Lutz Scharf writes:
I already submitted a few articles in the last few years about some of the Blender art I create in my free time but this time it's different. I want to tell you about how I used Blender to create a good chunk of visual effects for a big TV Christmas commercial for my employer Vodafone. The commercial is currently airing on German TV over the holidays, as I write this.
Vodafone (hailing from the UK and available in many parts of the world, although not in North America) is a large multinational telecommunications company. The usual course of action for such big companies is to hire advertising and production agencies to lead the creation of most of their content and advertisements. Vodafone Germany recently created an inhouse content production team, mostly aimed at social media. I am part of that team.
One of our ideas sparked such interest that we were tasked with creating a "TV-ready" commercial. As many of us in our team worked on similar large-scale productions before we took up the challenge, despite a deadline, which I would personally describe as "challenging". "Insane" might have been a term that was thrown around as well. In the end, the result was deemed good enough to lead a final Christmas campaign for this year online and on TV.
As we had a tight budget and most VFX vendors were busy before the holidays, it fell upon me to not only supervise the VFX (as was planned) but also create most of them. As I've been an avid Blender user for about 10 years and a CGI enthusiast for around 25 years, that task seemed doable to me, although it meant a ton of overtime. In the final spot, only the matte painting of the city, as well as the Northpole environment with Santa's house were created by another production company. All the falling snow as well as the drone were added by me with Blender using stock models and addons. I actually created the Christmas present by modifying a stock model while referencing our hero prop on the first prep-day while on set. I even shot some textures with my phone that I actually used for the ribbon. We also wanted to add a reindeer but time ran out. 😉 I also did all of the compositing (not in Blender). Additionally, the first use of Blender was actually two 3D animatics I created, which helped spark that initial interest and greenlight. Unfortunately I cannot upload these videos.
I co-directed the live-action shoot, as well as serving as the VFX supervisor on set. For all shots we had a reference drone (which I hardly referenced, however, because of time constraints). I also took HDRI images with a 360 camera directly on set for all places the drone would be, in order to match the lighting. This worked super well and only a few tweaks were needed. We also had a DJI Osmo Action cam mounted to the Alexa Mini LF for the shots where the background was blurry, so I had an alternative source to track. This too turned out to be complete overkill and I never used any of the action cam footage to track. As the drone was floating in the shot, not all shots needed to be perfectly tracked. However, it was soothing to know I had a backup. 😉 The release of Blender 3.0 right before post-production was a godsend in terms of rendertime and usability although I struggled with quite a few crashes.
In the end, the long version of the video, which I attached, ended up with a rather big render error. I re-rendered a shot only partially and due to the rushed post-production I missed that mistake. Now the shadows suddenly change mid-shot. Luckily, in the 30s version that airs on TV that part was cut out. Can you spot the error? (there are several minor goofs as well but that one render error really bugs me)
I thought sharing this might be an interesting read to Blender users. I am far from a well-credited CGI artist in my professional career, having only created a handful of online commercials and such many years ago and mostly directing and producing since then. In my new position it is quite likely I will keep using Blender for more projects to come and continue to get "my hands dirty" so to speak, instead of just yelling from the director's chair.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!
Thats great to hear! I use it too for commercial work but not for such a big company.
I did notice the shadow change but only on the second time =D great commercial.
Blender tracking is now crazy fast but not sure if you used it.
Thanks! I am just glad the shadow change isn't in the actual TV commercial.