Georgia Power | Shed Some Light
Let’s face it, we would be hosed without basic electricity. The idea behind this sweet, little animated piece is to remind us of the comfort a little light gives us when the sun goes down and we’re left alone in the dark. It’s not like we’re afraid of the dark or anything… In any case, cozy up with your better half, your dog, your uncle, whoever, and enjoy!
It’s not every day that a fantastic brief finds its way to your inbox, but on an ordinary day in July we found ourselves in such a position. The Georgia Power board was just plain nice, immediately we felt there was something really wonderful to be crafted here. It was a real pleasure developing this concept. Here’s some of the work we presented in our treatment.
As part of the pitch, we knocked out a real quick motion test using a reference illustration by John Klassen (who wasn’t available for the project). The idea was to take a simple hand made graphic illustrative style and bring it into a full 3d space. Originally, we thought camera projection was the way to go. It even looks pretty all right here.
With the pitch approved and the job awarded, design and exploration takes off with a bang. Our illustration crew was churning out amazing stuff right off the bat. A lot of us like to start with good ole pencil and paper (or digital line drawing).
We also were busy designing additional elements to give each scene a good load of detail.
A first pass of most scenes was ready to go by the end of the first week. Design continued at a solid clip until everything in the spot had been touched. We made revisions and adjustments based on the very thoughtful feedback of our partners at the Agency.
Other than changes made to our architecture references, we quickly locked into the look of the rural scene.
We nailed this section of the spot almost immediately. From design to finishing; suburbs led the way.
The transition from the suburban sky into the city was something we really believed in from the beginning, but was one of the last things overall to get approved and finished.
As our planned camera move changed dramatically, so did the development of the city. The main challenge for us was to get a way from a Manhattan-y feeling, and achieve something Atlanta-like… We needed a city among the trees.
We thought the idea of a comforting motherly cast shadow falling over the sleeping child was a nice touch, but it ended up just looking like some creepy murderer. So that got axed.
Three weeks later we had a beautiful looking roadmap for our spot.
Animatic & Previs
Concurrent with design, we jumped right into timing the spot out. As with any project, the piece went through many iterations. Things flowed pretty organically, but what started as feeling VERY ahead of schedule quickly slipped into an ever present feeling of being WAY behind schedule. The major technical difficulties being a huge factor in this. Here’s the breakdown :
Animatic v01 | 08.06.10
From storyboard to animatic, our timing was approved a week early! 3D previs and R&D begins ahead of schedule!
Previs v01 | 08.13.10
After a week of previs, the rural scene proves to be quite tricky to get just right, but the suburbs are approved and move into look development.
Previs v02 | 08.18.10
The troublesome forced perspective rural scene finally starts to gel. But the city scene camera move goes back to the drawing board…
WIP01 | 08.20.10
Rural scene layout approved. Suburbs still behind the scenes in look-dev. City scene gets a major layout change, after a troubling week of fussing the new concept takes shape.
WIP 02 | 08.30.10
Rural scene camera finalized. Suburbs WIP slugged in. City previs layout finally comes together. All scenes approved, move to 3D buildout, detailing, texturing, and rendering!
WIP 03 | 09.10.10
First WIP online render presented, only 1 week from delivery! Compositing on rural scene is close to final, sets the bar for the spot. Suburbs are rough comped, though missing plenty of elements. Sky to city transition STILL at pre-vis stage *gulp*. City WIP render slugged in, still missing elements. The bedroom (our easiest shot) goes from previs to solid WIP render almost overnight.
With final delivery scheduled for the 17th, we had a shit ton left to accomplish in a week…
Research & Development
Originally, we thought we could get away with using our style frames as camera projection textures with crude geo and blaze through things with minimal 3D work. That didn’t exactly work. Oops.
We wound up building super simple full 3D sets, only detailed out to-camera. The further away something was from the camera, the more simplified and abstract it became. So while a foreground house might’ve been completely built out, we could get away with 3 polygons for his neighbor’s barn in the deep distance.
To recreate the look of our styleframes in 3D we wound up only needing a handful of passes.
Ambient Color Pass : per object color values sampled directly from our styleframes. No lighting in this pass.
Diffuse Pass : scene shares a simple gray shader with a basic light to help give the scene some volume.
Overall Texture Pass : a global texture was applied to entire scene, to be used sparingly in compositing to bring greater parallax and depth to our flat color scene. This hideous raw pass became lovingly known as… “The Cheese”
We also generated tons of extra mattes and RGB volume passes for every light in the scene.
The biggest challenge we encountered was capturing the subtle handmade quality found along the edges in our style frames. We tried a slew of different procedural methods to get the edges the way we imagined, but nothing looked exactly right. Manually modeling the edges was the way to go. We started by extruding the edges of every object in the scene with a unique color. We then applied a shader using several hand painted edge-texture mattes to every set of extruded edges.
Sometimes the most subtle thing winds up doubling your workload. But that imperfection really is felt in the finished piece, so it was well worth it. Suffice it to say… “fucking edges…” was muttered quite often throughout the project.
Everything was going hunky dory. We were ahead of schedule; had time to play COD, SF4 and Puzzle Fighter. Tra La La and all that stuff, then WHAM! Our server craps on itself during a crucial part of the 3d production process.
Our backup was outdated by a couple of days so we limped along working off cobbled together local saves. Limping through this digital purgatory derailed us far longer than we had hoped. Enter the technical wizardry of the folks at GPL, they hustled around the clock to bring us back from our knees.
Thankfully, there was absolutely no data loss. Back up your data constantly people! Eventually things picked back up and we were jamming once again; now with more storage, triple data redundancy, and an optimized network! Yeah!
One of the last things to happen on the 2d side was the final color design. Based off our preliminary research, we sequenced out a color script then took our style frames and conformed their colors to match. Here’s our final approved color design frames.
Finishing & Compositing
The rest of the production was basically a blur. Once we had finalized our pipeline on the city scene, it was a race to the finish to apply that methodology to the rest of the scenes. Then slowly, the laborious process of local rendering!
We never give ourselves enough time to enjoy compositing. Things were going pretty smooth, and we even had a little bit of time to finesse things up front. Layers and layers of floaty texture were added to give the scenes even more atmosphere and depth. Lots of extra bits like the fireflies and people were all placed in the comp using the exported 3d camera. The goal was always to match the design boards verbatim.
As the rest of the 3d scenes got blasted out of rendering, we basically had less than a week to finalize the comp for the spot. This included the dreaded “starry sky to city” transition. It’s a miracle we pulled it off. And that’s all we have to say about that…
If you couldn’t tell from the fantastic work, our crew was fantastic. It would have been great to have the entire gang throughout the entire process, but people come and people go. Everyone had a lasting impact on the piece. We’re very pleased with how the final spot came out. Thanks to everyone who put in time at our studio on this project.
And of course, some more BTS photos. Just look how much fun we’re having!
Many thanks to our absolutely incredible partners Bill and ML at Acronym, as well as the lovely folks from Georgia Power. It was an absolute pleasure going through every minute of the process with them. The constant thoughtfulness and care that went into every meeting, conversation, and decision blew us away. Not only do we have a final piece we’re proud of, getting there was one of the smoothest collaborative journey’s we’ve been on.