Freefolk Crafts Slick Robotic VFX for Spot


Freefolk used their visual effects and post-production skills to bring robotic characters to life for ŠKODA’s UK TV spot “Purrs electric, Grrrs attitude” to showcase the highly anticipated all-electric Enyaq iV SUV from ŠKODA. the brand.

Directed by award-winning director Frédéric Planchon, via Academy Films, with post-production and animation led by Freefolk and in collaboration with Fallon, the film illustrates the car as an SUV for people who want the environmental benefits of driving. electric without compromising distinctive features. design.

Developed to highlight the two distinct sides of the car – an eco-conscious and dynamic design – Fallon brought this duality to life by telling the touching story of a human family who adopts two young robot babies. As the story develops, the personality differences between siblings become apparent – PU-rr (the first brother) is gentle and caring, while GR-rr (the second brother) is passionate and creative .

Planchon and the team at Freefolk, led by creative director and visual effects supervisor Jason Watts, brought the robot family to life by creating 3D characters with believable human personalities.

Freefolk head of color Paul Harrison worked his magic on the note, with Cheryl Payne as VFX producer and head of 3D Harin Harani.

The main call for visual effects in this project was to bring the robot characters to life, replacing their stand-in actors with each shot. The characters were digitally created from scratch, working closely with bespoke concept art. A host of props, such as carts, tires, and tools, were also made in CG to make it easier for the characters to interact with them. The robots were animated with their size and expression in mind, and the assets were lit using data captured on set so they sit in the world convincingly.

One particularly challenging aspect for the 3D department was creating a character with such a level of detail and such variety in appearance throughout the film. In addition to the density of modeling and texturing required in the mechanical domains, the characters required different proportions and surfacings, depending on their age and the differences between the PU-rr and GR-rr models. This was handled by working with a strict organization within the team so that the 3000 objects were named and placed consistently, with textures built per layer to enable and export different types of detail as needed.

The 3D work was created primarily in Maya, with FX in Houdini and textures done using Mari and Substance Painter.

Freefolk creative director Jason Watts has worked with Planchon before but, in this Covid world, things were a little different back then. Watts explains: “From my perspective, the hardest part was shooting with the Covid restrictions. Having a director in a different country, a remote agency and a client at their base. Filming is always an evolving process, taking into account normal filming issues: weather, moving locations, general production impediments and an increasing filming load with days shrinking, dialing in on-the-spot VFX requirements when everyone is against the clock was sometimes very difficult. The process inevitably becomes much more difficult without key personnel looking at each other at the start, but it certainly worked out very well in the end.

Compositionally, the 2D team, led by Rob Sheridan, wanted the work created by the 3D team to shine through. Through meticulous preparation and planning, the 2D work was able to play a supporting role and focus on the extra details that really helped the robots integrate seamlessly into each sequence.


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