In “Living Green,” part of a new four spot cinema campaign by the award-winning design studio nailgun* for auto maker Mercury’s hybrid Mariner SUV and Milan sedan, a round-cornered box emerges against a flat white background then quickly reveals a lushly-animated tree leaf and two bold green arrows. As one arrow curves gently away from a blue city skyline, the other heads straight toward a stylized couple enjoying a country picnic.
A lush, butterfly-accentuated environment forms on pace with the arrows, eventually becoming the backdrop for a pristine Mariner. The campaign was created for ad agency Young & Rubicam, Dearborn, MI, and can be seen at Landmark cinemas nationwide and on the web at www.discovermercury.com.
“The Mercury spots represent a successful foray for us into film work,” says Erik van der Wilden, Director of Editorial and Animation at nailgun*. “This was our first job delivered at 24 frames per second and 2K resolution. The agency liked our creative sense, and had confidence that we could handle any technical issues that might arise.”
Indeed, the four elegant yet complex, 3D animated spots reflect the scope of nailgun*’s creative sense and technological understanding. While “Fresh Air” presents a vibrant setting with brightly colored cyclists and umbrella’d restaurant patios, “City Nightlife” and “City Summer” present decidedly more urban scenarios to promote the Milan sedan.
“We had an intense period of creative planning with Mercury at the beginning,” says Michael Waldron, Creative Director at nailgun*. “Every spot presents a certain metropolitan lifestyle, and it is only as you proceed into that lifestyle that you encounter the automobile representing it. Following the initial collaboration, we worked on a series of animatics to choreograph all the elements in the spots. After we established our workflow, we started bringing things into the 3D world. All of these steps took time and we still had to consider the extra time required to work at 2K resolution. It was definitely a challenge. The client subsequently wanted to highlight the Hybrid angle, which added another wrinkle to the creative.”
Adding to the schedule were the highly detailed models of the cars provided by the agency. While accurate to the very last detail, the large files threatened to significantly slow down delivery on an already tight deadline. nailgun* came up with a quick and novel solution.
“The initial CAD (computer-aided design) files had a lot of detail that was unnecessary to our purposes,” explains van der Wilden. “Since the spots only showed the exterior of each car, we didn’t need to know about the structure of the engine. All that information would only bog down our animation and render time. We actually rebuilt the exteriors of each car to reduce the number of polygons by as much as a factor of 10. That really helped speed up the process.”
“Y&R came to us with a few styleframes, but ultimately gave us a lot of creative freedom,” says Waldron. “We created everything in 3D using Autodesk Maya, keeping an eye on maintaining a level of highly stylized realism. Above all, we wanted the spots to be cool and memorable enough to drive moviegoers to the Mercury website.”
While the spots will initially play only in cinemas, the nailgun* team maintained the possibility of general broadcast as well. “We worked hard to ensure that Mercury would have the freedom to use these spots again down the road,” says van der Wilden. We designed far beyond the letterbox format.”
For Santiago Casta?¬¨¬±o, who oversaw nailgun*’s staff of 3D animators, the greatest challenge was creating realistic movement for the 3D characters that appear throughout the spots.
“There’s a lot of movement in these spots people walking, riding bikes, rollerblading, dancing and while it all seems completely natural, making it look that way and blending it all into the whole scene seamlessly was difficult,” said Casta?¬¨¬±o. “A lot of the animation is photo real and that took a lot of time to render. This was a huge test for us to see if we could pull off this level of animation for cinema and I think we passed with flying colors.”
With a strong belief that great art derives from making creative choices and sticking to them, veteran graphic designer Michael Waldron and editor/animator Erik van der Wilden launched motion graphics house nailgun* (www.nailgun.tv) in 2003. Since then the BDA Gold award-winning creative shop has been pushing boundaries while exceeding client goals with standout work for top advertising agencies and broadcast networks. Their clients include such companies as ABC News, HBO, HGTV, Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, Publicis and McCann-Erickson NY.
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Client: Ford Lincoln/Mercury
Project: Mercury “Colors” Campaign
Agency: Young & Rubicam, Dearborn, MI
Producer: Drew Titran
Design/Post: nailgun*, New York, NY
Creative Director: Michael Waldron,
Director of Animation + Editorial: Erik van der Wilden,
Managing Director/Producer: Elena Olivares,
Associate Producer: Shane Dolly
Lead Designer/2D Animator: Dae Hyuk Park
Designer/2D Animator: Charles Kline, Jong Soo Kim, Chris Harmon
Designer: Lisa Eunhae Kim
Senior 3D Animator: Maurice Caicedo
3D Animator/Lead Character Animator: Santiago Casta?¬¨¬±o
3D Animators: Roger Hom, Hyunmi Kim, Chris Hill, Jackie Liao, Ajit Menon
3D Modeler: Pavel O. Ivanov