The original brief went something like this:
“For this year’s Canadian Tire Christmas campaign, we have selected the location to be a floating iceberg in the middle of the ocean at the north pole. Is that doable? Oh, and we would like it to be day time and night time, and for a total of 34 spots.”
This was back in May and for obvious reasons shooting at the north pole was not an option. When we calculated the entire scope of the project we ended up with over 200 effect shots with over 170 of them being blue screen. Both time and budget didn’t allow for this amount of volume. We decided to create an 8K animated matte painting of our environment and rear project it for all of the close-up shots and only use blue screen for the wide shots. This would not only cut down on the amount of shots needed to be composited by two thirds but would also allow us to use the giant 120ft projector screen as a light source.
“Matte paintings were created for the day and night skies and used in lighting the CG water simulations. Various levels of turbulence in the water simulation were presented ranging from bigger waves with white caps to calmer water. Eventually we settled on something on the calmer side with very subtle ripples for the waves. Water simulations were done in Houdini because it provides a high quality customizable solution specifically for water simulations. Lighting and rendering was done in Mantra” says Senior TD, Ayo Burgess
Colourist Eric Whipp “Once the projector screen was setup in the studio further adjustments were made to compensate for the various different colour temperatures of the projector, the studio lighting and the camera. Bulb intensity, white and black levels, and even daylight versus night time were all factors to take into consideration when viewing the matte painting”
Early on decisions were made which shots would require blue screen and which would be rear projected on set. “We knew that we had a solid solution for all the close-up shots. The matte painting was only created from one point of view which was forgiving enough on the close ups. Additionally, when shooting on a long lens having shallow depth of field was a huge advantage for us in believability. Unfortunately, the same trick didn’t work for the wide shots. In the extreme wide’s we wanted the iceberg to be floating surrounded by water and no amount of projection could achieve that” says David Whiteson
Once John Evans and Mel Hider finished editing all 34 plus spots we began our four-week finishing process. Not a single shot was untouched from keying, rotoscoping, compositing CG elements including water simulations, environments, sucked up wrapping paper, and atmosphere. The final step was to add breath to all of our talent. Eric Perrella meticulously analyzed our talents performance and dialogue to make sure that the breath was appearing on the correct exhaling moments throughout all 34 spots.
Overall, we love how these spots turned out and are thrilled to collaborate with the great creatives at TAXI on such a well-known campaign.