Graphic Design

Marionettes

By:
The Mill
Tor Myhren
Marques Gartrell
Andrew Chinich
Hungry Man
Tom Scherma / Cosmo Street
1+ Team Members
DirecTV’s new ‘marionette’ spots, aimed at showcasing the company’s wire-free boxes, feature CG animation from The Mill.
The Concept

The initial concept was to create characters with puppeteered-like performances based on actual stand-in actors and real marionettes.

The team studied the animation language of how marionettes move in great depth, even shooting puppeteers at Legacy Effects. For the CG marionettes, the Legacy Effects’ designs were provided as sculpts. The team planned to shoot with reference, puppet stand-in actions that would need to be cleaned up in 2D.
The Production

The team knew that it was going to be a complex animation job from the start, because there were multiple characters with intricate details. By basing it on live-action performance, the team had an idea of what the shots would look like.

The team shot a slew of elements including clean plates with repeated camera moves by the DP, and shadow plates where they turned off the main key lights and shot the environment with only ambient light. They also shot the wife in a blue dress seen through the lemonade pitcher, so the team didn’t have to render CG pictures of glass distortion.
The team rendered and used their in-house hair shader developed by the R&D team to simulate a very accurate hair representation. After they were finished with up-rezzing the models for rendering, they textured them and added all the small details you might find in plastic and silicone. Each shot then involved keyframe animation as well as cloth simulations, hair simulations, and wire simulations. Compositing the marionettes into the live action plates proved challenging since things had been shot as naturally as possible. The most challenging part was where the wife overlapped with their actors. The team found the best way to remove her was to get stills of the actors that they had shot on set from multiple angles and morph between those stills to reintroduce the movement to the cleaned up clothing.
Final

This final commercial, one of the many in the series of spots, shows a mix of moments heightened with clumsiness to add to the comedy value, and moments where exaggeration was toned down to convey the emotional connection between the characters.

Client
DirectTV
Credits
Tor Myhren Chief Creative Officer
Marques Gartrell Art Director
Andrew Chinich Agency Executive Producer
Hungry Man Production Company
Tom Scherma / Cosmo Street Editor
The Mill VFX
Software
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