When you take away the artillery and hardware, what’s left is what’s most important: the integrity of individual Marines. To tell this story for the United States Marine Corps’ big game advertisement, ‘A Nation’s Call’, Framestore’s artistic troops ingrained themselves with USMC operations. Only by getting a true sense of the Marines’ character and environments could the team authentically replicate the visual assets, and the campaign’s ultimate reveal.
The :30 film debuted on NBC’s online live-stream of Super Bowl LII, with extended :60 & :72 versions appearing across Facebook and YouTube. It was concepted by USMC’s long-time ad agency J. Walter Thompson, and was produced by Smuggler Director Henry Alex Rubin. Rubin, with Academy Award winning Director of Photography, Dion Beebe, provided incredibly high production value, live action plates, ensuring that Framestore’s artists could accurately composite the vast scale of assets and environment enhancements.
Framestore was integral to the entire six month production, beginning with three months of reconnaissance technical scouting to survey military assets and locations, including Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, the Corps' largest West Coast expeditionary training facility. The location encompasses more than 125,000 acres of Southern California terrain and constituents where thousands of active-duty Marines live and work.
'Meeting the Marines themselves changed everything for us. Their commitment and sacrifice is remarkable. Once we realised that this work was as much for them as new recruits, we didn’t want to let them down.'Murray Butler - Executive Creative Director
The four-day production shoot included two nights spent 70 miles off the coast of California aboard the USS Essex, an operational Naval Assault Ship. The production teams combined efforts with the US Marines and Navy to have front row access to Operation Dawn Blitz: a massive sea-to-land assault exercise. The technical scouts and close-knit relationship with Marine Corps’ media advisors secured the authenticity of the large scale of work in the post-production months that followed. Framestore developed a massive texture library of vehicles, created over three scouting expeditions, with exclusive access to Ospreys, Venoms, Vipers, Amphibious Assault Vehicles, Light Armoured Vehicles and gigantic LCAC hovercraft.
'With Henry-Alex Rubin on board we had a director who was already ingrained with the USMC. We all shared his vision and passion for the project.'Nick Fraser - Senior Producer
The main battle scene was shot in an immersive training facility. Framestore extended the scene beyond its physical parameters through applied photogrammetry and matte painting. A dozen or so buildings became a large city with roads, warehouses and infrastructure featured in multiple aerial shots, as well as hand-held footage captured on the ground. Artists also added digital destruction to live action plates, such as damaged walls and burning cars.
Building into many long lens, backlit, anamorphic shots, the vast majority of Framestore’s 32 sequences included melding elements from nearly every department, resulting in a true-to-life commercial that delivers an array of CG techniques and visual stylizing.
Creatively, the team was called on to produce a disappearing effect, as peripheral items dissolve to highlight the Marine instinct to balance reverence and action. Solving the problem of how to dissolve away a variety of armoured land vehicles, stealth fighters, and giant air- and sea-based transport and assault ships was the greatest creative challenge. The brief was simply to make them disappear, but without looking like some futuristic stealth technology; nor seemingly being destroyed by enemy fire. Inspired by Framestore’s graceful alien departure sequence in 'Arrival', the team took its cue from their environment: ships turned to water vapour, fighters into contrail, with dust consuming the vehicles on land.
‘Our goal was to achieve an eloquent, sleight-of-hand type transition: one seemingly simple, that still maintained a level of sophistication and complexity without feeling rushed in the relatively short amount of screen time each scene was given.'Steve Drew, VFX Supervisor
The complex variety of environmental effects include dust, smoke, water, fire, clouds and oceans. Practically every kind of FX simulation was required. Framestore focussed its FX artists on either water or pyrotechnics. The water artists designed ocean, wake, spray, cloud and mist sims, whilst the pyro team ran fire, smoke, contrails, ignitions, explosions, debris, dust, grass, hay, dust, and even some supplementary cloth sims for good measure. The collective result: a cinematic-quality film which eloquently highlights the qualities at the core of the United States Marine Corps.