Framestore Pictures Director Murray Butler helms ‘Shifting Threats’ – a stunning new spot for the United States Marine Corps. The epic collaboration between Wunderman Thompson and Framestore Pictures explores the adaptable nature of the Marines skills and mindset in the face of unpredictable and unrelenting global threats.
“Prior to shooting I spoke with all the Marines who volunteered for this film about why they joined and why they wanted to participate – it was important for me to get to know them and represent them with authenticity,” said Butler. “We developed a mutual trust and in each scenario allowed the team leaders to work out how they would navigate the terrain. Although we knew which broad story beats to cover, we let these things develop organically on each day of filming, and rather than get them to perform for the camera, we worked with the camera around them.”
Working alongside Framestore’s VFX team led by Patrick Ross and Karch Coon, Butler balanced heavily conceptual visual effects moments with portraits of the Marines themselves, showing their resolve in the face of these multiple challenges. Being able to curate camera work closely with Director of Photography Jeff Cronenweth allowed them to capture the stunning imagery of the Marines on location in Okinawa, Japan.
“A large chunk of the visual development work took place during the pitch phase, allowing the VFX team to draw on concept images and animation tests in execution,” explained Ross, Framestore CG Supervisor. “Taking these initial ‘rough sketch’ ideas that the creative team approved and building the finished article was a huge task, and one that the VFX team rose to brilliantly. I’m immensely proud of them.“
The transitions provided a unique challenge for the artists – each one requiring a new methodology and aesthetic approach. From an entire city collapsing into the sea, to ravens digitally transforming into enemy drones, and a tropical jungle terraforming into snow covered alpine mountains, Framestore’s VFX team had their work cut out. They created dozens of bespoke assets and developed complex methods of transformation. Other scenes required more invisible work, for example when it came to a lack of snow in tropical Okinawa, the entire scene was shot in a gym on white screen with a full environment replacement, with cold breath and CG snow added in. Compositing lead Karch Coon’s eye for realism helped ground these scenes amongst the more VFX heavy vignettes.
With a musical score by legendary composer, Hans Zimmer, and color grade by Dave Hussey of Company 3, the spot has a high impact finish.