The Mill shares its VFX secrets for the ‘It’s not a room. It’s a residence’ campaign, featuring an elephant, giraffe and family of penguins. Find out how the three spots were created and discover a fun fact about the animal world
Mcgarrybowen’s new campaign directed by Believe Media’s Gerard de Thame stars an elephant, giraffe and family of penguins enjoying the comforts of Residence Inn by Marriott.
You get the impression that The Mill had a really good time creating these spots. The Mill’s 3D lead artist Matthew Longwell explains that the shoot enlightened him on a fun fact about the animal kingdom:
"We learned that you can't hear elephants walking! They're enormous but you can't hear them,"
“Gerard [de Thame] wanted to shoot everything for real for inspiration then use CG as a contingency,” explains Longwell. “We shot Stanley the giraffe in L.A. and Opal the elephant in Toronto. The penguins were in L.A. and ended up being a mix of live-action and CG.”
Clever CG cheats
Longwell explains that both Stanley and Opal were pros and a pleasure to work with, the only issue was they were too big for the rooms. “We built a slightly oversized set for Opal, but couldn’t build things like the kitchen, he explains.
The Mill was tasked with creating photo-realistic CG animals to match live-action animals and incorporating them into a mixture of filmed and CG hotel environments
“We matched the camera heights and positions, scaled them down and shot plates of the set. For Stanley, we filmed him against green screen. We learned that adolescent penguins and adults are very close to the same size by the time you are allowed to work with them, so every time we shot the live-action penguins with two heights to convey them as a family.”
There were three CG giraffe shots and six CG penguin shots. Although there were no CG elephant shots, Longwell explains that elephant skin tends to be freckly so a beauty treatment was done over Opal’s real skin so it looked smooth and uniform.
He also says that the shoot enlightened him on a fun fact about the animal kingdom: “We learned that you can’t hear elephants walking! They’re enormous but you can’t hear them.”
What The Mill did for each spot
In terms of 3D work, Longwell tells us the team was tasked with creating photo-realistic CG animals to match live-action animals and incorporating them into a mixture of filmed and CG hotel environments.
Here is a general breakdown of the specific 3D work done in each spot:
designed, animated and incorporated the fully CG giraffe used in three shots
The latest showreel from award winning visual effects studio, The Mill, featuring a selection of the very best VFX work from their London, New York and Los Angeles teams.
There’s loads of familiar stuff here. Check it out.
What 3D software was used?
The Mill used an array of 3D software on the It’s Not a Room campaign: Maya, PFTrack, ZBrush, Shave and a Haircut, 3DEqualizer, Nuke (for its 3D tracker) and Arnold Renderer.
Click on Maya and ZBrush to read reviews of the 3D software
Maya was used in almost every step of the production and proved to be the most useful software tool. It was used for modelling, rigging, animating, lighting and rendering.
Specifically, Maya Muscle was instrumental in getting the most realistic and life-like animal movements. “To achieve those for the giraffe for example, we set up a full muscle rig.”
Perhaps the most impressive technical aspect of this project was the exceptional quality The Mill achieved with the animals’ fur.
“Getting the right texture and movement was a challenge for several reasons. One of the issues we ran into was dealing with how short the giraffe fur was for example.
Perhaps the most impressive technical aspect of this project was the exceptional quality The Mill achieved with the animals' fur
“We had to use a lot of hairs to get satisfactory coverage while being really careful to not let render times get out of hand.
“It was also a challenge to get displacement and fur working together to get the desired look. We are really happy, however, with the quality we achieved in the end.”
The production team was very cooperative and let The Mill take a lot of photos and video footage as reference. We had several Mill L.A. team members on set during filming which made the entire process smooth and enjoyable
Fur replaces feathers
The penguins’ feathers were an interesting challenge. Instead of feathers, we decided to use fur to mimic the short and slightly oily penguin coats. Using Arnold Renderer, our lighting and rendering team did an incredible job of creating natural-looking coats that blended well with the live-action animals.
Lovely stuff! Well done The Mill. Outstandinding work, as usual