- The Richards Group
- Production Company
- House of Usher
- Kinka Usher
- Method Studios
- Los Angeles
This entertaining commercial for Bridgestone debuted during Super Bowl XLV and features a beaver repaying a surprised motorist’s kindness. ‘Carma’ was consistently voted one of the best spots that aired by the majority of the online forums reporting on the Super Bowl ads, and was given a place in SIGGRAPH’s Computer Animation Festival the same year. The spot makes a sly reference to Bridgestone’s ‘Scream’, which debuted during Super Bowl XLII in 2008 – another Method project.
The key talent that created ‘Scream’ reunited for ‘Carma’, including Director Kinka Usher and Method VFX Supervisor/Lead 3D Artist Andy Boyd. “When I first found out about the spot,” says Boyd, “there were already some rough storyboards that had been done and it was pretty exciting when we found out it was the same creatives and director we worked with last time.”
BUILDING THE BEAVER
The spot was filmed with the aid of a real beaver and a stuffed toy-like beaver on location as reference. As the animal had to perform very specific actions (a salute to the driver and a fist pump for example), Method created an entirely digital beaver for use in the commercial. “We started with good visual reference for rebuilding the beaver in CG” said Boyd. “We did a lot of R&D to build muscle structure and dynamics into him and really pushed things as far as we could. We took a subtle approach to the animation to ensure the beaver looked as natural as possible.”
“It was a major challenge to make this little guy salute and make it feel real,” observes Method visual effects producer Mike Wigart. “So there was a lot of back and forth with taking this beaver and not making it too cartoonish, or conversely, too stiff.”
The beaver’s fur (which was rigged and animated in MAYA and rendered in Houdini) posed its own set of demands. “We had two different approaches to the look of the fur,” commented Boyd. “One was dry at the beginning of the spot and the other was wet at the end, where it took on a totally different texture and shape - so getting it just right was definitely a challenge.”
“Kinka is amazing in the way that he tries to get as much as he can in camera,” notes Boyd. “And even if the performance is not going to be used in the edit, we’ll still get a real beaver on set. So we had a great reference to see what the fur looks like in the pouring rain.” Boyd’s experience in rendering realistic fur is long-standing, having developed his own grooming system inside of Houdini using the Mantra fur procedural. “For this project, we started R&D’ing by taking my fur system where we left off from the squirrel spot and bringing it to a whole new level,” explains Boyd.
The bridge collapse, a pivotal set piece in the spot, had to be totally convincing. To achieve this, Method collaborated with Scanline, a company well-known for their water effects. Scanline provided the turbulent river as CG elements that were built to interact with Method’s CG bridge animation.
“We built the bridge in CG using photogrammetry from the location,” explains Wigart, “we animated the bridge as a Houdini simulation while Scanline was creating the water torrent. It was interesting trying to get those elements working together when they were being done in separate places, but it turned out great. Kinka set up the shot nicely for the effect — having the river snake into the background gives it depth and makes it feel very real.”
- Super Bowl