Vittel, the globally renowned natural spring mineral water brand, has released a new campaign that strengthens its commitment towards environmental protection whilst staying true to its tagline “A Water that is Full of Life”. Ogilvy and Mikros MPC were trusted to bring an entertaining and important campaign to life complete with photo-realistic CGI woodland full of animated squirrels, bees, frogs, ladybirds, butterflies, dragonflies and caterpillars. The campaign will be broadcast on television, online video and in print press format depending on the country.

 “The campaign differentiates by creating a surprising and refreshing impact across a number of scenes. The copies begin with woodland animals within their natural environment and transforms in pace and impact by demonstrating the capability of the animals to have a surprising sporting prowess before returning back to nature,” explained Guillaume Ho, VFX Supervisor at Mikros MPC.

Mikros MPC partnered on the conceptualization with teams completing intensive research for the characters and the environment to match the lush Vosges wildlife and flora where Vittel water is naturally sourced. Mikros MPC developed the “previz” which proved to be crucial in enabling the Director to choose camera positions, lens focus, plan the character animation, design the setting and edit the three ads which make up the campaign.

“My approach to this project was the same as on a traditional movie in terms of research on ideas and shots until the start of the previz, which was a real luxury. When you work on a live movie, once the scene is shot, you cannot modify it. Whereas in full CG, you can still adapt your initial choices and you can really see the ever-improving versions over time,” commented Vincent Lobelle, Director.

“One of our major challenges was to work on three ads. We not only had to manage a very large number of assets and animals, but we had to make sure that we would meet a consistent technical and artistic style and quality on all the ads,” said Guillaume Dadaglio, Mikros MPC’s CG Supervisor.

A total of 34 full CG scenes were created for the movies with varying camera angles and settings from macro to micro. This required a large number of assets, the starting scene alone features over 15,000, with over 100 million particles to create the water – this was a huge artistic challenge to work on both vast expansive scales as well as close up focus. The full CG scenes entailed a high level of details on the animated characters, plants and water with refined lighting and color to bring the mood of the morning light.

“There are plenty of micro details on the animals that no one would notice at first sight but that contribute to the high level of credibility and photo-realism of these characters. We paid particular attention to the muscular systems. For the squirrel, we opted for a simplified muscular system and added some effects on its fat under the skin to ensure that it remains consistent with its actual weight. For the frog, we developed a complete muscular rig on its skeleton. But to make human expressions possible, we had to release some joints. This gave both greater range and amplitude on the movements and helped on the acting of these characters. But for the insects, there was no room for this freedom. The joints had to perfectly match the reality,” tells Alexandre Sauthier, Lead Animator, who also headed the rigging and set-up on the project.

“Still, we had to slightly distort some limbs. Our ladybird had to have legs strong enough to perform a breakdance!” adds Andre Monteiro, Lead Character. “The real challenge working on insects is to bring the matter to life in a realistic way. It has to be perfect.”

Riggers and animators worked closely together to finetune the rigs before launching the five week animation phase of the project. As Augustin Paliard, Lead Animator, points out:

“For the animation, we worked with two sources of reference. On one side, we had to refer to the genuine anatomy of the animals and on the other side we went through sport videos to render the human characterization. We thrive for this subtle balance between emotions and credibility, making some compromise on the posing.”

The environment plays a major role in the movie. Like the other elements, it had to be consistent throughout the three movies and realistic, it should also enable a touch of fantasy to enable a suspension of disbelief for the sporting animals. Vincent Coni, Lead Environment, stated:

“We had to create all assets individually but we also had to consider the uniformity of the campaign and the massive scale of the environment. We moved back and forth between micro and macro views, and we iterated on lighting, shades, modelling. Every asset needed to benefit from the same high-quality and beauty so that there is no disparity in terms of number of polygons.”

As you would expect from a Vittel campaign the water is a key element of the setting with it needing to be realistic, pure, transparent and fully integrated in the setting. As David Roubah, Lead SFX, explains:

“We worked hand-in-hand with Vincent. We treated both the water and the environment as a whole. Any elements – rocks, plants, trees, had an impact on the water: how the water flows, how it reacts to drops, meaning that every change in the environment could lead to changes in the wet maps. Both the water and environment had to react to the movements of the characters. We had to work on every detail and that involves a very high definition.”

The project was a technical challenge, a vast range of Mikros MPC tools were used to build the assets and create the final render alongside a complex pipeline which helped to deliver the project. This enabled the team to deliver up to 300 versions per scene, which aided collaboration among the artists and allowed fast responses from the production team. Guillaume Ho concludes:

“I think this project will remain for long in our minds as much was developed remotely during the COVID -19 lock-down period. Over 70% of the animation was completed by the teams working remotely. Given the new system of working we are all particularly proud to have reached such a high level of quality ahead of the delivery date. We only achieved this thanks to our technology structure, pipeline and technical teams, which allowed us all to work efficiently from home but also thanks to the artists who worked in unison. Despite the distance, we all managed to maintain both communication and cohesiveness for a stellar result.”

Making of

Want to learn more about the Vittel campaign? Watch the testimonials of the Mikros MPC team below: