New York - Selecting the right creative collaborator to develop a television commercial is a delicate process under ideal circumstances. But when you're looking to broaden your target audience with a product's first-ever television spot, the selection of a creative partner becomes all the more significant.
Such was the case when Kobrand Corp., via agency Beaucoup Chapeaux, approached New York-based Pure (www.pureny.com/) to develop and produce a spot for the most recent addition to the Alize family of liqueurs, Alize Bleu - a blend of premium French Vodka and Cognac with natural exotic fruit juices. The project immediately captured the attention of Pure's creative team.
Pure used Softimage|XSI on this spot for Alize. The campaign incorporates the artwork of French illustrator Robert Wagt, and is equal parts photography, illustration and collage. Lady Bleu is 3D.
Amy Kindred, the studio's executive producer explains, "It was as much an artistic endeavor as it was a commercial effort, which made it all the more appealing for us."
Pure's creatives began researching what Alize's existing marketing material consisted of. It was during the course of this investigation that they came across a striking print campaign that had been developed to support another fruit infused Alize flavor, Wild Passion. The campaign employed the distinctive artwork of French illustrator Robert Wagt. Equal parts photography, illustration and collage, Wagt's pieces are brimming with the type of intricate detail that begs a second look. More than anything else however, it was the playful nature of the characters that spoke to all involved.
Aaron King, Pure's creative director on the project, says, "It's always interesting to be able to collaborate with other artists, but to bring new a dimension to another's work is particularly exciting."
To accomplish the goal, Pure called on Softimage|XSI and gave the formerly two-dimensional illustrations life as three-dimensional animated characters. In order to retain the unique look and feel of Wagt's collage-style art, director of animation Michael Wharton and his 3D CG team first developed a complex rig for all of the secondary characters.
The rig began with a modified version of the default Softimage|XSI biped. Textured discs were then attached and rigged so that they would loosely slide over one another while being driven by the bones of the skeleton. This technique allowed the discs to constantly reveal hints of the neighboring surfaced discs as cut paper would. The discs were then parented to the underlying bones and the surfaces were textured with materials generated from high-resolution scans of Wagt's illustrations. This technique ensured the characters would retain the distinct cut paper look.
Pure creatives Aaron King and Amy Kindred.
In contrast, the spot's central character, aptly named Lady Bleu, was created as a traditional 3D character. Although similar in appearance, Lady Bleu's range of motion was much greater than that of the other characters, as was the angle she could be viewed from. The team also noted SyFlex was employed for the cloth simulation on Lady Bleu's dress and spring operators were used to help create the secondary motion of her flowing hair.
Before the animation could begin, the commercial was tightly choreographed using Broadway dancers and recorded on tape from several angles simultaneously. This reference was then given to the animators who combined varying degrees of rotoscoping with more straight-ahead animation techniques.
As the hundreds of elements were rendered from Softimage|XSI, they were passed along to Jason Cunningham, the studio's lead visual effects artist. Having been involved since the concept stage, Cunningham set to work right away. Working in Autodesk Flame, he integrated the 3D CG collage characters and environments with photoreal renderings of the Alize bottle. Touches of distortion layers of shimmering of light were carefully attended to. With each enhancement and addition they were reinforcing a key design concept, that all of the scenes are taking place within the reflections on a bottle's surface.
"The team at Beaucoup Chapeaux took the leap of faith necessary to create a truly memorable spot," reflects Kindred. "They approached us with a creative brief, a sample of the product and an open mind. It was a dream project in that it allowed our artists to apply many of their skills simultaneously: branding, design, animation, visual effects and compositing."