In ‘Level Up,’ the first of three rounds of work for youth-focused anti-tobacco initiative Fresh Empire, Framestore brings to life a video-game inspired world, meant to appeal to a young, difficult-to-reach demographic with an important message. The spots, which follows aspiring musicians at the launch of their careers, place our heroes in the middle of different video game levels, making a metaphor of the steps needed to achieve personal and professional success, and showing how being tobacco-free is the key to ‘leveling up’.
Framestore was heavily involved in the project: from receiving the brief to informing the storyboards, developing the look creative direction to delivering the inspired sequences. Partnering with director Fernando Cardenas, the spots were shot entirely against blue screen to allow for the flexibility to create a hyperreal gaming world surrounding the talent.
Using a marriage of matte painting, 2D compositing and 3D animation, the team, led by Creative Director Anthony Gibbs, created environments for the heroes to conquer once their performances were extracted from the blue screen. The motion graphics were choreographed and integrated into the action to emphasize the gaming charm, building a world where thrones could levitate, the talent could play with holograph-like chess pieces, and find themselves surrounded by speakers that tower storeys over their heads.
To create the chess pieces, the team used a combination of Houdini as well as After Effects and Element 3D. The motion graphics were then seamlessly integrated into the shot using Flame and Nuke, and the scene brought together with subtle color spills and grading.
As hip-hop was a central theme to the concept, the speaker city scene proved a perfect complement, and added energy to the story. The design team had to strike a balance between the materials of the speakers and city, allowing the concept artists to design a number of different elaborate arrangements before settling on the final layout, which was built by a team of 3D modelers and lighting artists.
Always keeping in mind the generation of the audience, solidifying the right look was essential. To do this, the team created a world rooted in a classic '80s aesthetic, with contemporary touches, to retain a sense of nostalgia without feeling outdated; pulling inspiration from films such as Tron: Legacy and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The palette was inspired by the ‘Fresh Empire’ green, and the color used to emphasize the heroic actions of the talent with energy pulses and shockwaves, without competing with the rest of the graphics.