Filed in: Animation, Commercials, News, Postproduction, Visual FX
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MPC Creates a Rock & Roll Kitty for Three Mobile

March 14, 2014 | By

London-based visual effects house, MPC recently developed and animated a digital cat for an adorable spot for Three Mobile that has gone viral. The cat rides in his bike basket, singing along to Starship’s iconic ’80s anthem “We Built This City.” Directed by Traktor and conceived by W+K London, the spot is meant to convey Three’s brand message of “Silly Stuff. It matters.”

MPC’s VFX team developed and animated a digital double of Bronte the cat, complete with skeleton, muscle structure and luxurious fur.

“The commercial was a chamber-piece that had some epic challenges in the shape of a Pint-sized fan of Starship,” said Traktor. “We built this Kitty, indeed. Our hope was that it was going to look effortless despite the obvious efforts that must, somehow, have gone into it. Realism was not really our main aim (although it does look real) as the moment it sings, that is a moot point. We wanted emotion, and MPC provided that in droves.”

A real cat, Bronte, was cast from a litter of rare flat-faced kittens, selected based on his coloring and relaxed personality. MPC’s 3D team elected to cast the cat ahead of developing a digital double of Bronte for the final spot, in order to have the perfect reference for his movement and look.

LR-Three WIP3“We collaborated closely with Traktor and W+K on developing Bronte’s personality to bring him to life,” said MPC’s VFX supervisor Bill McNamara. “Working on his movement and attitude, we help his confidence grow from a shy little kitten to a full-blown performer belting out the lyrics. His eyes were key to his charisma and our animators developed the expressions to get some real emotion in his performance.”

The first step for the 3D team was to develop a detailed model of Bronte using 3D software. A rig was then put in place, setting up the bone structure and muscle systems. As the real Bronte has fur with substantial depth, the team studied the hairless Sphynx breed joints, as their shoulder blades and wrists can be easily seen. Luckily Bronte enjoyed a regular bath, as his anatomy was much easier to study when wet.

During the shoot, the VFX team was on hand to capture lighting conditions and measurements to be replicated later in the studio. A 3D model of the entire environment was re-created, to ensure all of the conditions of the shoot were replicated before Bronte was composited into the shots.

MPC used propriety software tool Furtility to develop Bronte’s fur, capturing the dynamics and depth of the real cat. The animation stage saw MPC working with W+K London and Traktor to film an actor singing lyrics, and the mouth movements were then applied to Bronte. A team of animators also used reference of cats yawning and snarling to develop the perfect singing feline.

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