Ferocious lions, inspired by John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, jiving to a mix of South Indian-Maharashtrian kind of music, is definitely not to be missed. And they can be seen in the latest TVC for Creamfills Alpenliebe. afaqs! takes a peek at how the film generates surprise and tickles the funny bone.
That being the last thing one expects to see of lions, the photographer rubs his eyes in surprise and disbelief. The film ends with the lions shooing away the photographer. This is followed by a product shot of the cream-filled candy and the lions giving each other a high-five on their success in driving the photographer away.
The film has been produced by Black Magic Films and directed by Abhijit Chaudhari, fondly known as Dadu. Though quite a bit of CG (computer graphics) has been used in this film, he explains that he hasn't used anything new for it -- similar techniques have been used for other Perfetti films, which feature the crocodile (for the original Alpenliebe candy) and the crow (for Big Babol).
The film was shot at Borivali National Park; but the lions were created through CG. The parties involved were very clear that the lions had to look completely real. Thus, the model of the lions was created after detailed study of every little detail and feature of the lion's anatomy.
AR Seshaprasad (aka Prasad), head - digital production, Rhythm & Hues -- the post production house behind the film -- brings out that an important aspect for the look was the fur.
"A lot of effort went into grooming the fur to make the lions look realistic, since the lions are performing two distinct actions -- one, where they are completely wild and ferocious, and the other where they are standing on their hind legs and dancing. The challenge was to create a look where the lions had to look very real, even when they stand on their hind legs," reveals Prasad.
The ferocious creation
From the post-production point of view, the goal was to seamlessly integrate the CG lions into the live action environment. Information was collected in terms of set measurements, camera data, and photo modeling reference images for camera tracking and match moving work, over a period of two days. Chrome and matte balls were used as a visual reference for highlights and diffuse lighting. The balls were shot on all locations after every take and were placed exactly where the lions would be seen in the frame.
Two life-size stuffed models of the lions were also made and their reference footage was used for every scene that was shot. The stuffed models were also very helpful in framing certain tricky shots, especially the ones where the lions are standing.
A crucial part of the visual effects shots is camera tracking, which is the process of matching the movement of the CG camera to the movement of the camera used in the live-action footage. If CG elements (the lions in this case) interact with objects which are a part of the footage, then match-moving is needed for that object or character.
In this case, the object that the lions went closest to was the stereo. A three-dimensional model of the stereo was created to match-move it with the actual stereo.
Prasad says that the tricky part was the jungle floor and the surrounding area. The team present on the set took as many measurements of the area as possible, where the lions would sit and later dance. A rough geometry was built for the jungle floor, along with a couple of small trees, which were used where there would be obvious shadows getting cast.
Next, the rigging artist and the animators worked together on getting the right amount of controls for the lion's body and controls for some facial expressions. The lions had to have all the mannerisms of real lions, as well as the flexibility to dance like humans.
The animators, along with the director, experimented and brainstormed on various dance steps, which would give the lions a completely unexpected personality twist.
"Several iterations took place as the lions had to look their hilarious best. The focus was to come up with a style of choreography which the audience could easily identify with," says Prasad.
The lyrics for the music score were written by Saraban of Leo Burnett. "It's gibberish on a South Indian beat, with the 'Uii Maa' providing an '80s touch," Saraban chuckles. The music composition has been done by Rupert.
In terms of technical animation, for the lion, it was the mane that required a lot of work. For example, in the initial part of the commercial, when the lions are seen resting, there was a slight breeze in the background and a hint of movement is seen in the leaves. "The lion's mane also had to have that effect for better integration. In the later part of the commercial, when the lions are dancing, the muscle jiggles had to be worked upon to bring about the realism," says Prasad.
Rhythm & Hues used special effects simulations in a couple of shots where the lions are dancing. These shots had the lion's feet moving across the jungle floor, disturbing the dust and pebbles in the process. The pebbles, dust and the drag-marks on the ground were all simulated.
Prakash Verma, director, Nirvana Films thoroughly enjoyed the commercial. "It is quite unexpected to see the lions do a complete number; so it is quite superb. Post-production is taken up, which is obvious. It is the seamless CG along with the humour that the film brings out very well. The timing is perfect."
For Vinil Matthew, director, Footcandles, the film is all pros and only one con -- the film should have been longer.
"The lions and their movements, look completely lifelike. Textures, lensing and lighting are beautifully matched. Most importantly, the humour and surprise come out beautifully, something that is usually lost when execution and CG take centre stage. It's a story well told, without the special effects prowess shouting out," he explains.