McCain Chips: “The Farmer”

ROLE: Senior Nuke Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Motion Theory
CLIENT: McCain Chips
AGENCY: Beattie McGuinness Bungay
DIRECTOR: Mathew Cullen

McCain Chips is a European brand of frozen french fries, widely known for their elaborate and innovative advertising campaigns. For example, in one instance, they promoted their chips through an entire Bollywood musical number.

For this round, director Mathew Cullen found inspiration in the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” transplanting the visual symphony of a mouse magician to that of an ordinary farmer. As conductor, the farmer parts the clouds, raises the sun, causes it to rain, and ultimately grows a full crop of potatoes and sunflowers.

My role involved assembling a number of matte painted landscapes and stormy skies around the farmer. I also comp’d rows of sprouting CG potato plants and budding sunflowers onto bluescreen plates of practical ground furrows.

A couple of specific examples involve the first ray of sunlight causing a sunflower to blossom, and the hero wide shot of the farmer admiring his fully grown crop.

Nintendo: “World of Wonder”

ROLE: 2D Lead / Senior Nuke Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Motion Theory
CLIENT: Nintendo
AGENCY: Leo Burnett – Chicago
DIRECTOR: Bryan Godwin

Nintendo’s “World of Wonder” campaign promoted three game titles for its DS handheld platform. The concept focused on a group of Nintendo DS-playing kids, who through their gameplay, are transported to an imaginary world where their gaming materializes into reality.

As a boy plays “Mario Kart,” he’s in the middle of a racetrack with Mario in the lead. And as a girl plays “Nintendogs,” puppies interact with all the kids in the dog park. It’s a playful spot meant to be somewhat campy and corny, as well as highly stylized.

I worked on a number of shots for the “Mario Kart “and “Nintendogs” sequences. All the kids and puppies were shot on large greenscreen stages. All the characters and environments were matchmoved and created in CG, with some additional tracking tweaks and 2D effects added in comp.

HP Hands: “Fergie the Digital Dutchess”

ROLE: Senior Nuke Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Motion Theory
CLIENT: Hewlett-Packard
AGENCY:  Goodby Silverstein & Partners
DIRECTOR: Mathew Cullen

As the latest in a series of HP commercials based around the clever use of hands, this Fergie spot signified a return to a visual concept that Motion Theory first pioneered for the technology company.

Except this time, the visual parameters could be expanded beyond what had been achieved before – namely, with previous hands spots featuring Mark Burnett (reality-TV based pioneer), Mark Cuban (billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner), and Pharrell Williams (musician/producer).

With Fergie as featured talent, the Black Eyed Peas vocalist brought a whole rhythmic aspect to the spot, opening the door for a more elaborate visual punctuation and sophistication.

My role as Flame Artist was tackling the beauty work on Fergie’s hands and arms, and occasionally her chin. As Nuke artist, I handled the greenscreen extraction and preliminary comp work on the spot’s first half, all the way until Fergie joins the dancers.

An amazing team of After Effects artists handled the expanding laptop and water sequences., which I also aided in compositing.

Tic Tac: “T-Form” | “Visualizer”

Tic Tac: “T-Form”

Tic Tac: “Visualizer”

ROLE: Senior Nuke Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Motion Theory
AGENCY:  Merkley+Partners
DIRECTOR: Mark Kudsi

These two all CG spots were designed to accomplish two goals: introduce Chill, Tic Tac’s latest breath mints, and show off the redesign of their recognizably branded rectangular plastic box.

Accomplishing the latter was fairly straightforward. A box is a box. The former was a bit trickier, since the visual representation of taste is all about metaphor and interpretation.

As a solution, director Mark Kudsi treated his box of Tic Tacs as building blocks to assemble and form iconic shapes: a flock of birds, a budding sunflower, an oscillating soundwave, etc.

Through some tricky particle animation, and some fluid visual choreography, the spots came together, capturing the soothing sensations that only Tic Tac Chill could provide.

Honda: “All in One Place”

ROLE: 2D Lead / Senior Nuke Compositor / Flame Artist
VENDOR: Motion Theory
AGENCY: Rubin Postaer and Associates
DIRECTOR: Jesus de Francisco & Mathew Cullen

Honda Accord “All in One Place” was the first project I did for Motion Theory. I began as a Nuke compositor, but due to under-staffing, became the 2D lead, ultimately having to comp 90% of the spot myself.

The commercial itself is visually striking, creatively metaphoric, and highly stylized. In one continuous take, an Accord splits in half, lengthwise, revealing an entire factory of employees busily working “under the hood.” There’s a crash test room, a wind tunnel, and a symphony for the engine, to name a few of the compartments.

All the workers, as well as a full orchestra, were shot on greenscreen and composited into a motion control plate of a practical interior model that was built to scale. Additional CG elements, such as the flowering MPG hedge, holograms, race track, and crash test slingshot, were added to bolster the activity. Exterior environments were tracked and assembled in Flame.

