Years in the Making

It’s not uncommon to hear about a movie taking years to put together, however, a local television ad? Well, this was a case of just that. 

Brandon, at Affinity Steel, approached us with this idea a few years ago. As things progressed, this was an idea that we weren’t certain how to tackle. We knew we couldn’t do it alone.

After consulting with our network of contacts, we found our team. 

The Concept

All we had, going into this, was the idea that the animals needed to be able to talk to the customer. 

It sounds simple enough, but we’re talking about Super Bowl ads… And Super Bowl ads riding on the tail of several years of what we consider to be our best ads (from cavemen to robots).

What were we going to do to make this idea pop? We had no idea. I racked my brain for months, trying to figure out how to do something with talking animals.

Now, I really have no idea where my inspiration comes from sometimes, but it finally hit us that we could do one commercial of the animals kind of psyching themselves up for customer interaction, almost as if they had been wanting to do this for years, but never had the courage.

The second ad would be the animals overcompensating in their execution and scaring the crap out of the customer. 

Execution

On the production side of things, we faced a new challenge: lighting and blocking for unusual characters that don’t exist in a physical realm. Every single shot required 3 versions. We needed a dirty shot (a shot with the actual animal), a clean shot/plate (a shot with no animal), and a 360° shot of the environment around each animal. 

Sounds simple enough except we had to get all three versions for every angle. Again, sounds simple… Until you consider that the animals had to be taken down and hung up for every dirty shot. Time consuming and the bison and moose were HEAVY (I’m guessing the moose is in excess of 200lbs).

The Real Super Bowl MVP

MVP award goes to our on-set assistant and actor extraordinaire, Josh Dansby. He took care of hanging and removing the animals (except for the moose, which took 2-4 people).

Second major challenge was lighting the nighttime interiors. Normally, when lighting a subject, it’s not a huge deal because you can place them wherever you want and keep plenty of separation from the background. When you’re using fixed objects that are mounted to a wall, it presents its own set of problems. We managed it and, in my humble opinion, it turned out excellently. 

The last challenging shot was the building exterior in the middle of the night (I don’t think we left set until 3:30am the first night).

We had the lights for lighting the exterior, but we didn’t have power where we would need it.

I rarely opt to “fix it in post” unless I know it’s going to be a simple fix or it’s absolutely necessary. This was one of those times. We were tired, we were worn out, and we still had to shoot the next day.

So, I opted to go shoot the exterior by myself while Jacob and Josh straightened up inside before we left.

The next day, Josh pulled double duty. He not only worked on set, he was our main actor, and, like always, he knocked it out of the park…

Although, I have to admit, when I told him not to look directly into the lens, he failed miserably… Sheesh…. You just can’t work with some people.

Honorable Mention

I (Ross) don’t want to brag on myself, however, when it’s nearly 4 in the morning and you’re exhausted, any idea (that works) is remarkable.

What am I talking about? Well, we were locked in to the Affinity building and knew how to deactivate the sliding door. The problem was that we only knew how to deactivate it from the inside. So, using skills that I’ve developed after watching a few Mission Impossible movies, I broke out of the Affinity compound.

What’s next, you ask? Well, I’m contemplating breaking into Alcatraz with the help of Nicholas Cage.

*full disclosure, this is a complete waste of time that you’ll be glad you watched.

First one starts at 0 and the second starts at 1-minute

Giving Voices to the Animals (without PETA’s help)

The other side of the production was finding the right voice talent to give our animals life. Between our brother, Reed Hamil (bison and moose), Dusty Cook (the buck), Abi Beaudoin (the female raccoon), and Brady Pickett (everyone’s favorite spastic squirrel), each animal had the perfect attitude.

*It is worth mentioning that this edit doesn’t line up with the finals. This was a rush edit to get to the animators*

Integration

For the 3D, we partnered with Seth and his team at Anomaly Video. Between him and Dan Brown (the primary 3D artist), they knocked these animals out of the park. 

Between Hamil Bros and the Anomaly team, we were able to find great existing 3D models and the team at Anomaly found some excellent 3D modelers to build our squirrel and raccoons.

 

Dan and Seth did a wonderful job on bringing these animals to life and made life easy on us when it came to making the final composites on these 3D animals.

 

All in all, this was a huge learning curve for us and really pushed us outside of our boundaries. In the end, I think it was a huge success and we’re really proud to have been a part of this journey! 

This is the reference cut that was sent to our 3D team. This shows all of the actual animals.

First one starts at 0 and the second starts at 1-minute

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