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The Mill create CG bison for Levi

The Mill have created stunning visual effects on a new Levi spot, 'Stampede', which premiered at the US Super Bowl in January.
The spot is to promote Levi's new Type 1 jeans and was directed by Jorn Haagen at Academy for agency BBH New York.
The commercial opens with a stampede of bison travelling through the desert on their way to the city. When they arrive, the city is desolate, except for a Levi's clad couple standing on a bridge.
The bison see the stitching on the back pockets of their jeans and the whole herd decide to narrowly avoid the couple, "sensing the boldness and dynamics of the brand new jean design."
Mill flame artist Ant Walsham attended the recce and two-week shoot, which took place in the deserts of Trona and also LA, where real bison were shot on location. Once back in London, the CG team began working to create a herd of 600 photo-realistic bison, using Softimage XSI.
The bison needed to move perfectly around the live action bison and if necessary, even replace them.
The modelling of the bison was created from scratch, using extensive reference materials. Yann Mabille worked on the modelling, texture and hair of the bison, concentrating on the lighting and finessing of the hair. He used hair dynamics within Softimage XSI to achieve the challenging feat of creating realistic looking animal fur.
Mill 3D artist Dadi Einarsson designed the skeleton rig and animation cycles of the animals and built up a library of cycles, gestures and moves, including gallops and jumps. At the same time Jordi Bares was researching ways to control the crowd. Using Softimage XSI he developed tools that allowed him to manage and render the entire herd of 600. He was also able to have complete control over the movement of the animals, so that they reacted and interacted with their surroundings and did what the director wanted them to do. Bares then refined each bison one by one, by hand with his customised set of tools.
Additional CG work was carried out by Russell Tickner to completely revamp the environment and architecturally reconstruct the city skyline.
The flame team, led by Walsham, worked on virtually every shot within the 60 second commercial. The extensive work ranged from general cleaning-up to compositing together multiple plates of background action and bison. The team built up the atmospheric desert landscape, putting in a more ambient sky, adding different shaped rocks to the background and composited the bison into the scene. They also worked on the lighting of the bison, so that they blended perfectly into the environment. The CG elements created by Tickner were put together with extra reference material to complete the very urban looking cityscape.
Additional flame work included compositing the reflection of the stitching from the jean pockets onto the eye of one of the bison.
The commercial was graded by Mill Telecine artist Fergus McCall.
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