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10/03/2008

Confident Canine Stars For VW

A 3D canine is the star of a new TV commercial that has been created by DDB London.
Directed by Noam Murro, VW Polo Dog is a 30 second spot that started airing recently in the UK with post production handled by Framestore CFC.
The 'hero' - a white Jack Russell - sitting in the front of his mistresses' car and belting out the opening lines of Spencer Davis Group's 'I'm a Man' sets the scene with "Well my pad is very messy and there's whiskers on my chin," but abruptly, the advert cuts to 'Jack' accompanying his mistress as she waits in line in a bank.
He appears distinctly subdued and is muttering the song (Acapella - as the backing band has disappeared) under his breath.
The spot continues in this vein, switching back and forth between the dogs' contrasting demeanours - breezily confident in the car, timorous outside it.
At the end the tag - 'Polo confidence' - is superimposed over a final shot of the car speeding along, and we cut to a final logo shot.
VFX Supervisor Stephane Allender attended the four-day shoot in LA: "It was a pretty straightforward process," he recalled, "not least because the dog was so beautifully trained.
"All of the interior shots of him trembling and cowering - those were all reactions he could do on command. Not only were no animals harmed during the making of this film - they weren't even disconcerted!"
The three and a half weeks of post that followed were largely concerned with the animating, texturing, matching and fine-tuning of the 3D elements.
Allender painted out the whole of the dog's muzzle. This was tricky in some shots where the dog is seen through the car's reflective windows - made necessary because open windows would have been too windy for the dog.
Meanwhile, CG Lead, Diarmid Harrison-Murray started by getting good camera track and then object track of the dog so that the 3D dog head could be properly aligned with the real one.
"We made a whole 3D dog's head, even though we knew that it would probably just be the muzzle that was used," said Harrison-Murray, "because this gave Stephane plenty of leeway to play with when compositing."
The dog was built and animated using Maya and rendered with Mental Ray.
Leading the animators was Senior Animator Dale Newton. "We had to make a dog rig that could move convincingly," he said,
"Whose lips were flexible enough to do things that a real dog's would, but that would also go that tiny bit further. Dog lips are potentially far more flexible than human lips - they can flap around in a much more mobile way than ours can."
Newton points out that the 'animation' of the dog while mumbling was not a 3D job - Allender created it all with a mixture of in-camera footage and a little Flame magic.
A final touch was the Telecine, created by Senior Colourist Steffan Perry, who said: "The aim was to keep the spot looking warm and upbeat - the final 'hero' shot of the dog in the car has a slight, but distinct, golden glow to it."
(BMcC/KMcA)
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