Hollywood VFX veteran Michael Fink unveils his directing debut for Indian TV – an amphibious Prime Focus commercial for Lotte Coffy Bite toffee.
Fink is president, VFX Worldwide at Prime Focus and an Oscar-winner for vfx work on The Golden Compass. The ad, commissioned in Mumbai by Rediffusion-Y&R and MAD Entertainment, shows two frogs – Leo and Dino – vying for one of the Coffy Bites. The frogs needed to emote and converse, so had to be completely created using CGI, a process that required co-ordinating between visual effects teams and clients in the USA and in India.
“I received the phone call with the request [from the Mumbai Prime Focus offices] that I direct this commercial about 6 weeks before it had to be finished,” said Fink. ”The animation and finishing of the commercial was to be done at Prime Focus. I immediately got on phone with Merzin Tavaria, Creative Director at Prime Focus, and we strategised about the spot.”
Fink said many intercontinental phone calls followed, between himself, the client and agency and Prime Focus, all in different cities. “I drew new storyboards based on the original board for the spot, and the agency and client liked them, so that is what we agreed to do. We did all photography in Mumbai, including building our own little pond on the stage.”
Fink explained that each frog had to have its own unique and distinct characteristics. “The frogs were modeled, rigged, and animated in Maya,” he revealed. “We paid special attention to the fact that they would have to speak and we would need good control over facial expressions, eye motion, and the like – while staying within ‘frogness’ parameters.”
The team used Z-Brush, and painted textures for the surfaces of the frogs, while rendering was carried out using Mental Ray. Fink said that technical challenges were minimal thanks to careful preparation. “The spot had to be done so quickly that we planned carefully to avoid anything that might jump up and bite us. We did a fairly good job of that.”
“There were the integration issues with the frog that falls in the water and then gets scooped up, which was a bit of work for the compositors, but luckily these are very brief moments,” he continued. ”We were careful to get good lighting reference on the set, so the frogs looked almost perfect from the first test passes. One of the toughest things was trying to get all the moments demanded by the boards into a 30-second spot. Not a technical challenge, really, but one we seem to deal with every time.”
Merzin Tavaria, lead visual effects supervisor for Prime Focus, attributed the success of the commercial to teamwork between Rediffusion-Y&R and Prime Focus. “The creative idea developed by Rediffusion was well structured, which allowed us to execute it so realistically,” said Tavaria. “In the process, we are happy to be playing a role in catapulting India into the global VFX arena.”
“The Coffy Bite commercial marks the globalisation of Indian advertising,” agreed Namit Malhotra, founder and global CEO, Prime Focus. “We’re proud to be at the leading edge of this trend and hope to see more of this confluence of the West with Indian advertising. This process was made possible due to our Global Digital Pipeline business model, which allows us to leverage our resources and technology from across our global locations with spectacular results that were delivered on time and on budget.”
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MetadataTitle: Coffy Bite Client – Coffy Bite Creative agency – Rediffusion-Y & R, Chennai Production House – MAD Entertainment Producer – Sunil Manchanda Director – Michael Fink, President Visual Effects Worldwide, Prime Focus Post production House – Prime Focus VFX supervisor – Merzin Tavaria, Chief Creative Director, Prime Focus