- Friday, Aug. 19, 2011
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We open on a woman sitting under a tree at the park while reading the newspaper. She comes across a print ad for Specsavers' contact lenses, the asking price being a relative pittance. The ad catches the eye of an astonished koala who falls out of the tree and lands with a thud nearby the woman. A tug of war over the newspaper ensues with the koala ultimately winning as he reads the Specsavers' offer for himself.
The photoreal koala was a CG creation of Frametore, London, the creature being built on a tight schedule of just five weeks with the effects house explotig to the max its experience of creating furry CG animals from such previous projects as Andrex's new CG puppy and The Chronicle of Narnia's Aslan lion.
Henry Littlechild of Outsider, London, directed "Koala." Framestore's Simon French supervised the South London park shoot, ensuring he captured correct lighting reference data, lighting balls and grading reference cards so that the CG koala could be convincingly embedded in Flame. He also captured falling tree debris passes and clean plates so that the Nuke team could have complete control over the separated backgrounds.
Reference for interaction between the koala and the newspaper was generated by shooting simple coat hanger style claws. The CG paws were designed to match the stand-in shoot claws so as to minimize paint work in Flame. But 2D artist Russell Dodgson perfected the interaction between the koala and the newspaper with plate retouching.
After supervising the shoot, French set about modeling and texturing the koala. Framestore's in-house grooming system was used to create and style the fur, with rendering and character look-dev being created through commercials tools. French said: "In order to accommodate the incredibly tight schedule, rendering had to be super efficient. We managed this by exploiting our already established but continually evolving and improving character production pipeline -- the one tried and tested in earlier projects like Narnia and Andrex. This pipeline enabled quick and easy scene setup, plus a smooth and well defined process of passing renders onto the Nuke team for compositing."
The koala, whose limited screentime meant that each of its frame had to work extra hard, was animated by Michael Elder who had to develop how the animal should fall and react. He also had to strike the right balance between realistic and cartoon-like koala movements, with the end product taking on a 70 percent feel of realism. Elder then researched koala behavior and subsequently shot video reference of himself acting like a dazed koala. He was then ready to sketch thumbnails of main poses which became the basis of keyframing in Maya.
Production Company: Outsider | London Henry Littlechild, director; Jeremy Bannister, producer. Visual Effects: Framestore CFC | London Simon French, shoot/VFX supervisor, modeling/texturing; Michael Elder, animator; Dave Ludlam, colorist.