Director James Rouse, Framestore, The&Partnership Get Their Magic Act Together For Argos' Xmas Campaign

By

Robert Goldrich
Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020

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U.K. retailer Argos and agency The&Partnership, London, turned to VFX studio Framestore and director James Rouse of Outsider for a wondrous Xmas commercial, "Abracadaisy and the Incredible Lucy."

The film sees two children’s sorcery skills blossom after they ask for a magic set from the Argos Book of Dreams catalog. Framestore provided the VFX sparkle that helped Abracadaisy and Lucy conjure up mince pies out of thin air, perform a trick with their dog and even turn a family member into a theater employee selling concessions.

Framestore’s William Bartlett, VFX supervisor, recorded himself performing VFX-enhanced magic tricks to show Rouse how convincing the tricks could look if they were digitally augmented. The fantastical elements of the film needed to shine while still looking natural as Daisy and Lucy master their craft and perform more and more elaborate feats. Having worked out how the different tricks would be created in postproduction, Bartlett went on set to advise on the VFX, working closely with Rouse.

Talking about the scope of work delivered, Puff Pisanwalerd, the project’s 2D lead at Framestore, said; “The biggest challenge we had was just the amount of work that needed to be delivered in a quick turnaround. The team worked on almost all of the commercial’s shots so it was a really great team effort.”

To help the living room transform into an elaborate theater before the audiences’ very eyes, Framestore created an incredibly-detailed CG set extension which can be seen as the audience gives the magicians a standing ovation. 

Framestore was able to take a LiDAR scan of the impressively constructed physical sets, the information from which was used to replicate the sets’ textures and styles to create the digital extension that complemented the fantastical look and feel achieved by Rouse’s in-camera work.

The team also designed and incorporated additional digital elements into the theater such as lamps, lights, chandeliers and the neon sign that appears at the back of the stage. Even these elements that comprised so many meticulously detailed assets had to work in tandem with the film’s overall aesthetic, selling the concept and the idea rather than trying to out-shine what was captured on location. 

“It was important that we added just the right amount of VFX flourishes to realize James’ vision of these two girls becoming increasingly brilliant magicians,” commented Bartlett. “The early tests we did and the scans we were able to take from the set were really key in everything coming together the way it has. It’s a really lovely film and I enjoyed being a part of it.”

The final edit is complemented by a color grade performed by Framestore’s Simon Bourne which is rich and vibrant and adds an extra element of magic to what’s already an incredibly engaging Christmas ad.  

Helen Hughes, head of advertising at Framestore, said; “We love working with James Rouse. His storytelling and performances are always exceptional and coupled with ambitious and beautiful visuals. Our team excelled on this project and I can’t wait to see the reaction to it now it’s out in the wider world.”

 

Credits

Client Argos Agency The&Partnership, London Yan Elliot, executive creative director; Matt Wood, Tom Loveless, creative team; Charles Crisp, head of integrated production; Andy Roberts, producer. Production Outsider James Rouse, director; Benji Howell, producer; Tim Steele, production manager; Antonio Paladino, DP. VFX & Color Framestore, London William Bartlett, VFX supervisor; Saruta Puff Pisanwalerd, 2D lead; Adam Smith, 3D lead; Tim Gregson, Erik Weaver-Pronk, Henrique Campanha, Muzaffer Korkut, Timothee Maron, David Cattermole, Thomas Ashby, 3D artists; Sherrine Byfield, Ollie Bersey, Owen Braekke-Carroll, Raphael Beyaert, Suzanne Jandu, 2D artists; Grzegorz Zolnowski, paint & roto; Andrew Salter, Flame; Simon Bourne, colorist; Helen Hughes, exec producer; Sian Jenkins, Alexia Paterson, producers; Emma Hughes, production coordinator.  (Toolbox: Nuke, Hiero, Baselight, Flame, Maya, Houdini) Music Soundtrack: Gary Barlow's "Incredible" Audio Post Factory Anthony Moore, Jon Clarke, engineers; Lucy Spong, producer.

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