Speed Racer

ROLE: Flame Artist | VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Look Effects
CLIENT: Warner Bros.
DIRECTOR: The Wachoswki Brothers

My primary role on “Speed Racer” dealt with car cockpit repo’s and plate/set extensions. Towards the end of the project, editorial tweaks were made to certain cockpit shots of Speed and Cannonball, to make the final race more dynamic.

Since the plates were comprised of limited sets with mostly greensceen backing and props, this necessitated the rebuilding and extension of seats, seatbelts, helmets, and arms to accommodate the repo’d plates.

Also, a few shots were flopped, so helmet logos and any additional typography had to be adjusted accordingly.

All of the work was done in 2D, utilizing paint and source nodes, as well as extended bicubic surfaces.

Additional comp work included CG car exteriors.

Bones: “Man in the Mud” (Ep. 3.10)

ROLE: Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Look Effects
CLIENT: Fox Television
DIRECTOR: Scott Lautanen

My work for this third season episode of the popular investigative series “Bones” focused on enhancing and improving a tragic motorcycle crash that occurs on a racetrack.

The scene features a rider who crashes due to a sabotaged bike. He loses control, slides on his side, and the bike explodes, engulfing him in flames.

The plate footage consisted of a stunt rider sliding the bike on its side until it came to a stop, and separate takes of the bike exploding with the stuntman lying face-down nearby – not on fire, for obvious safety reasons.

Sparks were added to the skidding bike, explosions were enlarged to engulf the rider, and the racetrack barrier wall was extended and repositioned to be more threatening to the bike’s impact.

Usher: “Love in this Club”

ROLE: Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Hydraulx
CLIENT: Hydraulx Films
DIRECTOR: The Brothers Stause

Slick and sexy, Usher’s “Love in this Club” plays more like a surreal short film than the typical music video. Sure, it’s got the typical ingredients you’d expect to accompany an R&B hip-hop infused hit synth-single – live performance, choreographed dancing, sexy ladies, lots of mugging for the camera. But there’s also a wrap-around mystery, cloaked in the warm-hued, lens flared environment of an almost ghostly Vegas nightclub.

The premise is simple – Usher enters an empty nightclub, one which looks as if deserted only moments before he enters. Once inside, he can’t leave. Every door returns him to where he started. And that’s when he sees the mystery woman. The music starts, the club fills up, and it’s business as usual – until she vanishes.

Much of the atmosphere was achieved in camera, but many elements still needed to be added or augmented to achieve the final product. Of these, I was tasked primarily with beauty work for Usher and his lady, making them look as good as possible. Also, I contributed some stylized lighting and lens flare effects, to intensify the surreal sensuality of the club interior.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

ROLE: Flame Artist | VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Hydraulx
CLIENT: Paramount | Warner Bros.
VFX SUPERVISOR: Greg Strause & Erik Liles
DIRECTOR: David Fincher

My work on David Fincher’s critically acclaimed “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” focused primarily on the Paris sequence, where Daisy suffers her career-ending tragedy from an unexpected traffic accident. In the narrated montage, Daisy leaves her dance studio, twirling into the street in a mild euphoria, only to be struck by an oncoming taxi.

In addition to combining A-B plates for the car’s impact with Daisy, I enhanced a number of shots with matte paintings of dirty streets, period buildings, a re-positioned Eiffel Tower, and art-directed skies. Many of these shots required car reflection clean-ups, as well, due to the white reflective bounce screens placed high above the location streets.

Also, I composited a few establishing shots of Murmansk, comprised of matte painting extensions and CG snow, and did some clean-up work for Benjamin as a baby, removing a somewhat unconvincing mechanical infant from a blanket in Queenie’s arms.

The Incredible Hulk

ROLE: Flame Artist | VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Hydraulx
CLIENT: Marvel Entertainment | Universal Pictures
DIRECTOR: Louis Leterrier

For Marvel Entertainment’s “The Incredible Hulk,” I was tasked primarily with shots for the “University Raid” sequence, which consisted of extensive field clean-up, sky replacements, debris enhancement, the addition of rain, and of course, a CG Hulk.

As shot, the footage featured overcast skies throughout. As scripted, an oncoming storm mirrors the escalating rage of Bruce Banner’s Hulk, as he attempts to evade capture. As the action-packed sequence nears its conclusion, and the Hulk escapes, the storm reaches its peak, extinguishing the fiery damage caused during the sequence.

Seemingly straightforward, the sky replacements and clean-ups proved otherwise. The footage was shot anamorphic. The mostly hand-held camera-work was bouncing everywhere, plagued with high-frequency jitter. And the director strictly chose not to manipulate the plates, as is common practice in most compositing, to blend any of the sky replacements, as well as the grass clean-up and rig removal. Consequently, this added an extra degree of difficulty to some already challenging shots.

In addition to tackling a number of sky replacements and clean-ups, I also contributed to a few night helicopter shots, leading up to the film’s finale, where Bruce says his farewells to Betty before leaping to battle the Abomination.