Who’d of thought an innocent little powdered donut could wreak so much hilarious havoc! In this updated spinoff of our popular 2004 “Avalanche” spot for client Bimbo S.A., a runaway donut careens down the snowy slopes of a ski resort, amassing an interesting menagerie of “wildlife” as it goes. Culminating in a powdery collision with a tree, the characters are eager to go again on this unlikely thrill ride with Bimbo “Donitas”!
Geomedia reunited with production company Sevilla Cineproducciones and Director Walter Luis Brunialti on this :30 for agency Foote, Cone & Belding, S.A. de C.V. Principle photography was conducted in Vancouver BC through Lemonade films, Inc. Animatiion Director Troy Davis flew to Canada to supervise FX shots as well as green-screen setups. Of course the weather was beautiful for the pre-pro days and steadily deteriorated for the scheduled shoot days, resulting in several missed shots which would need to be entirely recreated in CG. Geomedia to the rescue!
The spot follows a powder donut, inadvertently dropped by a young snow-boarder. As it rolls down a ski run it picks up snow and grows to enormous proportion. The increasingly massive donut also picks up an imaginative array of winter characters on its course, carrying them along for the ride. Beginning with a hapless trio of fellow snow-boarders, the cast includes a family of “yetis” and a bewildered sea lion.
Actors in costumes portrayed the yeti (abominable snowman) family. In action scenes with the donut, they were filmed reacting to the approach and impending collision with the giant pastry. The actors were then removed from the scenes and film was rolled to create the clean plates for the CG effects. The yeti shots all required extensive rotoscoping, paint and color correction in order to hide seams in their costumes and soften telltale fabric folds.
Traveling camera shots of the approaching donut or following POV shots were accomplished via Steadicam from a moving snowmobile. These shots would later be ramped in post production and 3D tracked in order to match the animated donut’s movement to the scene as we follow it along it’s course. 3D animation of the donut was accomplished in Softimage/XSI as was all particle animation of snow being kicked up by the rolling donut. Troy devised a clever trick to create the trough left in the snow by the passing donut. A separate particle system would create a trail of particles which would accumulate on a 3D ground plane as the donut rolled through the scene. This trail of particles was rendered in a separate pass as a matte. During compositing a deformation of the background plate could be modulated by this matte to create the look of a depression in the snow. Erosion and fractal distortions of the edge of the matte enhance realism and lend an organic quality of the effect.
Troy also improvised an ingenious solution to create the climactic snow explosion when the donut finally hits a tree ending it’s downhill juggernaut. The technique involved a dynamic “rigid bodies” simulation to create the chunks of snow and subsequent smaller pieces of snow and particles ejected from the disintegrating donut upon impact. It’s a little tricky to describe and even trickier to set up. First, objects resembling fragmented chunks of snow were modeled. These chunks were tagged as rigid bodies meaning they would obey physical properties like gravity, friction, mass… They would also react in a physically accurate manner when colliding with other objects in the scene as well as with each other. Next a polygonal torus the size of the donut was created and designated as a containing volume for the rigid body objects. A single polygon was removed from this torus through which it would be “filled” with the rigid body snow chunk objects. A preliminary dynamic simulation was run whereby a long tall column of the rigid body objects was “poured” into the torus object filling the volume. The previously removed polygon was then replaced and voilá, a perfect “pre-fractured” donut was ready for the tree impact.
The primary dynamic simulation was now run with our “snow-filled donut” rolling down an inclined plane in 3D space toward a cylindrical “collision object”. At the moment of impact the influence of the bounding torus was turned off. No longer contained by the torus object and with the velocity inherited from rolling down the hill, the snow objects collide with the “tree” object and explode, scatter and bounce as the simulation is computed. The primary snow chunk objects are also programmed to emit a second complex of particles to simulate the disintegration process. This second group of particles, in turn, spawns a third complex of light fluffy snow flake particles. Each particle system is endowed with physical properties which govern it’s interaction with the atmosphere such as turbulence, air friction and wind. The final composited effect with shadows, camera shake and ambient occlusion makes for a spectacular finale.
Now we know that fur seals are not indigenous to Canadian ski slopes but hey, if you’ve already got a family of yeti’s, a fur seal is not such a stretch of the imagination! This little piece of character animation was no trivial undertaking. Seals are not known for their emotive facial expression so striking a balance between realism and the ability to convey surprise without looking too cartoony was a tough get. Modeling, texturing and rigging of the seal character was handled by Geomedia animator Jeremy Kenisky. Early iterations of the seal had a more furry look, similar the endearing little baby seals seen in PETA propaganda. Final versions incorporated a more wet, circus-type seal hybrid type of look.
In addition to some of the animation chores, I handled the bulk of the compositing and FX work. 3D animation sequences were rendered out to separate pass channels. Ambient occlusion, shadow, lighting and beauty passes were combined in After Effects. Color correction, rotoscoping and final sweetening were also handled in AE. As is becoming more and more common, final frames were delivered to the client on disc (in lieu of tape) for ingest, finishing and dubbing at the agency’s facilities in Mexico City.
As always, it was a pleasure to work with our friends at Sevilla and we look forward to the next adventure with Bimbo Donitas!
CLIENT: Bimbo, S.A.
Raul Vargas, Director of Marketing
AGENCY: Foote cone & Belding, S.A. de C.V.
Samuel Beltran, Creative
PRODUCTION HOUSE: Sevilla Cineproducciones, S.A.
Walter Luis brunialti, Director
Carlos Sevilla Ortiz, Executive Producer
Barbara Chavarria, G., Producer
ANIMATION/FX: Geomedia, Inc.
Troy Davis, Animation Director
Martin Jaeger, Compositing
Jeremy Kenisky, Animator
PRODUCTION HOUSE: Lemonade Films, Inc.
Ted Herman, Producer
Al Cooper, Production Manager
Carmen Ruiz y Laza, Coordinator/Translation
Gerry Higgins, Coordinator