VFX Chart Topper: Bud Light With A "Game of Thrones" Twist
Tony Robins, shoot supervisor for The Mill New York
David Nutter, Spencer Riviera, The Mill, Pixomondo team on Super Bowl spot for W+K, Droga5

During this year’s Super Bowl, agencies Droga5 and Wieden+Kennedy, along with production house O Positive, delivered a Game of Thrones-twist ending to the latest entry in Bud Light’s series of “Dilly Dilly” commercials.

What starts as a Bud Light Super Bowl commercial featuring the King and Bud Knight descends into chaos when the menacing Game of Thrones character the Mountain makes a surprise appearance, defeating the defender of the “Dilly Dilly” kingdom in a jousting contest.

Bud Light’s agency, W+K, collaborated with HBO and Droga5 on the :60 titled “Joust,” replete with a sense of spectacle which entailed drone shots and a fire-breathing dragon The ad reunited people from the Game of Thrones crew under the aegis of director David Nutter. The first half of the spot, with Bud Light material, was directed by  Spencer Riviera.

VFX houses on “Joust” were The Mill New York and Pixomondo, Los Angeles.

Effects expertise
Tony Robins, shoot supervisor for The Mill New York, shared, “We had the usual challenges on any spot but this was a large production which always amplifies the issues. There were two directors and two agencies which made for a lot of people on set. Green screen, shooting matching  BG plates, horse stunts, rig removal, drone shots, stunt men on fire and weather over four days were some of the biggest challenges we faced. 

“For the opening overhead drone shot we created the rest of the arena, added multiple tents, extra people and a castle on the hill. The tents were created in CG based upon stills captured on set. The extra people were also from CG. The castle was a matte painting. This was a very large production with lots of equipment and people everywhere on set. Cleaning up the hero plate became a task in itself. At one end of the set was a large green screen that had to be tied to truck. At times we had to deal with gusty winds. There were multiple shots looking down the jousting course at the Bud Knight with the green screen behind him. We shot multiple plates of the crowd in the stands at different angles and distances to be used as the background. Sounds straightforward but these had to be done on different days. 

“Weather and time of day were issues,” continued Robins. “One day was sunny, another overcast and so on. This became one of the biggest obstacles in post. Since we had modeled the stands in CG for the wide drone shots, we used them in the jousting sequence.  We combined the in camera crowd and the CG stand so the perspective and parallax was correct. This worked especially well on the camera car shots filming the Bud Knight as he galloped down the course.

“For the wide drone shot at the end we placed gas poppers in the ground. This fire would be joined with the fire from the dragon to give direction to the fire along the floor. It was decided to place B camera on the ground to also capture an alternate angle of the fire. Of course this “plate” ended up in the edit. We had not shot elements for it, no crowd in the stands back plate. Using the power of The Mill we manipulated what we had and made a shot. The agency loved it so much they asked if we could make it longer. Second time’s a charm. As the dragon breathes fire into the arena, we added CG people running for their life.”

Meanwhile the prime responsibility for Pixomondo was to bring the Game of Thrones dragon (the fabled Drogon) to life. Pixomondo VFX supervisor Derek Spears related, “The schedule was very ambitious, but that in no way could be allowed to compromise the spot. Our biggest challenge was to bring the Drogon we all know and love out of that world and into the world of the ‘Joust’ spot. Due to the short schedule, there was no time to re-shoot flame elements.  It meant we had to re-use elements originally shot for the series and find the best way to fit the animation to them in order to tell that story. Keeping that same energy and character from the show in the ‘Joust’ spot I think was key to the audience identifying the dragon as Drogon. It meant treading a fine line between what we wanted to do and had the elements to achieve. In the end, I think it all works very well in service to the spot.”

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Client Anheuser-Busch/Bud Light, HBO Agency for HBO Droga5 NY David Droga, creative chairman; Neil Heymann, chief creative officer; Andrew Ferguson, group creative director; Dustin Tomes, Jono Paull, creative directors; Adrian Chan, Lauren Ferreira, associate creative directors; Tobias Lindborg, art director; Felix Karlsson, copywriter; Sally-Ann Dale, chief creation officer; Jesse Brihn, director of film production; Liliana Vega, sr. producer; Jonny Bauer, chief strategy officer. Agency for Bud Light W+K Colleen DeCourcy, co-president/CCO; Karl Lieberman, executive creative director; Brandon Henderson, John Parker, creative directors; Kevin Kaminishi, art director; Jessica Ghersi, copywriter; Nick Setounski, head of content production; Temma Shoaf, executive producer; Alexey Novikov, producer. Production O Positive David Nutter, Spencer Riviera, directors; Jonathan Freeman, DP; Ralph Laucella, Ken Licata, executive producers. Editorial  Arcade Paul Martinez, Katie Weiland, editors; Thomas Bergerstock, assistant editor; Sila Soyer, exec producer; Fanny Cruz, producer. VFX The Mill New York Tony Robins, shoot supervisor; John McIntosh, 2D lead artist; Yoon-Sun Bae, Heather Kennedy Eck, Vi Nguyen, Matthew DeFranco, Ant Walsham, Neeraj Rajput, Samarendra Lenka, Inturi Chandra Sekharm, Bharath Ediga, Prasanna Bhat, Madhana Gopala, Venkatesh Srinvivasan, Badarinath Chinimilli, Ramanjaneyulu Thota, Nehal Desai, 2D artists. Tom Bardwell, 3D lead; Lauren Shields, Tim Kim,Hassan Taimur, James Mulholland, Todd Akita, Paul Liaw, Sandor Toledo, Ayush Bajoria, Leela Shanker, Spandana Battula, Raj Kumar, Tighe Rzankowski, 3D artists. Sue Jang, matte painting; Muralikrishna Reddy, tracking lead; Rijo R, tracking artist; Andrew Sommerville, exec producer; Clairellen Wallin, sr. producer; Michael Brown, Payal Thakkar, producers; Christina Chung, Umesh Chand, production coordinators. (Toolbox: Nuke, Flame, Maya and Houdini)  VFX Pixomondo, Los Angeles Derek Spears, VFX supervisor; Chelsea Miller, VFX producer; Andrew Zeko, VFX coordinator; Daniel Knight, Fei Chen, Shawn Sahara, VFX artists; William Appleby, VFX editor; Tefft Smith II, Logan Shye, Michael Maker, animation. (Toolbox: Nuke, Maya Arnold) Sound Design Jafbox Sound Joseph Fraioli, sound designer. Sound Design Eargasm Inc. Paula Greenfield, sound designer. Music Walker Music Sara Matarazzo, Stephanie Pigott, exec producers; Danielle Soury, music coordinator. Music David Klotz, music editor. Audio Post Sound Lounge Tom Juacarone, mixer; Rob Difondi, co-sound engineer; Lauren Mullen, producer. Telecine Company 3 Tim Masick, colorist; Kevin Breheny, producer.


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