Published on Wednesday, 14 December 2011
‘Earlier this year, agency KWP called on Resin to translate the existing art direction for Thoroughbred Racing SA into motion for a TVC. The main challenge was the heroes themselves, the Thoroughbreds.
|The horses weren't available for a shoot, although Resin could take advantage of training sessions and events. One approach was to shoot elements to composite into shots, but the challenges of lighting, camera and extensive repair work looked daunting.
So, Resin’s creative director Grant Lovering and executive producer Lincoln Wogan suggested creating them in 3D to allow the production more freedom. As an extra challenge, their treatment included slow motion to heighten the slightly surreal art direction. Lincoln explained, “The heros are the reveals of the horses in unexpected locations. The goal was to show the Thoroughbreds’ power and elegance in full flight. Slowing things down let us focus on the beauty and grace. The jockeys were either backlit or sitting outside the keylight so they recede back visually and are not overly animated, as big movements would have been a distraction.”
Resin started with a concept board to plot the narrative before creating a final storyboard from location shots. They scouted locations and filmed over two days to catch the beautiful parts of each day. “With DP Pete Hall, we worked with the ARRI Alexa for the first time and loved its ability in low light, with very little noise and excellent latitude. The post workflow, simpler than the RED, and ARRI’s LUT creation tools were a bonus for the project,” said Lincoln.
The weather wasn't too cooperative and the closing scene at first looked like a post extravaganza. They were ready to shoot by mid afternoon, but dirty looking clouds and flat light prevailed until the sun finally poked out for just 12 minutes and the crew nailed the shots. The slow motion was captured at 50fps.
Meanwhile, Resin were building the horses and jockeys in 3D in close consultation with the client. “Producing CG horses for TRSA, people who are passionate about horses and their industry, was a challenge. We had to learn the nuances of the different breeds, consult anatomy books and footage from different sources and have some sessions with trainers, jockeys and stewards from TRSA.”
As initial images emerged, the clients clearly approved but still weren’t sure of how believable the horses would be. Fortunately, the timeframe was fairly generous, allowing time to refine details that help blend it together. Lincoln said, “We were able to locate excellent reference material for the animation team and get well articulated feedback from the client. It comes down to the ability of the animators to understand the movement and then apply it. It’s understanding the movement, rather than trying to copy movement, that makes a big difference.”
A particular challenge was the jockeys. CG people can really stand out in a bad way. They struck a balance by letting them sit back inconspicuously in the shots while the horses remain the stars. “The last shot was tweaked so the camera would sweep just above the horses. With no safety, it had to work and would certainly put our CG under the microscope when the lens gets that close. Measurements on set were enough to cover us and we had the flexibility of positioning the action to the resultant camera.”
The staple tools for the project were Maya and Nuke, including the colour grade done as part of compositing. Because the locations vary in both landscape and time from morning light to mid and late afternoon, they enhanced the natural lighting in the grade for those times of day, meanwhile completing the art direction used for styling the talent.