Major Brickyard VFX recently completed work on the new ‘Yahoo! Lip Sync’
campaign with Hungry Man director Bryan Buckley. The campaign promotes
Yahoo!'s search engine through three 30-second spots - ‘Flashing Lights’,
‘Home Sweet Home’ and ‘Hello’.
|Each spot follows a man or woman escaping their dull, daily routine through a purple door marked Yahoo! into an exciting, dream world. ‘Flashing Lights’ transports a bored office employee from his cubicle into a world of limos, ladies, paparazzi and stardom. ‘Home Sweet Home’ sends a man from his living room into a surreal alternate universe that includes a flaming Nascar driver playing the piano, a western brawl, a mechanical bull ride and more. In ‘Hello’ a woman ducks out of a mundane dinner date into a universe of grandiose dating options. At the end of each spot the dreamer returns slowly to reality as a Yahoo! search page appears behind them to reveal their customized search results while characters from the music videos meet them in their original environments.
On location in Prague where all of the spots were shot in a historical mansion during a six day shoot, VFX supervisor Patrick Poulatian helped ensure all ran smoothly on set to support Brickyard’s work later, and that elements were shot properly for compositing. He also monitored framing issues the team typically encounters when working with transitions. He had to consider the elements in relation to the actors’ positions, while factoring in the space, the foreground and lighting issues that might need minimizing.
The director’s creative brief changed somewhat during production, but one consistent feature were the seamless transitions of each character between different scenarios, for example, within the mansion in ‘Home Sweet Home’. Pre-production and production were Patrick’s chance to flag issues and express concerns about the project to the director. “Some shots, for instance, simply can’t be done without motion control,” he said. “The VFX Supervisor has to let the director know and help to work out another way to complete the shot. Every day of shooting presents different challenges that can be dealt with in advance, allowing enhanced transitions in post.”
Because the project was so dynamic and ideas were constantly changing and evolving, the spots were not prevised and the storyboards were completed at the last hour. The director would envision a different concept on the spot and he and Patrick would collaboratively figure out a means to bring that vision to the screen.
Most of the team's work came in post, as they completed transitions and designed additional CG elements in Maya and composited using Autodesk Flame. Patrick said, “For Brickyard, every transition must be approached individually to achieve the look and feel that the client envisions. Two of the most important considerations are timing and framing. Fortunately, tracking is not such a preoccupation with modern software.”
Normally they could camera track in Boujou and Maya and, because several elements couldn’t be tracked due to lack of data, the team also had to eye track, or use visual tracking. "Bryan took an organic filmmaking approach to the shoot and used a handheld camera. This gave him the freedom to shoot whatever he needed but with no motion control, it also made tracking more difficult," said Patrick.
In the ‘Flashing Lights’ spot, all shots have flashes, lens flares, reflections or coloured lights. “The spot didn’t cause concerns in post, but did cause a few issues in production. We tested out cameras prior to shooting because everything was shot digitally and we had to ensure everything worked properly in advance. During production, the team actually had to dim down the lights, as we could see on set that they were too bright.” They put screens in front of the lights and then enhanced the flashes in post using Autodesk Flame.
“As the action moved from set to set, we considered, as we always do, measures we could take on set to help with the lighting in post,” said Patrick. “On this project, because the changes in lighting were so dynamic from one scene to the next, we also had to balance the lighting, more or less, throughout the shots.”
The spots contained intriguing CG fantasy elements to enhance the dreamlike quality of the action. “The butterflies in ‘Hello’ and both the money fluttering through the air and illuminated Nasdaq numbers flying by in ‘Home Sweet Home’ were CG elements we created. Because the dome environment in this spot had to be recreated in 3D, the team also took notes and surveyed the scenes for accuracy.”
‘Home Sweet Home’ in particular needed some interesting composited effects such as racing footage playing out in the fireplace, the Nasdaq numbers running past on the ceiling overhead, and some pyrotechnics added. In the final shot, the group of actors were shot together, and the dog on a stage was shot separately. With a handheld-style shoot such as the one in ‘Home Sweet Home’, Brickyard had to factor scaling rotation and tracking into the composite. “Once we had stabilized the dog shot, we were able to track it into the hero. We also created the entire customized Yahoo page itself, and the people in the windows of the home page were shot separately and composited in.” www.brickyardvfx.com