Ever thought that the goings-on in the House of Commons sometimes resembles that of a noisy zoo? You're not alone. News UK's agency, Pulse Creative, approached Framestore Pictures' BAFTA-winning director William Bartlett to create a TV ad for The Times and The Sunday Times that plays on this very idea.
Drawing on his extensive experience in VFX supervision and technical know-how when it comes to pre-production problem solving (as well as Framestore’s impressive portfolio of CG animals) Bartlett was perfectly placed to work closely with Pulse Creative's Executive Creative Director Robin Garton to develop the treatment for and direct the 40 second film that sees the House of Commons populated not by politicians but by a host of wild animals.
‘To have the opportunity to direct a piece for such an iconic brand as The Times is a huge honour.’ says Bartlett. ‘Working collaboratively with Pulse Creative to craft and develop their idea and overcome a host of VFX challenges made this just about my dream job. At the forefront of my mind during the creative process were the questions of “What animals can we shoot?” and “what CG animals could we bring into play?”’, he continues.
‘We built a previz to shape the script and during that process we experimented with new ideas such as having rats scurrying off, sheep filing into rank and hyenas laughing on the back benches. It was a fluid way of developing the script while also crafting an edit that is fun to watch and that culminates in the arrival of the lion and white unicorn from The Times and The Sunday Times’ iconic masthead.’
To better understand the inner workings of the Commons Chamber, Bartlett went on a tour of the Houses of Parliament in the early stages of pre-production. With the commercial’s edit meticulously mapped out and previsualised, Bartlett tasked Framestore to build the wood-panelled Commons Chamber, complete with speaker’s chair, in 3D using photographic reference material from a number of sources. Building the Commons Chamber entirely in 3D allowed for complete freedom of camera moves and easy reframing of background plates.
Framestore’s Design team animated The Times and The Sunday Times’ masthead with its illustrated lion and unicorn – a crucial graphic device at the end of the film that reinforces the creative idea that The Times and The Sunday Times gets to the heart of Parliamentary debate, bringing order to what can often seem like chaos.
Robin Garton, Executive Creative Director, Pulse Creative says: ‘In WWII, Will would have been in Bletchley Park cracking the enigma code – he has that rare combination of a creative and a mathematical mind. So on top of his unrivalled technical ability is a conceptual intuition that was invaluable in making this film. Along with that, he is dedicated, collaborative, calm, confident, passionate but not pushy – and a load of other qualities that make him a pleasure to work with. I am properly happy with the end result on this but, I guess, a little sad that we’ve come to the end of it.’
CATEGORY: Commercials - VFX
Agency: Pulse Creative
Production Company: Framestore Pictures
Director: William Bartlett
Producer: Polly DuPlessis
Art Director: Nick Ellis
DoP: Thom Hole
Executive Producer: Helen Hughes
Senior VFX Producer: Josh King
Head of 2D: Suzanne Jandu
Lead Comp: Christian Baker
Lead CG: David Watson
Lead Modeller & Head of Modelling: Adam Smith
Modelling & Texturing: Mariam Ferrer, Michael John, Omar Jason, Alice Roseberry-Haynes, Alex Doyle, Florence Green
Creature Animation: Jed Fisher, Emma Ewing
DMP: Lee Matthews
Lighting: Adam Chabane, Caspian Graca, Da Silva, Taekyu Yang
Paint & Roto: Grzegorz Zolnowski, Thomas Greenhalgh
Comp: Simon Stoney, Reece McFarlane, Esme Coleman, Andy Hunwick, Richard Baillie, Robert Evans
Artwork Animation: David Lockhead
Tracking: David Cattermole
CATEGORY: Commercials - VFX
Agency - Engine
Executive Creative Directors - Leon Jaume, Aaron Goldring
Senior Creatives - Tom Evan, Olly Courtney
Agency Producer - Stefanie Forbes
Assistant Producer - Victoria Doran
Production Company - MJZ
Director - Matthijs Van Heijningen
Executive Producer - Helen Kenny
