Ntropic Rises To Top Of Quarter's VFX Chart
Juliet Tierney
Ad Council short from R/GA continues Love Has No Labels campaign legacy
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The Ad Council, R/GA, and a group of brand partners have teamed to debut Rising, a short film that is a powerful extension of the iconic Love Has No Labels campaign. The film was directed by Game of Thrones’ David Nutter and written by Lena Waithe--creator of Showtime drama series The Chi and Emmy-winning writer for Master of None--and Azia Squire. The short pays tribute to real moments when people from different backgrounds come together following natural disasters. Rising hopes to encourage all Americans to connect and ultimately inspire people to act inclusively every day.

Rising reflects research which shows that catastrophes have one of the most profoundly unifying effects on people. The dramatic short film created pro bono by R/GA with production house Great Guns and VFX by Ntropic, follows a group of diverse Americans facing a devastating storm. A closing montage features photos of real disaster survivors coming together regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ability and age. 

“We live in a time of tribalism. Rising is a story about shifting the way we communicate,” said director Nutter. “Through this film we want people to go from being defensive of those who are different to accepting and embracing our differences.”

“So excited to be involved,” said screenwriter Waithe. “We need stories like this that bring people together, especially now.”

The film also featured an impressive production team including cinematographer Peter Menzies Jr, hair and makeup artist Cyndi Reece, Emmy-nominated stunts professional Eddie Perez, Emmy-nominated sound designer Tim Hays, and music supervisor Akila Robinson.

Central to the film’s urgent message, the raging storm provides a common enemy for the neighborhood to unite against. Over the course of 10 days, Ntropic enhanced this beautiful, cinematic narrative by weaving seamless VFX and color throughout. This included creating two fully CG scenes and amplifying the rain storm itself, which was added via VFX to 90 percent of the 10-minute film, resulting in over 100 enhanced shots. To convey the strength and danger of the storm, Ntropic’s VFX team also added a few storytelling details like fallen trees, houses, and flooding that were not able to be captured in-camera. 

“Beautifully epic spots of this caliber don’t come around often in the advertising world, so we were thrilled to support their incredible storytelling mission,” said Ntropic LA EP Juliet Tierney. “The timing and  creative were equally ambitious, but we saw this as an opportunity rather than a challenge. Our approach allowed us to find the highest quality solutions in a short amount of time.”

VFX supervisor Simon Mowbray and colorist Nick Sanders worked closely with Nutter and DP Menzies from the Ntropic LA studio, while R/GA creatives viewed the film’s progress on color calibrated monitors from Ntropic’s New York outpost. Sanders was able to fine tune color down to the last minute, even as VFX were being finalized, allowing the director’s vision to be fully realized in the compacted timeframe. 

“The visual challenges of the Rising/Love Has No Labels project were monumental,” said Nutter. “Every moment demanded precise visualization--in concert with the power of the message itself.  Of chief concern was the reality of the presentation of the neighborhood’s ‘before and after the storm’ dynamics, which were studied, planned, and executed to perfection, in my opinion, from a VFX standpoint. Ntropic was our secret weapon.”

The secret weapon deployed a toolbox outlined by Tierney who related, “We colored in Resolve, created CG elements as 3D matte paintings in Maya, water elements and full CG scene in Houdini, and composited in Nuke and Flame.”

As for the biggest challenge that Rising posed to Ntropic, Tierney cited Father Time. “We only had 10 days in which to create two big CG scenes with a moving camera, as well as over 100 shots of CG rain, clean up and adding additional elements, such as the fallen tree behind the kitchen window.”

The two fully CG scenes were from the perspective of looking away from the house seemingly in the center of the storm. “In most of the shots the camera is facing towards the house, and the set was dressed to accommodate,” Tierney said. “In the scenes where the hero is standing on the roof, looking out over the flooded street for help, that whole scene apart from the hero is CG. We created CG houses, trees, debris, destruction and water. We also added a camera move and re-positioned the hero per the edit, which created parallax and added to the complexity of the work.  Finally a helicopter searchlight was created as well as light interaction. The other scene we had to create, was the scene where the family is escaping in the boat. Again, all the houses, the trees, and the rescue flares are created in CG.”

Ntropic, noted Tierney, was brought into the process by Great Guns during the shoot pre-pro. She related, “My longstanding relationship  with Great Guns, going back over 20 years, meant there was a level of trust and confidence that the best work possible would be completed in the very tight time frame. David Nutter is an absolutely outstanding individual. His commitment to his craft, the amount of personal care and energy he brought is infectious and creates an environment where everyone wants to do their best for him and the project. We have a strong and collaborative relationship with David.  All his requests come from a place of storytelling and not creating additional work for the sake of it. It’s an honor and a breath of fresh air to work with someone so decisive, whose goal is to achieve the best possible piece of filmmaking.”

To see the quarterly VFX/Animation Chart, click here.


Client The Ad Council/Love Has No Labels campaign Heidi Arthur, Sheri Klein, Jenn Walters, Libby Panipinto, Allison Greenwald, campaign development (Ad Council); Julia Blumenstyk, strategy & evaluation (Ad Council); Greg Kelly, media strategy (ad Council). Creative Lena Waithe, Azia Squire, screenplay. Agency R/GA Chris Northam, Eric Jannon, SVPs/executive creative directors/writers; Diana Gonzalez, Dave Surgan, planning; Jeff Skutnik, Chase Smith, Mac Demyanovich, production. Production Company Great Guns David Nutter, director; Diego De La Maza, Laura Gregory, exec producers; Thom Fennessey, producer; Peter Menzies Jr., DP. Postproduction Whitehouse Editorial James Demetriou, editor. Music Blake Neely, composer; Akila Robinson, music supervisor. Sound Design Tim Hayes, sound designer. VFX Ntropic, Los Angeles Juliet Tierney, exec producer; Simon Mowbray, VFX supervisor/Flame lead; James McCarthy, VFX shoot supervisor; Bridgette Spalding, Tom Baker, producers. Erin Lockard, VFX coordinator; Jadan Duffin, Devin Uzan, VFX Nuke compositor; Roger Kupelian, VFX matte painter; Nick Sanders, colorist; Kevin Miller, color producer. (Toolbox: Maya, Houdini, Nuke, Flame, Resolve)


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