In our Behind the Moving Image series, we share the latest and greatest behind the scenes look at how our VFX geniuses bring to life some of our most iconic work.
From storyboard to screen, in 2019 Starburst turned to us to showcase their new product Duos, which combined two flavours into one square-shaped candy. The campaign featured an entirely new creature, which was also a combination of two things. And what better combination of animals than a giraffe and a turtle?
Directed by Michael Gregory, the charming spot from DDB Chicago features a pet Turaffe, ‘Patches’ in his natural habitat – the home. Our teams were tasked to create the photo-real CG hybrid animal.
Gregory explains how the idea of the Turaffe came to be: “DDB originally came to us with a slightly different script featuring a creature that lived in an outside environment, that was made up of two other creatures. We really liked the idea of a ‘duo’ creature but suggested making it a family pet living inside a home, to add to the bizarreness, but to also make it more relatable.”
And so, Patches, the Turaffe was born. Our teams handled the campaign from start to finish. From director’s treatment, concepting, pre-vis, directing, editing, CGI and color grade.
Creating this new, photo-real creature came with many considerations: How big will it be? How will it move? Will it behave more like a giraffe or a turtle? Before the shoot began, Gregory and the team had to determine the Turaffe’s size, to ensure the scale of the creature to set furniture was correct. This helped inform the art direction of the set. “We pre-vised Patches’ movements and the set to help design the shots and art direct the correct furniture and layout. On the day, we had a 2ft stuffed stand-in to help determine the lighting, depth of field and blocking,” says Gregory.
The creature creation was led by VFX Supervisor Boyo Frederix and Senior Animator David Bryan. The team started with pencil drawings before going into the CG stage, to test out different versions of the turtle shell on the giraffe, before they landed on a final version that everyone was happy with.
“We originally started with a giraffe model and kept its dimensions intact as much as possible, as well as keeping the turtle shell intact too,” explains Frederix. “However, we had to alter the dimensions of both animals slightly as they didn’t quite fit together – the turtle shell didn’t rest properly on the back of the giraffe’s neck – so we explored different options on how to make them fit together in a natural way. Other than that, we tried to stay true to both animals, making them both look as realistic as possible.”
It was also important to consider the impact of the shell during the animation process. “We had to think about the restrictions of the shell on the range of motion, so there was this element of physical animation to figure out as we were bringing this creature to life,” explains Bryan.
“Key movements, such as emerging from the shell and walking, took a lot of research and exploration to create a photo-real performance that was believable to the audience. I think that much of it was down to personal experience as an animator to make the right decisions and go with what felt right,” Bryan adds.
When building out elements such as life-like fur, our teams used the proprietary tool called ‘Furtility’ on some of its greatest creatures to date. This project was the first to use a completely new fur system– a Houdini-modified tool designed by MPC, which proved to be efficient and useful for a large and interesting animal such as a giraffe.
Gregory said: “This was a really fun campaign to work on every step of the way, from early concept to final shot-making. Each layer was very cool to design, but the last chapter working with Boyo, David, Rod and those wizards in the CG team, really took it home.”
This campaign marks a continued relationship with DDB’s studios around the globe – MPC has worked on their other campaigns such as Capital One, State Farm and the VES Award winning spot for Hennessy, directed by Ridley Scott.