London-based VFX house teams with visualization specialists The Third Floor to help launch O2’s ‘Be More Dog’ campaign into outer space.
“We treated the project very much like Gravity,” says the spot’s director Mike McGee, “creating a pre-vis with The Third Floor and using Framestore’s Art Department to concept the key moments and how a cat would actually look in a spacesuit.”
“It was an ambitious project to launch our cat into outer space and we knew there was no-one better than Framestore to help us make it a reality. Their passion, expertise and attention to detail meant that every stage from test flight to launch went super smoothly, delivering a film that was a giant leap for the Sim Only category,” said VCCP Creative Director Jim Capp.
On set Mike and producer David Hay had to shoot live action that would fit what they had pre-vised. The cat, a Maine Coon called Jonesy, was given a little 3D-printed space helmet in order to cast the right shadows across his face and placed on a turn table so we could move him smoothly.
“We had pre-vised the cat to do this upside down motion, as if he’s falling off into the distance,” says CG Supervisor Jay Khan. “Obviously we couldn’t shoot that, so we reverse-engineered the camera moves so that the he was doing as little as possible and the camera would compensate for that in its move.”
The cat’s face is the only live-action element in the commercial, meaning we needed to create his suit, the planets, nebula and comets with a combination of matte paintings, 2D elements and a lot of 3D. All of this was given a stylized look that fitted with the comic nature of an ad starring a cat in space. “There was a conscious decision not to go photo-real and to lean slightly more towards the hyper-real. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, so once we finished we went to town with lens flares,” adds Jay.
Attention to detail was a big part of this spot. The cat plates were tracked, stabilized and composited into the CG helmet and suit, which were built completely from scratch. The suit was then layered up with the HUD, the thrusters and reflection on the glass, while we animated displacement on top of the material to give a gradual creasing effect. Dog-bone stripes were added to his suit, as well as other canine touches on his watch and HUD.
The minute detail continued with the celestial bodies. One planet saw us strategically place debris to form the word ‘priority,’ another needed us to animate asteroid belts in a way reminiscent of a wifi symbol, while we created a pyro simulation for the 4G comet to give it a fluid-like trail to convey the speed. The satellite made of sim cards was a big modelling task and we needed to get the size right so you can see what they are, while being small enough to give you a sense of the satellite’s huge scale.
“We went into a really high level of detail for the whole ad, but it’s all about the cat,” says Jay. “We’re all really proud of it, with the end shot being a particular favourite. Vanessa DuQuesnay did a beautiful job of compositing the cat-suits and added a real sense of realism to the 3D renders.”