iloura creates charming new TVC character

14 October, 2008 by IF

By Rodney Appleyard

The VFX team at iloura is responsible for bringing to life a charming new animated character called ‘Sensible’ for the latest Cadbury Spring Valley TVCs. We look at how they created the effects for these entertaining commercials. In this interview, we spoke to Sigi Eimutis, a VFX supervisor for iloura, and Josh Simmonds, a senior animator for iloura.


You can view the commercials here and here.

SM: How did you get involved with the project in the first place?
SE: The overall Sensibles project involved not only the TV campaign, but an online and audio experience as well. Digital Pictures Melbourne, to which Iloura is the visual effects and animation arm, were originally approached to provide an overall integrated solution that comprised an on-line interactive experience; the CGI animated character and integration of live action for the Television spots; high resolution print renders of the Sensibles ‘family’; as well as the audio effects for both the TV ads and web site, as well as radio ads.
SM: What attracted you to the project?
JS: Mainly, the prospect of working on a very original approach to a fruit juice campaign. It is not every day you’re asked to create a new mascot for fruit juice in the form of an imaginary internal organ with its own personality.
SM: How long did you have to complete the project?
SE: The TV spots had a turnaround of around 12 weeks.
SM: What did you like about the script?

JS: There’s not much out there like it. With the "Jessica" spot, there was a nice opportunity to really play on the blossoming relationship between Jessica and her re-discovered Sensible. The idea that we could portray an inherently ugly character in a cute way was an exciting challenge. Not that the Sensible wasn’t without some charm, mind you…
SM: What did you like about how the effects fitted in with the script?

JS: The Sensible is very much a main player in the script, rather than an effect. Breathing life and personality into a character is always the most fun part of our job.
SM: Was "The Sensible", the main effects you created for the TVC?
JS: Yes.
SM: What were the other effects you created for the TVC?

JS: Not so much effects as integration techniques. We did everything from re-creating the swing seat in 3D, to hand rotoscoping daffodils in the hill rolling shot….
SM: Can you describe how you created "The Sensible" from start to finish?

JS: There was an extensive design process before they came to us. We were presented with a number of concept designs for the Sensibles which were whittled down to a handful. There were many technical considerations to the process, as they had to be interchangeable as lo-poly for the real time web interface, the hi-res print campaign, and also believably photo-real in the TVC pre-rendered versions.

Once they had settled on designs, we built and textured them in 3D which involved a lot more to and fro with the agency and clients. They were created with a combination of 3D Studio Max, ZBrush, and Photoshop. Custom rigs were built to enable cartoony squash and stretch animation of the Sensible. While we were shooting, we did all of our normal HDRI gathering on-set (capturing high dynamic range images for reflection and lighting reference).

Once graded, all our live action shots were 3D tracked in either Boujou or SynthEyes for camera matching. After this we animated (initially blocking out the shots, then progressively refining them), and then came light and render, with VRay and other proprietary plug-ins inside of 3D Studio Max. The compositing was done through using a combination of Digital Fusion and Flame.
SM: What was your brief for creating it?

JS: Basically, to bring the Sensible to life. There was quite a bit more to it, but client privilege and the bounds of taste preclude us from discussing it any further.
SM: What challenges did you face along the way?
JS: The main challenge was to find a balance between hideous and loveable. There are undoubtedly many cute traits that the character has – a sweet smile, big doe eyes…. but it also has veins across its head, wrinkly translucent skin, and broken yellow teeth. The script and performance really helped us get the cuter side across to the audience. We hope so, anyway…
SM: How did you overcome these challenges?
JS: A LOT of iterations to the design and animation performance. The agency also did a great job of staying true to their vision while keeping the clients in the loop, and to the client’s credit, they were very trusting and prepared to take a risk on something original.
SM: Did you create anything groundbreaking for this creation?

JS: Some of the shader work we did with the Sensible was pretty interesting, using refractive components to simulate true translucency, as opposed to the normal Sub-Surface Scattering cheats that are normally employed. The rigging system was also pretty impressive, though we barely got a chance to use it to its fullest. Hopefully we can on the next round of commercials?
SM: Did you push the boundaries in anyway?

JS: We like to think we pushed creative boundaries, specifically in the character’s development as much as technical ones