanta, the Anthem commercial is an ode to the Marines, speaking to the nobility of their fighting spirt. The spot depicts iconic Marine Corps battles that come together to form a large Marine sculpture.
“We were looking for a collaborative partner for this production, not just a vendor,” explains Tom Wilson, creative director for the Marine Corps account at J. Walter Thompson Atlanta. “The Mill was ‘all in’ with us. The level of effort and dedication to even the smallest details brought our initial vision and script to life in a way we never thought possible.”
Directed by The Mill’s executive creative director Ben Smith, Anthem has a cinematic style, employing traditional camera movements, focus, lighting and texture within the CGI environment. “Battles Won” is the Marine Corps’ new strategic platform, which is designed to communicate who they are and what they do.
“From beginning to end, this project was all about authenticity,” says Smith. “We wanted the final results to feel as real as the epic moments in history we were depicting. We spent a lot of time researching genuine, specific moments from history that personified Marine Corps values of honor, courage, and commitment. We strived to faithfully recreate the craft and material finishes of bronze sculpture work, and used lighting and cinematography to underpin the sense of realism.”
The CG team approached the workflow a little differently on this spot, fusing the models together during the final stages of sculpting and adding in fine detail to add to the cast bronze aesthetic. This altered the asset count per scene, meaning the team had to retain flexibility with how each model was piped into lighting.
Each model was decimated from Z-Brush and loaded into the lighting scenes using The Mill’s procedural system in Maya. In addition, a procedural approach was taken when shading and texturing the models, due to the sheer quantity of sculpting. Depth-of-field for each shot was rendered in camera due to the cinematic camera movement through the bronze tableau, which prevented layers from being split and focus tweaked in the compositing stage.
The Mill’s Ryan McKenna and Alex Trierweiler edited the spot, which runs approximately :70. The studio’s VFX team was lead by EP Chris Kiser. Fergus McCall served as colorists on the project.