By Money Sharma, Bollywood Hungama News Network
Right from yesteryears "Jee lalchaye raha na jaye" to today's "lalach aha laplap", Alpenliebe, the flagship brand of Perfetti, has positioned itself well within the kid and adult segments. Since its launch in 1996, the sugar confectionery brand has always been innovative with its television commercials (TVCs) by incorporating kids, adults and Bollywood stars playing with computer generated (CG) and animated characters.
The latest 60 -seconder features the classic animated duo of Tom & Jerry, joining forces with Alpenliebe brand ambassador and Bollywood mega-star Kajol. Besides them, the mascot crocodile, Mr. Mach. Mach is three dimensional, computer generated and has been created by Oscar winning visual effects house Rhythm & Hues, Mumbai, making this a truly global collaboration. The commercial takes a leap ahead to reinforce the irresistibility factor as it introduces Tom & Jerry into the mix, under license from Warner Bros.
The TVC has been created by McCann Erickson, headed by the versatile Creative Director Prasoon Joshi, and has been produced by Black Magic Motion Pictures. The animation component, conceptualized in association with Turner's Sponsorship and Promotions department - a division of Creative Services - was shot in Mumbai, and directed by Abhijeet Chaudhuri. The Tom & Jerry animation was produced by Hook Up Studios in Buenos Aires.
The commercial mixes live-action, 2D and 3D animation to get the spectacular effects needed to make sure the mayhem of the story was translated on screen. The TVC kicks off with Tom & Jerry jumping out of the television straight into Kajol's home to get hold of Alpenliebe candy jar, in effect turning her home upside down. A shocked Kajol enters her home in between the ensuing Tom & Jerry chase and sets Mr. Mach to catch them and recover the candy. In the melee that follows, the jar finds its way back to Kajol. The quick thinking Kajol sends Tom & Jerry back into the TV feigning an Alpenliebe thrown into the TV. Mr. Mach gets his candy as a reward as do Tom & Jerry. The commercial ends with Kajol pretending to yet again feed Mr. Mach with the Alpenliebe candy but infact pops the candy in her own mouth.
For a behind-the-scene on how the CG crocodile was created, we spoke to Rhythm & Hues India MD Prashant Buyyala who explained the detailed process and shared the references which were used in creating the photorealistic Mr. Mach.
Says Prashant, "In the Alpenliebe commercial our job was to build a CG crocodile and composite it in a live-action environment. The goal was to do seamless integration of the CG crocodile in the live-action scenes and the challenge was to make the crocodile look friendly and cute along with maintaining its photoreal look."
R&H crew on the sets
A small group of people from the team were present throughout the 3 days of shooting. Following are the things that had to be done on the sets from the visual effects and animation perspective -
Collection of set data, camera information, reference photographs
A lot of information had to be collected in terms of set measurements, camera data, photo-modeling reference images for camera tracking matchmoving work.
HDRI, chroma, matte ball and stuffy references for lighting
The chrome and matte balls were used as a visual reference for highlights and diffuse lighting. These balls were shot on all locations after every take and were placed exactly where the crocodile would be seen in the frame. This helped the R&H team in getting a better understanding of the lighting conditions in the environment which further enabled them to do more realistic integration of the CG crocodile in the shots. A crocodile stuffy was also made and stuffy reference footage for every scene was shot. The stuffy reference was used to get an idea for the CG crocodile's contact and cast shadows.
Modelling/texture painting/look development
The director, the client and the agency were very clear about the crocodile looking realistic, so the model had to be created accordingly. Every little detail and features of the crocodile's anatomy were studied and a number of references were looked at and the model was then created. Part of the details in the croc were modeled whereas some details like the scales on its back were painted using displacement maps. After the model was built the texture painters then started painting different types of texture maps like diffuse, bump, specular, subsurface, reflections, etc.
Photomodelling/cameratracking and matchmoving
Photomodels are basic rough polygon models that are built by using a series of photographs taken at different angles on the set. They are built for props that are seen in the shot. The purpose for building these models is to verify the quality of the camera tracks. Also, these models are built to the actual scale of the props on set for which a separate set of measurements is taken. This helps us to verify any issues in terms of scale and size. After the photomodels were built, the trackers imported the models into their files and started off with the camera tracking and matchmoving work. Apart from the photomodels, the trackers also used the crocodile model as a quality check for the camera tracks and also to check scaling issues.
The BgPrep and Tracking stages go on in parallel. The BgPrep stage literally means prepping up the Bg for other departments down the line to use it. Wires and rigs removal, marker removal etc. are some of the tasks done at this stage.
Since we already had a basic rig in place which was done at the pre-visualization stage, the riggers just finessed it further by making it more flexible and adding in more controls. For eg. - controls for the eye bulge, controls for the mouth bulge etc.
We followed three basic stages and levels of approvals in animation - Blocking, Rough Animation and Final Animation. In the blocking stage, the animators get basic poses and positioning for the character according to the shots and set a few key frames to get a rough idea of the flow of animation. The blocking stage went through a number of iterations and after a series of review meetings with the director the blocking stage was approved. Once the blocking got done, the animators then began working on the rough animation by concentrating more on the performance of the CG crocodile. Similarly, the rough stage also went through a number of review meetings with the animators and the director. The rough animation stage was very crucial as a lot had to be achieved in a limited time frame and it was at this stage where the extent of the cute and friendly characteristics in the crocodile had to be finalized. With our own internal dailies and regular interaction and review meetings with the director we finalized the rough animation stage. After the rough animation stage the final stage was dedicated more towards enhancing the quality of animation and polishing it further.
At R&H lighting is broadly divided under two categories - Sequence Lighting and Scene Lighting. The sequence lighters did the initial lighting setup by locking off the light positions using the HDRI world as reference. The locked off light positions in the sequence light stage were common for all the individual scenes belonging to that sequence. Moving forward, the scene lighters then worked further on the individual scenes by tweaking the light positions, keeping in mind the manner in which the lights behaved in relation to the CG crocodile's position and animation. Similar to the other stages lighting also went through the whole process of internal dailies, review meetings with the director and numerous iterations to match the lighting of the CG crocodile as realistically as possible.
The final look and detailing part of all the shots was done in the compositing stage. Colour correction, adding shadows, reflections, motion blur etc. The compositors had to take off from where the lighters left. As mentioned earlier, the compositing process was highly interactive and had an active creative participation of the lighters assigned to the respective sequences. The purpose of doing this was to ensure that the slightest and smallest of the details have been considered and worked upon. Taking into consideration the complexity and the time duration required to get certain issues resolved, decisions were taken on fixing things in the compositing stage or pushing them back to lighting.