The ask: “How do we turn a summertime grassy hill into a tobogganing winter wonderland?
The answer: With a lot of preparation, experience, talent and the brilliant and creative minds at alter ego.
The creative idea was to have an old man who lives at the top of a mountain and a young boy out for a day of sledding, travel together on a toboggan down the hill. And to complicate things even more let’s put a dog on the sled as well.
With the creatives at TAXI leaning towards a sunset lighting palette and a storybook landscape that truly doesn’t exist, made travelling to a location not an option. Which also suggested that a complete CG environment would allow for the most flexibility in creativity.
Working closely with director Pekka Hara during pre-production, alter ego created a pre-visualization complete with camera moves and landscape references. The pre-vis became an extremely useful tool on location to help both the crew and the client visualize the final composition of a shot when all we could see through the monitor was a blue screen.
During the production the on-set practical FX crew rolled out huge snow blankets, brought in pine trees, and sprayed fake snow covering as much area as possible. Even this huge amount of in-camera art direction was not nearly enough to convey the vastness of the storybook mountain-scape.
alter ego’s team of VFX artist then devoted their resources to tracking all the shots, creating all the CG environments including lighting and textures, creating snowy terrain, mountain-scapes, trees, digital skies while keying or rotoscoping all the performances.
Once the rough comps were in place, the team focused on snow accumulation and simulations, overall integration, and colour grading. They went through a bunch of r&d for the snow blowing off of the back of the toboggan. It’s a real fine balance between realism and what works on the screen in order to keep it magical but not detract from the performances.
alter ego even replaced the last shot on the mountain where the actors head towards mount maple with an entirely 100% CG shot. They modeled the two actors and the dog and replaced their performances with CG characters. This allowed them to manipulate their path on the toboggan and create a bigger camera move. It was a great collaboration between TAXI, director Pekka Hara and alter ego. Constantly refining and perfecting every pixel.
“Working with alter ego on the Canadian Tire Christmas commercials was an exceptionally smooth process,” said Senior Producer Nadya MacNeil. “Everyone involved was collaborative, enthusiastic and extremely talented. These commercials would never have been brought to life in such an amazing way, without the incredible people we had the pleasure of working with. A truly extraordinary bunch!”