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Developed by Kia Motors’ advertising agency of choice, David&Goliath, it introduces the significantly refreshed 2012 Kia Soul. The VFX-heavy spot debuted during the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards and stars the wildly popular hamsters from previous Kia commercials. In this new spot, two sets of robot armies are engaged in a fantastic dance battle to LMFAO’s ubiquitous club smash ‘Party Rock Anthem’. Working with acclaimed director Mark Romanek, Method Studios took Anonymous Content’s concept and created the hip hamsters, dancing robot armies as well as the spot’s desolate environment.


In addition to taking on the challenge of creating a CG world with CG characters, Method had to complete the job in a very tight time frame. “The scope and ambition of this spot was definitely challenging considering the extensive amount of CG required in a short time,” said VFX Supervisor Nordin Rahhali. “There was a lot of full CG shots as well as plenty of character animation and motion capture.”

Method’s extensive experience with CG creatures and photorealistic fur was crucial to the success of the spot. Dancers in practical suits were filmed for the hamster scenes. The hamsters’ heads, hats and hands were all replaced and recreated in CG. A two-person team created the fur and handled all the lighting and rendering for the hamsters, which is a testament to the efficiency of the Method creature pipeline and Andy Boyd’s master fur-wrangler skills.


Motion capture was used to create the robot armies’ dance moves, which were further refined to make the dancers look more robotic. Sean Faden, VFX Supervisor, comments on the shoot: “They had a lot of dirt and debris and rubble that the set dressers would keep moving around in a 40 foot square area on a concrete floor to try and make it feel like a different area. The car was always real, but we had to create some V-Ray-generated reflections to help it sit in the environment. We’d track the car and render some additional reflections of the CG environment to mix in.” Most of the environments were comprised of digital matte paintings projected within Nuke to allow for unlimited camera movements.

Effects work for the spot was extensive – made up of blasts from the black alien guns, smoke and dust for explosions, a light show that comes out of the bottom of the alien mothership, and dust off the feet of the bots as they’re dancing. “There’s also this beautiful almost slow-motion falling ash that pervades the whole spot,” recalls Faden. “And there are missile trails. All of that was done in Houdini.”


A big part of getting this ambitious project delivered on time was down to Method’s pipeline, Rahhali comments; “Our animation edits were sent out for feedback and continuously reviewed and tweaked. Using our in house tools for managing scenes, we were able to get changes made, new animations rendered, lit and passed on to our compositing team within the shortest time frame possible.  This was a tremendous advantage when we were in our final couple weeks of the show and last minute changes needed to be addressed.  Allowing for this kind of flexibility and turn around speed with our pipeline was key in producing the quality and quantity of work that was needed on this spot.”

The team was thrilled to work with Romanek. "It was exciting working with Mark,” offered Rahhali. “He had a lot of ideas and he gave us a lot of great feedback. We faced many challenges, but the end result was well worth all the effort.”

Mike Wigart, VFX Producer added, “you couldn’t ask for anything more out of a VFX-heavy project. Aliens, robots, dancing hamsters – there’s something for everyone. I hope we get to do a sequel.”


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