Cushelle, Cloud Factory
MPC Creative get a ‘whooosh’ producing Cushelle’s new spot, directed by Jake Mengers
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Created to launch Channel 4’s new season of dating programs over the summer, the promo features a lonely tortoise on his search for true love.
The spot traces the story of Arthur, who has lost his partner Ethel after over 100 years together. His exploits include a series of ill-feted dates and an epic night in a club before finding a match in a very unexpected place.
The team shot a life-like tortoise puppet in camera. MPC’s VFX team, led by Michael Gregory, was charged with bringing the tortoise to life and giving him very human expressions.
This was integral to the storytelling, enabling the audience to fall in love with Arthur. “This job was really unique and is the result of a close collaboration with 4Creative. Giving a tortoise puppet human expressions was a great challenge, and we loved bringing him to life through this unexpected love story. Working with Chris and John on their debut job as Creative Directors at 4Creative was an extra plus.”
A 3D scan of the puppet head was re-built in CG, then using modelling tool ZBrush, the original texture and bumps were re-applied.
A number of tests were carried out, beginning with the artists studying footage of tortoises and lizards, as well as human expressions before exploring the best way to apply them using a facial rig. The focus was mainly on the eyes, nostrils and mouth; and the team experimented on a wide range of intricate movements to develop Arthur’s emotions. In the dating scene, the artists discovered that it was impossible for a tortoise to look genuinely shocked and surprised. However, once a human eyelid and eyebrow movement was applied, his anthropomorphism was taken to a much higher level.
CG Supervisor Fabian Frank said, "Besides giving Arthur lifelike expressions and matching the lighting of each scene, one of the biggest challenges was tracking and integrating the CG head, especially in the nightclub sequence. This scene had massive light changes and anamorphic lens flares, which took a long time to put together, grading frame by frame - disco compositing.”
The VFX team also completed a great deal of rig removal and clean up on most of the shots, as well as intricate matte paintings. Jean-Clement Soret completed the grade. He said, “The grade was about giving a realistic but sophisticated, fun cinematic style.”