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St Ivel Gold Omega 3 'School of St Ivel' completed at Framestore CFC

‘School of St Ivel’, the new 30-second spot for St. Ivel Gold Omega 3, finds a brilliant visual metaphor for the benefits offered by Omega 3 oil, an essential fatty acid contained in the product.
A gigantic shoal of digital fish offers a visual analogue for both blood coursing swiftly through the veins, as well as for a healthy heart beating rhythmically. The spot was written by Steve McKenzie for Grey London, and directed by Laurent Boudoiseau. The beautiful visual effects – actually, the whole spot is one long visual effect, as it is an entirely digital creation – are by Framestore CFC.
We open in the world of the undersea nature documentary, as we see a solitary sardine flitting through the water. It darts off screen, pursued by a vicious looking marlin. The sardine finds a huge shoal of its fellow fish, and the shoal takes flight. The sardines race through rocky underwater passages, forming a living cable threading through the deep. The cable winds upwards towards a huge, spinning sardine ball. "The most effective form of Omega 3," intones Jeremy Irons' narrator, "For keeping the heart healthy…" And as he says this, the gigantic shoal forms itself into a huge, pulsating heart-shaped mass. "…Can only be found in certain fish," continues the voiceover, as the fish rearrange their mass to form the beginnings of a cross, "And one spread." The cross becomes the packaging design for St. Ivel Gold.
That such an elaborate – and entirely CG – spot was largely executed by just three people is a tribute to the depth of talent to be found in the Framestore CFC Commercials team. The fish were designed, choreographed, lit and animated by Senior Technical Director Mark Wilson and Senior Animator Jamie Isles, with contributions from other 3D team members, while Henry Artist, Tim Osborne, did the compositing.
Work started at Framestore CFC in November 2005, with an initial phase of R&D by Wilson and Isles. Once Laurent Boudoiseau, the director, came on board, a firm storyboard was developed, which in turn enabled the team to create an animatic of the entire spot, giving everyone a clear understanding of the shots, camera angles and creature work that would be needed.
Wilson said: "While the animatic and storyboard were happening, I was developing the particle systems we'd need for the shoals. The numbers of fish involved – 20,000 at a time in many shots, and some 40,000 individual fish for the final heart-shoal – were a little daunting, and we needed to find technical solutions that would enable us to overcome the potentially huge render times."
The fish were built and animated in Maya, and Wilson developed a shader plug in for the rendering tool used (Mental Ray) that enabled large numbers of fish to be rendered effectively. Wilson's ingenuity in solving this problem not only made School of St Ivel possible, it has also provided the 3D team with a tool that will be used on many future projects.
The work was composited in Henry by Tim Osborne, who drew together the various underwater background elements, the fish, the particulate elements and the lighting effects, manipulating it all into a coherent whole.
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