CG spot by Mecanique Générale for Tag Heuer
Check out this visually stunning Tag Heuer commercial featuring a mechanical frog, and find out how the spot was created as chief creative officer Baptiste Massé shares the CG secrets behind its creation
Mecanique Générale – a Paris-based 3D print and animation studio – created this outstanding commercial for watch specialist Tag Heuer.
Tag Heuer’s advertising uses animals’ speed and accuracy as metaphors to convey the mechanical precision of its watches. In a nutshell, the animation features a watch brushed by an insect, which, on contact with it, is transformed into a frog which then eats the insect.
Mecanique Générale was keen to complement the print advertising – which won many awards in 2011 – with an animation.
We caught up with Mecanique Générale’s chief creative officer, Baptiste Massé, to discover how this outstanding CG spot was created.
Watch the new CG commercial
“The brief was quite open,” says Massé. The goal was to stage the campaign slogan: ‘Everything can change in a second’ from one of two animals previously made for the print campaign.”
“The frog with the insect offered many narrative opportunities and it seemed judicious to build the film considering the print as the last scene to finish on an heavy visual benchmark,” Massé continues.
The devil’s in the detail
The level of detail in the animation is truly astounding: TAG Heuer provided the watch elements to Mecanique Générale, who took them and modelled each part individually.
“This meticulous modelling phase lasted about ten days,” says Massé. “Then I assembled the pieces according to my intuition and resized [them using] reasonable ratios to each other.”
Working like this meant that Mecanique Générale was able to stay stictly in the watch universe, using the pieces faithfully, while also allowing for creative freedom.
“The initial image rendering was 9,000 by 6,000 pixels and it was necessary that beyond the composition and general appearance, we could appreciate the smallest ruby or the thinnest gear.”
If you watch carefully, you’ll notice that every small piece is animated to a logical mechanical rhythm
Breathing life into the digital frog
“Fist of all, I drew a precise storyboard,” says Massé, “to anticipate every scene, including the content of every transformation.”
The opening scene shows the contact between the insect and the watch: “The insect body is covered with a Maya Fur and the set up is conventional.”
“The window’s mesh was broken with a fracture interactive simulation, but if I had to do it again, I would animate the cracks manually to obtain more precision,” says Massé. “The last scene shows the fragmented watch while naturalizing the expression.”
The second shot shows how pieces fit together in detail to form the limbs of the frog. “Every piece is connected to a central axis on which it can be rotated,” Massé explains.
TAG Heuer provided the watch elements to Mecanique Générale, who took them and modelled each part individually.
“Both legs were initially separated and had a root in the toes so that the legs could swing,” he continues. “Then the abdomen, which is made itself of many pieces, is connected to the top of the thighs while still being mechanically independent.
“Several deformation, blend or lattice types have been used to give flexibility to the whole movement.”
If you watch carefully, you’ll notice that every small piece is animated to a logical mechanical rhythm.
“In the fourth shot, I organised the pieces of the head into a new hierachy.” Massé wanted to connect each element and sub element so that the frog would be able to be handled like a toy. “To go with the release of the tong I used Maya basic particles, but it needed to be well measured.”
The fifth and final shot incorporates the print advertising picture – so technically there’s nothing to note.
The window mesh was broken with a fracture interactive simulation, but if Massé had to do it again, he would animate the cracks manually to obtain more precision
A dangerous move
Massé wanted to try to render the entire film in a single layer calculation (without the render layer), without calculating the elements separately.
In terms of the animation’s production, this was quite a risk because the possibilities of retouching it were dramtically reduced.
“Moreover, to calculate the depth of field and motion blur in 3D requires more adjustment upstream and a [greater] computation time. However, the result of depth of field is greater in many cases this way, when, for example, animated glass pieces enter in the field or when we want to obtain the greatest photographic sharpness for the items.”
All the decisions for the lighting and the visual effects has to be made during the shooting and before the rendering stage.
The 1,000 images of the movie were calculated at Mécanique Générale with Royal Render on 40 dedicated machines
“Without considering the modelling of all the pieces that were previously made for the print campaign, I did setups and animation of each shot at same time, also anticipating the rendering which was done at the very final stage of the process.”
The high grass and background vegetation were animated at the end.
The 1,000 images of the movie were calculated at Mécanique Générale with Royal Render on 40 dedicated machines. “Render times oscillated between two and nine hours per picture. And including few minor retakes, the rendering phase lasted one week,” says Massé.
The whole production schedule, from the script to compositing stage lasted five weeks.
To see more work by Mecanique Générale visit its website
Baptiste Massé’s thoughts on 3D
Massé started 3D in 2003, mainly working for print advertising campaigns. “I straight away took a photorealistic orientation, full 3D, with minimal rework steps in order to put myself in realistic shooting conditions.”
“Nothing was done at that time, in software like Maya or Max, to design large size pictures, there was no physical shaders and I spent many hours researching to shoot and make right textures,” he says. “Nothing existed either in terms of fixed images, except some synthetic images very retouched for the architecture industry.”
“The numerous advertising awards allowed me year after year to be freer in my work and being able to grasp the systematic urgency that characterises this sector on each project, in a serene and a relatively independent way.”
“3D is getting more and more accessible – [hopefully] creative minds [won't be] discouraged by the long learning period and they will invest in a medium that has no other limit than their imagination.”
on Thursday, May 31st, 2012 at 6:47 pm under Commercial, Showcase.
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Tags: 3D eye candy, advert, Advertising, CG spot, commerical, inspiration, Mecanique Générale, TAG Heuer