Producer - Donald Taylor
Director of Photography - Ruben Impens
VFX and Colour - Framestore
VFX Supervisor - Jules Janaud
Creative Director - Jordi Bares Dominguez
On Set Supervisor - Jason Farrow
CG Supervisor - Amanda Johnstone-Batt
Senior Producer - Christopher Gray
VFX Line Producer - Alexia Paterson
VFX Coordinator - Emma Hughes, Dawn Pearson
FX Lead - Tim Woods
CG Artists -
Henrique Campanha, Aaron Hunwick, Adam Ting, Alice Roseberry-Haynes, Andrew Butler, David Cattermole, Dylan Brinsbury Magee, Erik Weaver-Pronk, Joel Savage, Leo Schreiber, Mariam Ferrer, Michael John, Marnie Pitts, Marcus Duprat
Matte Painting - Gerard Dunleavy
Animators - Alex Jeremy, Emma Ewing, Jed Fisher
2D Lead - Leonardo Costa
Javad Matoorian-Pour, Matthew Thomas, Sherrine Byfield, Tri Do, Thomas Greenhalgh, Grzegorz Zolnowski
Designers - Adele Hodges, Samantha Havard, Steven Kelly, Yukari Schrickel
Flame - Tim Osborne
VFX Editor - Richard Gao
Senior Colourist - Simon Bourne
Framestore is delighted to present '#ReindeerReady', a magical VFX-laden Christmas ad for McDonald’s. The 90 sec film – written by Leo Burnett and directed by James Rouse through Outsider – follows Santa on Christmas Eve delivering presents and enjoying glasses of milk and mince pies-a-plenty en route. There is, however, a lack of carrots left out for Santa's reindeer, making for an increasingly forlorn principal reindeer and an increasingly apologetic Santa. Realising that something must be done, Santa makes a pit-stop at a McDonald’s and grabs a sack full of carrots (packaged as 'reindeer treats' for inclusion in Happy Meals) for his hard-working team of flying reindeer, finally turning the reindeer’s frown upside down.
Ben Cronin (VFX Supervisor) and CG Supervisors Ahmed Gharraph and Grant Walker had worked previously with James Rouse on 'Mog's Christmas Calamity' (Britain's most loved Christmas advert of 2015), and like that film, this also required the design and animation of a CG animal character that would look realistic and be able to emotionally engage an audience – a rare and specialist skill Framestore has become synonymous with.
The tight production schedule included a 7-day shoot and a huge amount of work by Framestore creating and animating the reindeer entirely in CG, and also comping in the backgrounds of the live action which was shot mostly on green screen with minimal sets. But Framestore’s work on the project began in the great outdoors among a herd of reindeer...
'Early on in the production, we spent a day with real reindeer gathering reference photography,' explains Gharraph (CG Supervisor). 'We spent the day filming and photographing (and occasionally stroking and feeding) reindeer. As well as textural and fur reference images, we needed footage of them eating and also running – so we ended up having to chase them around a little bit as they stretched their legs in their huge open paddocks, in order to get what we needed.'
Framestore's next task was to find the right balance between photo-realism and caricature – the creative concept required the main reindeer to look increasingly sad but then delighted when Santa finally comes up with some carrots.
Even though our reindeer doesn’t talk, it was important to give it intelligence,' says Ross Burgess (Head of Animation). 'As much as we wanted to create a photorealistic animal, we equally wanted the audience to feel compassion for the reindeer and we were able to achieve this by applying a certain amount of anthropomorphic expression and subtle head tilts to give it a relatable hint of humanity.'
Once the approach for the reindeer's face and the level of expression was approved, building all six of them in CG required no small amount of research into muscle development and also understanding how a reindeer’s fat layer sits on top of musculature so that the reindeer could be as biologically realistically as possible – with wobbles in all the right places. And some vital research into precisely the correct level of fuzz that a reindeer's antlers should sport. The treatment of the reindeer's fur was also created as biologically on-point as possible using the latest CG techniques.
