Filed in: Animation, Commercials, News, Visual FX

Method Orchestrates the Return of the Kia Hamsters

September 13, 2012 07:57 | By

Kia’s “Bringing Down the House”

Method Studios, a subsidiary of Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, recently completed work on a follow up to last year’s award-winning KiaShare Some Soul” campaign. Working again in collaboration with advertising agency David & Goliath, Method’s team of CG character specialists re-created the iconic Kia Hamsters.

This year’s spot finds the hamsters winning over the audience of a Victorian-era opera house with their trademark style and attitude. “Bringing Down the House” began production in Prague, Czech Republic in June of 2012 under the guidance of production company MJZ and director Carl Rinsch. Method VFX supervisor Andy Boyd, VFX producer Mike Wigart and tracking/integration supervisor Fabio Zapata were on hand to oversee the busy five-day shoot, which consisted of five professional dancers in hamster suits, a stunt hamster and over 200 fully costumed extras.

On-set VFX supervision required extensive data wrangling, a B-unit set up for crowd duplication and a lot of creative decision making with Rinsch and director of photography John Mathieson. “I was a fan of Carl’s work before the shoot, so it was exciting to revisit our hamster characters with his collaboration,” said Boyd. “Mathieson is a master cinematographer and he gave us a great framework to light our hamsters.”

While production was underway in Prague, Method LA’s CG team built upon the hamster setup created for “Share Some Soul” and advanced it using the latest state-of-the-art fur rendering techniques. According to Boyd, “The lighting in this spot is so much more complex and specific. We had to advance our fur rendering techniques to new levels.”

Lighting lead Brian Burke added, “We added a physically-based translucency model which gave the fur greater volumetric qualities. We also wanted to make eyes more expressive, so instead of rendering black spheres we modeled lenses and irises for each character. It brought them more life.”

Method head of 2D Patrick Ferguson led a team of Nuke artists to integrate the CG hamster renders with the practical dancers’ bodies, creating a seamless blend of CG and costuming. “We took the character integration a step further this year by modeling clothing geometry that was match moved to the dancers so that light play and shadows felt more physical,” said Ferguson. “We also created a special gradient pass that enabled us to pick any area of fine hair on the neck and layer it on top of the collars. This approach went a long way in terms of adding realism to these characters.”

Method Studios linked in through its digital pipeline with sister facility Company 3 to allow Company 3 co-founder/colorist Stefan Sonnenfeld to perform the color grading for the spot as he had on the previous campaign.

“People love the Kia hamsters and we love working with them,” said Wigart, “We’re still waiting for our friends at D&G to pitch us the movie.”