Horns of a dilemma
Framestore has helped take Philips’ award-grabbing campaign, Parallel Lines, into a whole new dimension with its sixth incarnation, The Foundling. The film, with stereoscopic 3D post production carried out in SGO’s Mistika, is available to view at Philips in 2D and in-store in 3D as a way of demonstrating Philips’ new 3D TVs.
The Philips Parallel Lines campaign invites directors to put forward their own unique visions of a set six-line dialogue to illustrate that: “There are millions of ways to tell a story. There’s only one way to watch one.” RSA’s Barney Cokeliss added his vision to the campaign’s set dialogue of six ambiguous lines by decamping to the circus in glorious 3D. As the UK’s leading specialist in stereo 3D, Framestore was brought on board to craft both the 3D and 2D effects.
“This project is our first major output for 3D commercial work” said Tim Keene, Framestore’s Executive Producer, Commercials. “The whole production went remarkably smoothly, thanks to all the learning we gained from working on Avatar. By keeping things simple, we managed to help create a subtle piece of 3D that’s quietly beautiful whilst also being dynamically three-dimensional.”
Shot in a nostalgic and poetic style, The Foundling opens with a human unicorn baby being abandoned at a circus. The boy and his unicorn horn grow up to be included in the circus’ freak show, much to the amusement of its spectators. But one day the unicorn’s mother returns. Identifying the forlorn look on her face, the unicorn chases her through the circus and its wondrous spectacles.
Framestore’s brief was to create a subtle and immersive 3D experience, in the style of their previous work for Avatar. However, the circus-based nature of the commercial lent itself perfectly to certain moments of 3D that make viewers jump out of the way, for example – the knife throwing scene. As London’s only commercials visual effects house to use Mistika, Framestore used the new kit as a one-stop shop for conforming, creating seamless workflows, stereo 3D graphics, titles and visual effects.
Initially, Mistika was used to conform the film from DPX files into two full resolution streams for the left and right eye. Stereoscopic alignment tools were then used to quickly align the left and right cameras. The speedy process was achieved using Mistika’s in-built optical recognition software to remove any vertical misalignments caused during the shooting process.
While Mistika offers a full colour grading tool-set, Barney Cokeliss wanted Framestore’s telecine artist – Dave Ludlam – to add his signature grade. The pipeline was thus adapted to suit both Spirit and Mistika; images were outputted into Spirit and fed back into Mistika using the same details and timecodes. The images were then further embellished for the final grade and 3D finish back in Mistika.
Mistika Visual Effects Artist & Colourist David Cox, was responsible for the entire stereo 3D post effects in Mystika. “While the grading was in process, I was able to continue to work on the ungraded material knowing that when the grading was complete, I could simply swap the ungraded DPX files for graded ones and all my work would simply be attached to the graded images,” Cox explained. “This worked perfectly, as did Mistika’s own colour grading ability to match shots that were later changed and to provide a final ‘once-over’ in 3D.“
Given the tight three-week schedule, the film’s visual effects were kept as simple as possible, for example – by cleverly using split screen techniques rather than CG, so as to minimise simultaneous and seamless right and left eye correction on each effect. VFX work of mention was de-ageing of the mother for the opening scene when she abandons her baby and the coconut shy ball that flies out of the screen. Framestore was also tasked with designing the ‘time passing’ poster montage in a way that also showed 3D depth to best effect.
Mistika was also used to create all the 3D graphic and visual effects sections in the film. Graphics included forming titles which dissipated in a smoke-effects fashion, created by using Mistika’s ‘feedback’ effect to create a procedural animation to the internally generated type.
There was also a ‘time passing’ sequence which was created using many traditional circus posters and these where composed in stereo 3D using Mistika’s stereo 3D compositing space, which allowed accurate positioning, while viewing the result at the same time in stereo 3D.
There were also many subtle and outstanding visual effects, which were deliberately intended to be invisible to the audience. One example was the scene of the mother’s face at the start of the film. It was felt that she looked too old in that scene, as she needed to look older later on in the film, and the comparison was not so clear. Mistika’s painting tools came to the rescue and were used to ‘airbrush’ a younger look to her face, with the animated result tracked in stereo 3D onto the stereoscopic base shot.
Other visual effects shots that had great impact in the film, included adding a stereo 3D coconut into a ‘coconut shy’ shot, so that the coconut flew directly at the audience for a classic, surprise ‘stereo 3D moment’ making viewers react suddenly. The closing scene of the circus caravan train moving away were actually tripled in length using combined multiple passes in Mistika to elongate the entourage. Finally, there were a number of small tweaks that were required to perfect certain shots in the project, such as removing distant buildings and adjusting elements for better composition and clarity.
“Mistika proved to be the perfect post production tool for this project as it needed to handle all of the natural stereoscopic issues, plus be able to make edit changes, colour grade and provide graphics and visual effects to the final film,” said Cox. “It did all of this extremely quickly, allowing the maximum creative time to be spent perfecting the film.”
“Mistika gave Framestore the full stereo toolset to see through the project from start to finish,” added Tim Keene. “Originally I had set aside other 3D stereo VFX resources to assist the post production, but soon realised that I was able to rely solely on the Mistika to cater for all the VFX and Mastering needs of The Foundling.”
© 2011, Michael Burns. All rights reserved.