Psyop applied their 3D animation skill to a PSA raising awareness and encouraging the public to think about tobacco trash in a new way.

Psyop Battles Toxic Trash

Psyop and agency The Butler Bros developed a set of Earth Day Public Service Announcements for Legacy and Leave No Trace community health organisations. The‘Rethink Butts’campaign, which launched in early April, aims to raise awareness, spark discussions, and encourage the general public to think about tobacco trash in a new way.
Director of Creativity at The Butler Bros, Marty Butler said that the point of view they established was as if a helicopter was flying along a cigarette butt and then ascended to about six feet above it. Thus, what looks like a single, continuous shot of a huge polluting industrial factory turns out to be a single cigarette butt, a substantial scale-shift that seemed straightforward on storyboards, but became a challenge to handle digitally. Most people don’t see a cigarette butt as close up as the camera goes here, but they are familiar with seeing buildings like this factory at the distance shown in the project.
“We were provided with the script from the Butler Bros and worked alongside them to develop the look and feel for the spot,” Psyop’s Creative Director David Chontos said. “But from the initial pitch style frames, we increased the scale of the factory by five times. This increased the level of detail across the entire design, which led to a tremendous amount of additional texture painting and modelling. The changing perspective needed to surprise viewers - the slow reveal sent a visually powerful message and once we nailed down the scale of the space, our challenge became purely technical and executional.”

Psyop drew inspiration from a variety of ecological disasters, including the recent toxic sludge tsunami in Hungary, as well as abandoned oil rigs and factories. “One of my favourite films, ‘Manufactured Landscapes’ provided a great reference not only for content, but also camera work and sense of scale," said David.

“We worked entirely from reference for this project — there were no shot elements, besides photographic reference for the textures. The grass was just hand-styled paint effects converted to geometry and the reflection in the sewer at the end was faded by hand to match the camera move. The atmosphere was a mix of volumetric lights, environment fog, 3D fluids, 2D lens effects and comp tricks.”


All the modelling was completed in Maya and 3D Max and the animation, lighting and rendering was done in Maya using Arnold. All the liquid effects were simulated using RealFlow, with a variety of 2D fluid effects projected on the surface of the water. It was pre-comped in Nuke, then assembled and finished in Flame. The falling ash at the end of the cigarette was made using NCloth to create a rigid ‘tearable’ surface that shattered on impact.

“Arnold helped with this project in a few key ways, such as the ability to handle a lot of geometry, export the scenes quickly at render time, and also having a purely unbiased approach to the Global Illumination made it easy to handle all the little animated pieces and their interaction with the environment," David explained. "We were also able to render our volumetrics right in the main beauty render to have them show up in reflections, and also affect the GI and lighting.” 

Here is amaking-of breakdown videothe team has posted of their work. www.psyop.tv