Framestore has just finished a wonderful campaign for Airmiles out of Publicis Toronto. Framestore Director, David Mellor lead the project from concept to full realisation. It's a fully CG piece that is made up of thousands of coins which meant a huge technical challenge for our Neil Weatherley and our FX artists. The spots comprise a number of vignettes that show coin sculptures and environments forming in stop-motion.
Everything is made out of Canadian currency and our goal was to make this feel like it could have really been shot. Mark Spalding (CD) & Terry Theofilcatidis (Producer) gave David a complete free reign conceptually and it became apparent early on that Mark and David both had a very similar vision for the piece.
Neil Weatherley: "Technically and aesthetically this was a very challenging job. On a technical level we were faced with a huge amount of geometry to animate and render, all of which was reflective and full of small detail. On an aesthetic level we had to try and keep the scale of the coins but also try and make it look more impressive than small-scale sculptures maybe would be. We realised early on that the animation would need to be a combination of hand-animation for timing and camera movement, the creation of the sculptures themselves would need to be procedural. The animation was blocked in using regular models to represent the various objects in each vignette, these were animated to time the build and "de-build" of the coin sculptures. Whilst this was being done we took the static models and developed tools in Houdini to turn these into the coin-based sculptures, we then created a series of tools that took in the animation done for the blocks and used them to procedurally build and "de-build" these static coin sculptures.
Rendering was another huge challenge as the spot demanded lots of reflections and a high level of sampling so as we didn't lose the small detail on the coins. That combined with the sheer number of coins, at times up to around 250,000, made for a lot of rendering time and power needed! We took the decision to keep the rendering within Houdini using it's physical-based renderer so we could keep everything in that one package and also make use of "real-world" reflections and refractions. Optimising the complexity of the scenes was complicated due to us needed offscreen coins to still reflect in the frame. Each vignette was rendered separately and then combined to create the finished spot. Finishing touches at the compositing stage such as a very shallow depth of field and slight variations of grade and camera position per frame helped create the stop-motion feel."