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April 2014
Issue: January 1, 2008

SWAY BRINGS LIFE TO 'AFTER PARTY'

CULVER CITY, CA - Sway Studio (www.swaystudio.com) recently added life and spirit to Chandon Sparkling Wine’s latest commercial, After Party,  out of agency Dentsu America. By combining detailed character animation with high dynamic range imaging (HDRI) and their own photogrammetry techniques, Sway helped to capture a private moment between two characters, evolving from a Chandon bottle’s wire cage and foil, as they share a secret dance among CG candles, chilled bottles of Chandon and sparkling city lights. 

Sway directed a professional live action tango duo to create the performance that was used for the wire characters. Because the dancers became so intertwined, Sway opted to use motion capture techniques, instead of multi-camera video reference. To provide the correct quality of movement, Sway used the motion capture data applied to the wire characters as a reference to animate the hero wire characters in 3D space.

Once the wire characters were moving in 3D via motion capture, Sway owner and creative director Mark Glaser, who also served as the spot’s director, shot action coverage as if he had a virtual camera crew and dancers on stage. “It was important to me that the characters were shot using techniques that would be used if I were shooting real dancers,” Glaser notes. “I didn’t want live action plate shots of a life size camera trying to capture angles looking into the dancers’ miniature world. To help immerse the audience in that world, I wanted the camera to dance with the characters and move at their scale as if we had a six-inch tall film crew.” Glaser says the challenge throughout the project was to evoke passion and emotion from characters made simply from foil and wire.

By taking the motion capture data and reworking the dance moves to fit the wire figures, Sway was able to bring out the passionate interaction that gave them life. Because the characters are essentially stick figures without faces, all acting had to come through via body language. “The camera was used as much as possible to enhance the performance, such as when the female character was spun out into a perfectly framed pose,” Glaser says. “Working with choreographer JoAnn Jansen and the dancers to rehearse bold dance moves that would translate clearly with these characters was instrumental to the process as well.” 

To allow complete freedom in shooting the dance sequence, Sway recreated the entire interior location, including the champagne bottles, table candles and twinkling city lights, using their own photoreal CG, HDRI, compositing and photogrammetry techniques. The end result is a spot that is almost entirely computer generated as only seven of the 24 shots contain live action. The studio used Nuke for compositing, Scratch for color grading, V-Ray for lighting and rendering, and After Effects for logo treatment. Autodesk 3DS Max 9 was used as the primary animation tool while Lumonix Puppetshop was used for final character rigging and animation.