March 24, 2005


SANTA MONICA, CA - Pet retailer, Petco Inc., and its agency The Phelps Group recently enlisted the talented team at Steele to create the illusion of employees interacting with life-sized pet products, all in an effort to show off the Petco staff's knowledge and passion for pets and those who love them.

All four :30 spots - "Cat Condo," "Aquarium," "Kong" and "Hamster Ball" play to viewers' sense of humor, and were composited in high definition using the studio's Quantel eQ system. In "Cat Condo," the customer witnesses an acrobatically-fit employee scale a life-sized cat condo/scratching post.

"These commercials encompass all that we do here, from creative development, set supervision, 3D and 2D animation, digital effects and compositing," says Brian Adler, executive producer, for Steele. "The most challenging of the three spots by far was 'Aquarium,' which involved a dedicated Petco employee swimming with giant fish in a life-size aquarium."

Wide shots of the store's interior were filmed traditionally and combined with photoreal CG fish and digital aquarium architecture, notes, Jerry Steele, president and supervising VFX artist. "The CG elements were then composited with the live-action footage and seamlessly integrated."

Adler first cleared and shot a large space inside a Petco store where the virtual aquarium would eventually reside. He then shot hi-rez stills to serve as backgrounds. The production later moved to an aquatic center where the diver was shot in front of an underwater greenscreen.

Supervising CG artist, Wayne England, created the photoreal fish using NewTek LightWave. Once the fish were animated, lit and textured, Steele composited over 30 layers for most shots. Using Quantel eQ and Henry, he added bubbles, shadows, and lighting effects, manipulating the images to appear as if the fish swam behind the diver and other live action aquarium objects.