In the latest spot for Honda Motorcycles, a frustrated driver punches through the roof of his car in bumper-to-bumper traffic, sprouts wings and flies to open road heaven with help from incredible 3D and effects work by the Brickyard VFX CG team. This spot marks the latest in a series of collaborations between the artist-owned-and-operated bicoastal effects boutique and director Kinka Usher of House of Usher.
The spot opens on an overhead shot of cars driving through gridlocked traffic, horns honking through an underpass. An impatient driver punches a fist through the roof of his sedan, tears open a hole and climbs through to stand on top of his car. Almost immediately, his arms extend out into bright red hawk-like wings that propel him up and out through an opening in the overpass as the tagline ?‚àö√ë‚àö‚â§Free Yourself’s appears onscreen. The scene then transitions into a shot of the liberated driver speeding away on his Honda Motorcycle.
The Brickyard VFX CG team led by Robert Sethi and Yafei Wu got involved in the project early on to design the wing effect and provide onset VFX supervision; lead Flame Artist Patrick Poulatian also supervised the shoot. The team opted to create the wings entirely in CG since the director wanted them to look real, predatory and large enough to realistically propel a grown man into flight. Practical wing props were too small and fluffy, and since they’sre largely made of turkey feathers, they didn’st create a wingspan broad or wide enough. The team worked closely with the director on set and in casting to design a wingspan that would suit the performer; the resulting CG wingspan spread 16-feet across when composited onto the actor and fully extended. The color of the wings was chosen to denote the red wing of the Honda motorcycles logo.
‘On set we set up witness cameras at different points around the actor to capture him from all sides and ensure that our CG would match perfectly into the live action plates,’ explained Sethi. ‘We’sve worked with Kinka before and he gave us a lot of latitude during the shoot to ensure that we documented everything needed in order to seamlessly integrate the 3D animation and 2D live action. We even worked with Kinka to choreograph the actor on set, how he should bend and move his arms, and most importantly, the timing of his movements to maximize the impact of the effect in the final spot.’
Photography from Eadweard Muybridge ‘Animals in Motion’ book was inspirational in defining the wing extension. Hawk photography and stock footage was also utilized as reference for the movement of the performer. During the shoot, the team took extensive ‘grey ball’ photography on-set (still photos of a grey ball that provide lighting directional data to digitally reproduce accurate CG facsimiles of the live action light and shadows) which helped lend to the highly photo-real quality of the final render.
The wingspan rig was built in Autodesk Maya, while Maya Fur was used to generate feathers for the softer parts of the span. Procedural animation was used to make the smaller feathers flutter independently. Pixar RenderMan was used to render the final images, ‘We really like customizing all our 3D work and Maya and Renderman allow us to do that,’ said Wu. ‘With MEL scripting and RenderMan Shading Language it easy to write and customize your animations without having to code in C++. We usually write our own custom shaders and scripts on each job.’
About Brickyard VFX
Located in Boston and Santa Monica, Brickyard VFX is an independent visual effects boutique specializing in top quality visual effects from 3D characters through to compositing. Completely artist owned and operated, the company was founded in 1999 to bring clients a level of customer service, craftsmanship and focus difficult to find at facilities today. Brickyard problem-solving expertise on set and in the studio has been applied to model, animate, light, texture, track, rotoscope, color correct and render seamless digital effects for XM Radio, Citibank, Volkswagen, Target, Tyson Foods and many other accounts. www.brickyardvfx.com .
Agency Dailey & Associates
Robert Prins VP Creative Director
Kevin Roth Senior Producer
Steve Rabosky Pres, Chief Creative Officer
Production House of Usher
Company Kinka Usher Director
Nancy Hachohen Executive Producer
Jordy Curts Producer
Paul Cameron Director of Photography
Tom Muldoon Editor
Susye Idema De Melega Executive Producer
Visual FX Brickyard
Patrick Poulatian Flame Artist (Lead)
Joe Morrison Flame Artist
Yafei Wu 3D Artist (Co-Lead)
Robert Sethi 3D Artist (Co-Lead)
Carl Harders 3D Artist
Keith Hamm 3D Tracker
Diana Gomez Executive Producer
Tom Stamatio Audio Designer