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Cutting Edge has created three new TVCs for Mortein, updating andCutting-edge-mortein
re-rigging the characters, including Louie the fly, and creating a lively
new sense of ‘being there’ for viewers.


Cutting Edge Gets Tough on Louie the Fly for Mortein

Cutting Edge has created a series of three new TVCs for their client Mortein this time to promote the NaturGard Auto Protect Indoor Odourless system, working with production company Filmgraphics Entertainment. The animation and effects team were aiming to refresh the characters, which include the company’s mascot ‘Louie the fly’ and various insect friends, and improve the production enough to give the viewer a sense of being inside the environments.

Pre Production

VFX Supervisor Ron Roberts said, “We think these new spots have a more convincing performance and a greater sense of actually ‘being there’.” Lead animator Andrew Kimberley has also finessed the character design with more intricate, complex rigs to allow a more expressive performance.

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The team was involved from preproduction with the directors David Denneen and Adam Blaiklock, and Filmgraphics. Ron said, “We completed some of the looks and design elements to form part of the final preproduction document with David, who worked mainly with us, while Adam worked mostly on talent direction.

“The final shots that feature insects were designed by David but in consultation with us in a creative partnership, which we maintained throughout the process. I went on location for the entire shoot, taking stills, measurements and HDRI images for all shots.”

A Little Dirtier

Over time, Cutting Edge has put a lot of effort into the Mortein campaigns and keeping up with changes in the brief each time. “Part of this year’s brief was to make the characters a little dirtier and a little more menacing,” Andrew said. “We also wanted to move across to Houdini for rendering, which meant recreating our shaders and approach to lighting. Having this clean slate meant being able to step back and think about how we could make the overall look nicer.” Oddly, a part of that change was making the characters dirtier, more grimy and real, as well as adding a lot of new detail to the shaders.

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Because modelling insects involves special surfaces and textures - iridescent, shiny, translucent and so on - measuring the lighting on set was important. As the set-ups are fairly small, the team always records the lighting with the classic chrome ball. They have a ball about 50mm diameter that fits a Louie-sized world. The work starts with HDR images of the ball to capture the set for light and reflection. “We want to start with an accurate recreation of the lighting on the day,” Ron said. “We are definitely always looking at the shaders and iridescence is one of the things we consider. But just like a DP on set, we will add extra lighting or reflective surfaces to enhance the final character.”

When Louie is standing in front of the packaging and the camera moves in, making sure the product looked the way the client wanted led the process. Ron said that science and advertising have to part ways, and judicious cheating comes into play. “In reality, if everything were present in the camera at the one time you would struggle for depth of field. Colour accuracy of the product is another concern. We shot the pack as perfectly as possible first, then shot an empty plate for the character and combined them with some art direction to get the best of both worlds.”

Brand New Rigs

They had a bit of time in the lead-up to this year’s campaign and because they were improving the look of everything else, they decided to upgrade the rigs as well. “A lot of this was just looking at the various systems that make up the rig, joint layout, blendshapes, skin weights and the shapes characters could hit,” Andrew explained. “We were making them more appealing, adding new expressions and making the characters easier to animate overall. Anything that had caused frustration or technical issues from previous years was reworked to make them more fun to animate.

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“I think the result is that the characters feel more mature this year and have nicer shapes. We were able to put in some nice extreme frames here and there with poses we wouldn’t have been able to hit in the previous campaigns. We have always had a strong pose to pose approach to animation on the Mortein spots, and have been lucky enough to work with great directors that have a good understanding of animation and the importance of communicating with strong poses.”

They received a set of inspiring drawings from the director at the start of the project and wanted to make sure they could bring the cast of characters to life in the same way. With their rigs better able to handle some extreme shapes, the animation was easier to control as well, pushing the characters further but giving a better look to the movement. “What required tricks and rig hacks in previous years was handled with ease this year, it made the whole process more fun and delivered better results,” said Andrew. “While the models were relatively unchanged in their overall shape, most of the work was in the rigging.

Small Team

“Maya, as usual, was our tool of choice for modelling/rigging and animation. Then we took our meshes into Houdini where we built shaders and did our lighting. We use 3DEqualiser for tracking and the renders were composited in Nuke. We’ve put work into our pipeline and new scripts that have allowed us the time to focus more on the performance, the shaders and the lighting,” he said.

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“We were working with a pretty small team overall, but the whole project went for a few months. The team consisted of our VFX supervisor, a modeller/tracker, one rigger/animator, a lighter/developer and two to three compositors. Two VFX specialists worked on the look of the bubbles and mist.”

So, when trying to define where the sense of ‘being there’ comes from, Ron said, “Two major elements put the integration and connection of the characters a step ahead from the previous TVCs - performance and the shader and lighting improvements. We put a substantial time into rebuilding the character rigs based on our experiences of previous campaigns. We knew that to get a better performance that connected more with the audience, we would have to build a better more flexible rig to enhance performance. We also did substantial work on the textures and shading. By adding to that a move from Maya and mental ray rendering to Houdini and Mantra, plus the considerable lighting skills of Rodrigo Guimaraes, we were able to create a new level of realism for a Louie commercial.”www.cuttingedge.com.au


CREDITS
Agency: Havas Worldwide Australia
Creative Group Head: Stuart Turner
Client: Reckitt Benckiser
Senior Art Director: Seamus Higgins
Agency Producer: Ros Payne
Production company:Filmgraphics Entertainment
Directors: David Denneen and Adam Blaiklock
VFX Supervisor: Ron Roberts
VFX Producer: Simone Clow
Lead Animator: Andrew Kimberley
Lighting: Rodrigo Guimaraes
Compositors: Genevieve Serna and Oscar Knott
Modelling: Khiem Hyunh
Bubble simulation: Elliot Goodman