With A Twist Studio recently applied its expertise in computer animation and visual effects to an imaginative new spot for Chevy in which full-size cars and trucks ‘pop’ from kernels of corn that tumble from the back of an old pick-up.
Conceived by Campbell-Ewald, the spot, Popcorn, promotes Chevy line of FlexFuel vehicles, which can run on either gas or corn-based ethanol. In the spot, a battered pick-up hits a bump while driving down a road between tall rows of corn. Several corn kernels squirt out of a sack in the truck bed and fall toward the ground. As they do, they pop, exploding into brand new Chevy cars and SUVs that bounce to the ground and take off.
The clever transformations from popcorn kernels to motor vehicles are the work of With A Twist, a computer animation studio founded by VFX veteran David Burton and Executive Producer Pam Hammarlund. The studio landed the job via Nerve Films’s Ash Beck, who served as Visual Effects Supervisor on the spot, and was a natural choice having carved out a stellar reputation for producing amazingly realistic CG cars.
Still, Popcorn was a challenge of a very tall order. ‘Our job was to create a believable transition from popcorn kernels an eighth of an inch long into full-size Chevys,’ recalled Burton ‘and we had just 28 to 32 frames to do it.’
While the bulk of the studio staff set to work modeling the vehicles, Burton and CG artist Brandon Bartlett traveled to California to attend the shoot, helmed by directors Jeff and Tim Cronenweth. They set tracking points and used their high dynamic range (HDR) camera to gather lighting information to aid in integrating the CG with the background. Additionally, Jim Gill of Reel EFX brought in a 40-foot crane to hoist the real vehicles into the air and drop them on the ground. That was done, Burton explained, so that the VFX team could track the CG vehicles to the motion and dynamics of the real vehicles.
The most challenging aspect of the project were the blink-of-an-eye explosions of the corn kernels into full-blown cars. With A Twist artists initially prepared pencil sketches that mapped out each ‘pop’ moment by moment. ‘We took a segmented approach where each part of the vehicle corresponded to an analogous spot on the corn,’ said Burton. ‘So there was a particular piece of the kernel that was more like a front end. CG Artists Paul LaFond and Jeff Tiensivu then built a pipeline that went from kernel to fluffy popcorn to vehicle.’
Burton is quick to spread credit to the other members of his staff as well as to Nerve Films, Untitled Films (the Cronenweth production company) and Campbell-Ewald, noting that, like any good visual effect project, it was the product of collaboration. Still, he can’st help but take gleeful pride in the success of the illusion. ‘Can you tell what is CGI and what is live?’ he asked teasingly. ‘Guess again!’
With A Twist Studio is located at 1773 Star Batt Drive, Rochester Hills, Michigan 48309. For more information, call (248) 844-0044 or visit www.withatwiststudio.com.
Agency: Campbell-Ewald. Clark Attebury, exec. producer; Tom Cerroni, art director; Joe Godard, copywriter.
Production Company: Nerve Films. Ash Beck, vfx producer.
Untitled Films. Jeff Cronenweth, Tim Cronenweth, directors.
Visual EFX Company: With A Twist, Rochester Hills, MI. Pam Hammarlund, vfx producer; David Burton, cg supervisor; Brandon Bartlett, Jason Kane, Paul LaFond, Ray Mattison, Jeff Tiensivu, cg artists; Bailey McFarlen, render wrangler.
3D Recon (scanned vehicles): Jayme Olson
Reel EFX (practical effects & crane rigging): Jim Gill