It’s the biggest advertising event of the year. Agency David&Goliath has a big idea. It all centers around one big question: Where do babies come from?
A far-away planet known as Babylandia, as it turns out. A distant utopia filled with baby humans and baby animals of all kinds. They graduate from Babylandia and board rocket ships and travel across the universe, parachuting down from the sky and finding their Earthly parents.
DnG and director Jake Scott of RSA looked to Method to help visualize the all-encompassing VFX opus for the biggest advertising venue in the world: the Super Bowl.
In this add a form of babies are a pig, orca, rhino, elephant, giraffe, panda, puppy, hippo, penguin and a human baby.
“The best thing about Space Babies was that the work was well executed across many disciplines,” says Method VFX Supervisor Andy Boyd, “it was a huge collaboration between departments - everyone had their work cut out for them.” The seventy-five second spot runs the gamut of visual effects technique. Method made the most of its three-month production schedule in anticipation of the Big Game.
MAKING CG BABIES Realizing the baby planet and populating it with CG animals required a concerted effort during pre-production to prep the assets ahead of the shoot. CG Supervisor Brian Burke led a creature team that involved the creation of over ten different types of CG animals as well as their customized spacesuits. “We were able to take tools from prior jobs and make it modular in way that allowed individual artists to use them across different characters. The work done by one artist on previous jobs could be shared across the whole team.”
All of the animal assets were deep into development ahead of principal photography. As plates were coming back from production, the lighting team would have first pass renders in the scenes within days. The instantaneous workflow allowed clients very early access to animation and look dev as they edited the piece.
THE LAUNCH Not to be outdone by the bevy of baby animals was the impressive hard-surface CG work undertaken to create the rocket ships, launch pad, and enormous baby statues. According to CG Supervisor Charles Abou Aad, “Space Babies was a fun challenge because the overall aesthetic had to be gentle, like a Fisher Price toy.” Adds Lighting Lead Kevin Sears, “we had to alter our normal approach to shading - where we’d typically use harsh metallic surfaces, we ended up using bright baby-friendly materials.”
The Method LA FX department also had their work cut out for them, offering photorealistic rocket volumetrics, atmospheric elements, CG water, clouds, and much more.
ENVIRONMENTS Creating environments for Babylandia, the Universe, and Earth was a coordinated effort between production, Method’s compositing team (led by 2D Supervisor Patrick Ferguson), and digital matte painting out of Method Los Angeles and Method London.
For outer space, director Jake Scott wanted an ethereal look similar to the formation sequence from the film The Tree of Life. Scott consulted with Tree of Life VFX Supervisor and Method Senior Creative Director Dan Glass about his approach to capturing these elements in-camera. Production built two large liquid containers that were shot as a b-unit during the shoot. Method used this footage as a basis for the space environments and added detail in matte painting and compositing.
The Babylandia planet’s lush landscapes were based on conceptual renderings from Method London and derived from aerial footage shot in Kauai, Hawaii by Method VFX Producer Mike Wigart. The Los Angeles team, led by artists Chris Sanchez and Zach Christian, executed matte painted backgrounds for Babylandia and Earth.
Patrick Ferguson and a team of seven Nuke artists assembled the multitude of elements to bring the piece together. Compositors took a feature film type of approach and broke the piece down into sequences. “Each sequence had its owned stylized look that had to be linked throughout the story to get us from a-to-b,” says Ferguson.
THE CREATIVE Building the animals and worlds was a welcome challenge, but using them to fulfill the creative requirements of the script was when the fun really started. “As if making a CG rhino in a spacesuit wasn’t cool enough, we got to animate him screaming and praying for his life as he re-entered the atmosphere in a rocket pod,” says Boyd. Adds Wigart, “we’ve come to expect this sort of thing working with DnG. They definitely raise the bar with each project. We love it.”