As the largest in-town shopping and leisure destination in Europe, Westfield London is aiming to create a real stir with shoppers of all stripes. Having opened in W12 on October 30th 2008, the complex keeps late evening hours for shopping and even later hours for dining. So a spectacular launch spot was planned, featuring a host of people sprouting wings of an evening and launching themselves, moth-like, towards the seductive glowing light in the west. New Light was created by Adam & Eve London, and the team wanted to bring the very best talent together to realise their vision. Director Daniel Barber (for Knucklehead) was brought on board, and Framestore were asked to provide the digital VFX magic, as well as a Telecine.
VFX Supervisor for the spot was Pedro Sabrosa. “We started with a three day location and night shoot in London for back plates, using a Genesis digital camera,” says Sabrosa, “Daniel captured some fantastic material, including stunning night shots of London taken from a helicopter. Then we had a week to pre-viz the spot, to get a sense of how the people/moths would fit in to the plates. We then used the approved pre-viz shots as a guide during a further two day blue screen shoot, with the actors on wires.”
The shoots were attended by the spot’s 3D Supervisor Diarmid Harrison-Murray, TD Paul Denhard and the company’s Director of Visual Effects, Tim Webber.
The most challenging shots for the Framestore team were those where real actors had to be wed with their CG wings, working with whatever had been captured on the blue screen shoot. For longer shots they could use pure CG, which offered them a much greater degree of freedom and flexibility.
“The clients had a very specific look they wanted,” Sabrosa recalls, “So we spent some time nailing that – making sure that the movement evoked moths rather than birds, for example, getting the clothes to move believably, and so forth.”
Swarms and flocks of creatures are regular requests for the 3D team, who have animated everything from bees to beer labels, butterflies to gift wrapping. But, as Harrison-Murray points out, each spot brings new wrinkles to this familiar trope.
“The difficulties for us in New Light arose out of the need to harmonise essentially different elements,” explains Harrison-Murray, “On the one hand, the creatures had to be convincingly realistic as humans – the weight and consequent flight characteristics; on the other hand, they needed to convey the flutter and lightness of moths. And on top of that, they needed to look beautiful in order to satisfy the aesthetic of the spot. It wasn’t always an easy balance to strike.” Similar considerations applied to the close-up work. “The ratio that needed to be fine-tuned was that between speed of wing beats and distance travelled,” Harrison-Murray concludes.
The 3D team animated and rendered the wings in Maya, with Houdini’s strengths in particle work making it invaluable for the wider flock shots. But, as Harrison-Murray is quick to point out, the spot was never intended to be a CG ‘showcase’ – it was vital that his team’s work blend seamlessly into the overall mood and feel of New Light. To further this end, Senior Colourist Dave Ludlam created a TK that aimed to help bed in the work, whilst maintaining the natural feel that Barber had created.
An extra wrinkle to Framestore’s work was added by the creation of tube station escalator content. Handled by the company’s Digital team, headed by Mike Woods, a set of animated 3D moth flocking images were rendered. These featured a group of 5 moths flitting around in a pattern. The Digital team then doubled and tripled these up, also swapping them around to create a variety of patterns for the DEPs (Digital Escalator Panels).
Says Woods, “The client wanted four different versions for the DEPs. Now, each set of DEPs runs over five screens, each screen runs its own 10″ linear piece of video, and each version needs to have an ‘Up’ version as well as a ‘Down’ version. So we had to create 40 different linear 10″ commercials to meet the brief.”
AGENCY: Adam & Eve London
CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Ben Priest
AGENCY PRODUCER: Leila Bartlam
PRODUCTION COMPANY: Knucklehead
DIRECTOR: Daniel Barber
PRODUCER: Matthew Brown