'Traditionally when you're shading something in CG, you paint up a texture map and then paint brown where you want it to be brown and grey where you want it to be grey etc,' says Gharraph. 'However, in this instance, through research and a better understanding of how hairs are shaded and fur reacts naturally, we achieved a much more realistic fur.'
Walker continues: 'Fur and hair get their colour from melanin and this is actually an attribute available to us in CG – so we decided to drive our reindeer fur completely through this. So, rather than assign the fur a colour, we gave it a melanin value. And we created nine different shaders giving us nine different colours and within each of those sets the melanin is varied and driven by scaler maps. This means that if we created a grey reindeer – it would have all kinds of variation but we were also using four or five different types of fur (different lengths and widths of hair) which means that you get fur type variation on top of just the colour variation. Having this level of variation available to us meant we were able to create six very individual reindeer – rather than simply create one and replicate it.'
While the bulk of Framestore's work was in the creation and animation of the CG reindeer, some of the shots feature a digi-double of Santa – created by scanning the actor in full costume but without his beard. 'We wanted to be able to make his beard blow gently in the wind, so we created a dynamic CG beard for our digi-double,' says Cronin. 'He appears in five or six shots!'
CATEGORY: Commercials - VFX
Creative Agency: Leo Burnett
CCO: Chaka Sobhani
Creative Director: Pete Heyes
Creative: Andrew Long / James Millers
Agency Producer: Graeme Light
Film Production: Outsider
Director: James Rouse
Producer: Benji Howell
Cinematographer: Stephen Keith-Roach
Editor:Art Jones @ Work
Sound Designer: Anthony Moore @ Factory
Music Supervision: Sean Craigie-Atherton
Composer: Guy Farley @ Siren
VFX & Animation: Framestore
VFX Supervisor: Ben Cronin
CG Supervisor: Ahmed Gharraph, Grant Walker
2D Supervisor: Suzanne Jandu
Head of Animation: Ross Burgess
Animation Lead: Gez Wright
Lighting Lead: Mathias Cadyck
Asset Leads: Joel Best, Gabriela Salmeron, Andrew Butler
Colourist: Steffan Perry
Senior Producer: Josh King
Line Producer: Lucy Grist
Production Coordinator: Emma Hughes
CATEGORY: Commercials - VFX
Agency; BBDO Paris
Stephane Santana, Benjamin Dessagne
Creative: Clément Dantzer, Quentin Kientz
Agency Producer: Julien Sanson, Cecile Caussat
Production Company: Wanda France
Edit House: Jamie Foord at rock paper Scissors
Director: Dan DiFelice
DOP: Steven Annis
Executive Producer: Perrine Schwartz
Producer: Yannick Lebot
Post Producer: Vanessa Koscianski
Senior Producer: Christopher Gray
Line Producer: Alexia Paterson
Coordinator: Dawn Pearson
VFX Supervisor: Leonardo Costa, Tim Jenkinson
Lead Animator: Alex Jeremy
Lead FX: Hernan Llano, Martin Aufinger
Asset Lead: Joel Best
CG Artists: Teo Barrault, Kleisi Begaj, Ahmed Gharraph, Joseph Henson, Chrystia Siolkowsky, Andrea Biferi, Tom Martin-Davies, Luke Starkie, Antoine Pion, David Cattermole, Jed Fisher, Steve Townrow, Prajakta Nandlaskar
Rigging: Ewa Zych, Andrew Butler, James Thompson
2D Artists: Matthew Thomas, Christian Baker, Tri Do, Kane Herd, Reece McFarlane, George Roper, Thomas Greenhalgh
Matte Painting: Dave Early, Lee Matthews, Ingo Putze
Sound Design: Redpipe
Music composer: Luke Atencio