first direct have launched their new brand campaign, which aims to target a younger audience. The spot features Barry, a cheeky CG platypus created by VFX studio MPC in collaboration with Outsider directors Dom & Nic and JWT.
Dom & Nic said of working with MPC, "'I had too much to dream last night…' No time for dreaming on this one, MPC worked with us creatively and diligently throughout the project from the beginning with the Platypus conception, the seamless photographic integration, the final grade of the film and all those subtle wonderful, detailed character animation nuances. A great team whose talents cannot be praised highly enough. The only thing that's not unexpected is the quality of the MPC's work. Thank you again.”
As with any MPC animated character development, extensive research was carried out into both animal behaviour and physical attributes - from anatomical, skeletal and muscle structure, through to surface texture.
MPC’s VFX team, led by Anthony Bloor and Chrys Aldred, developed a 3D model using software tool ZBrush. After a few tweaks to his weight and height, the team got to work animating him in CG.
"Creating a CG platypus with such a unique character was a fantastic challenge. Barry is a cheeky individual with very distinct movements. We have worked on many CG characters in the past and making sure that all movements are photo-realistic is our absolute focus and commitment. Working with Dom and Nic is always the greatest pleasure as they have such a clear and strong vision for their films. This helps our work enormously", Anthony said.
Once the CG model was built, the team created a skeleton and muscle rigging system to create realistic movements.
Animating the platypus required a large amount of creative vision as he behaves in ways never seen in real-life; sitting at a bar, rifling through records and riding on a motorized scooter. The team worked closely with Dom & Nic to help realise their vision. “Right from the outset it was important that we focused on his walk-cycle. It needed to be individual, to suit his character, but also realistic so the audience almost believe he is a real platypus,” explained lead animator, Tim van Hussen. As the team were creating expressions within the limits of platypus’ features, the acting focus was on the body mechanics and head and hand movements.
MPC’s in-house fur grooming system Furtility was utilised, originally developed for MPC’s film pipeline and has been used in films including Narnia and X-Men: First Class. After being applied, it was combed in different directions. This lengthy process allows the fur to curl and curve, creating very complex patter
Dom & Nic
Tim van Hussen
Jim Spratling, Karen Weiss, Chiara Antelmi, Christopher Antoniou, Eduardo Castells, Emanuele Pescatori, Gian Luigi Granieri, Mark Robinson, Sean Ray, Tim Civil