Cannes Lions


MPC, New York / DELL / 2013

Case Film
Case Film
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This spot for Dell introduces an alternate world of photo-real animal characters, that spring from the furtive imagination of a comic book creator, on his journey home on a train. The characters come to life as fellow travellers in his carriage, creating an alternative, film noir story-line that he is developing on his computer as he travels. These travelling companions are being created not only in his imagination, but also depicted in the comic book he is creating on his power book. Character animation plays a crucial role within the spot – VFX with live action seamlessly combined into one engaging and imaginative narrative.


The VFX company was involved from concepting the characters through to completion. We began with concept drawings. These were used to define the personalities of all anthropomorphic characters, giving them life-like qualities and vitality. The team worked painstakingly in designing and expressing personality in the characters, through hand-drawn character design and research. The more detail the better to give them life-like qualities and real personality.

Key to the film was depicting the film Noir detective genre in the characters and animation. For example the toad was designed to look grumpy and quizzical. His eyes had rapid movements and were never really wide open. The rabbit was brought to life looking nervous and agitated, as if he’s been up all night.

Photorealism of the characters is key to this spot. From the bumpy, slimy skin texture of the toad, through to the fur on the rabbit and feathers on the bird. In building the characters, proprietary software was deployed. Furtility was used to create photorealistic hair, fur, feathers, and other details. Furtility has been developed over the years for features and can be applied to our advertising pipeline. The software enables the nuances of the characters to be captured and for sophisticated fur grooms, which would not normally be achieved in a tight, deadline-driven advertising pipeline. For example clumping, colours, tip lengths and movement of fur can be individually managed.

In order to achieve seamless photorealism in the final composite, on-set supervision included the designing and making of bespoke rigs for the frog, rabbit and bird head replacements. The balls on the head-rigs were placed in position according the size of the animal and at the same time provided an eye-line for the actors. Our Supervisors used Maya on set, to make modifications to the rig depending on how the CG information was working in the composite. The rigs were also adapted on set to match the costumes of the character. For example to make the head replacement work for the frog, the collar and rig had to match the size of the replacement CG frog head, rather than the size of the actor. In this way CG head replacement would have the correct interaction with the physical costume. We tracked the actor's head movement using Maya and the rigs information. We then layered animation on top of the actor's movements by hand, to alter or adjust the performance and to match the facial expressions we created.

The shoot took place on a moving train, in order to keep the exterior shots consistent, the exteriors were graded and composited in Flame.

We created pre-prepared templates of the on-screen laptop graphics, in order to give the actor reference for where to tap the screen on-set. These were then completed and fully composited after the shoot.

The CG models were built and rigged in Maya, lit using Mental Ray and composited in both Flame and Nuke. Color Grading was completed using the Baselight – where the challenge of different external lighting conditions was addressed.

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