Category: VFX Supervisor

Sainsbury’s – ‘Christmas 2019’

Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
Executive Creative Directors: Tony Davidson & Iain Tait
Creative Director: Dan Norris & Ray Shaughnessy
Creatives: Tom Bender, Tom Corcoran, Thomas Coleman & Matt Kramer
Agency Producer: Richard Adkins
Assistant Producer: Dee Fenning

Production Company: Pulse Films
Director: Ninian Doff
Executive Producer: James Sorton
Producer: George Saunders
Production Manager: Ben Burdock
DoP: John Mathieson

Edit Company: Stitch
Editor: Leo King
Edit Assistant: Charlie Von Rotberg

Post Production Company: Time Based Arts
VFX Supervisors: Leo Weston & Sam Osborne
2D Lead Artists: Leo Weston & Matt Jackson
3D Lead Artist: Sam Osborne
2D TEAM: Leo Weston , Matt Jackson, Matt Shires, Nina Mosand, Adam Paterson, Ollie Ramsey, Jamie Crofts, Will Robinson, Grant White, Linda Cieniawska, Manolo Perez, David Birkill
3D TEAM: Federico Vanone, Walter How, Dave Loh, Ben Cantor, Zoe Sottiaux
DMP: Lisa Ayla, Carl Edlund, James Mann
Motion Graphics: Tom Robinson
Colour Grading: Lewis Crossfield
VFX Head of Production: Josh Robinson
VFX Producer: Jo Gutteridge

Sainsbury’s offers up a festive feast of a tale this year, directed by Ninian Doff through Pulse Films. The spot brings to life the story of Santa’s origins, set against the sweeping backdrop of a fantastical Dickensian London. I was extremely pleased to land the job of VFX supervisor and lead 2D artist for this Christmas epic.

We shot the commercial out in Romania in 36 degree heat on a backlot built for use in a TV show set in San Francisco. Much of the post work within the town itself involved adding snow and cold breath and changing any buildings that didn’t look like London to ones that did, and also compositing digital matte paintings of the mountains and arctic tundra that lay outside of the city walls. We also composited stock footage of reindeer into the final scene and gave one of them a red nose for good measure. Nobody on the team wants to comp any more snow or cold breath for another 11 months.

Zalando – ‘Free to Be’

Agency: Grey London
Creative Director: Vicki Maguire
Creatives: Sam Daly & Rob Greaves
Producers: Thea Evely, Talou Sabbah & India Smith
Production Company: Park Pictures
Director: Georgia Hudson
DoP: Ben Fordesman
Producer: Jane Lloyd
Editor: Paul O’Reilly
Sound & Music: Sam Ashwell
Post Production Company: Time Based Arts
VFX Supervisor: Leo Weston
2D Lead: Ollie Ramsey
2D Team: Jamie Crofts, Nina Mosand, Stephen Grasso, Matt Shires, Will Robinson, Warren Gebhardt, Linda Cieniawska.
3D Team: Dave Loh, Sam Osborne
Colour Grading: Lewis Crossfield

Bombay Sapphire

A social media film for Bombay Sapphire. Multiple plates of fruit & booze were propelled into the air by dropping the entire set and camera together at lightning fast speeds with a Bolt high-speed motion control rig. We then reversed everything so the liquid heads back down towards the glass and comped the best plates together. You’d think that a they’d use water on set for the clear liquid but Bombay Sapphire aren’t short of a bit of gin so up in the air it went.

Director: Dan Tobin Smith
Post Production Company: Time Based Arts
VFX Supervisor: Leo Weston
VFX: Leo Weston , Alastair Ford

Bruno Banani – ‘Man’s Best’

Bruno Banani returns for a second tour of his laboratoire in this latest instalment brought to us by Friend director duo Tim & Joe for Grey London. In this film the essential oil extraction process has been ramped up to a new level. As a leggy trolley lady leads us on our journey through the lab, we take in an Anti-gravity peppercorn selection chamber, an infinitely tall microwave storage shelving facility and an automated laser powered bottle-sculpting robot – amongst other things. Rushes design team headed up by Domhnall Malone worked closely with Tim & Joe in designing the robot with reference to the villain restraint rings from Superman 2. I supervised the VFX shoot out in Vilnius, Lithuania and led the team for the post process back at Rushes.

Laser Robot – Dust, smoke, dry ice, laser and glass elements were shot on set against a black background. The robot and glass shard were modeled in Zbrush by Nimesh Patel and animated in Maya by Craig Travis. The smoke and dust elements were simulated in Phoenix FD for Maya by Chris Lumsdale. I composited all shot and CG elements together with additional sparks, glows, lens flares and molten glass and dirt textures in Flame.

Infinite Ladder – The girl was shot on set from a low angle stood on a short ladder against a small section of shelving. The camera slowly dropped a short distance in order to create a change in perspective of her body. The girl was then keyed and rotoscoped from this background. The new extended camera move was previsualised in Flame and then exported to Maya. Extensions to the shelving and ladder were modelled in Maya by Rob Millan along with a model of the girl which was re-projected with the re-sped shot texture after a pickup point part way into the shot allowing for the extended camera move to take over for the long drop. The drip from her pipette was created as a cloth simulation in Maya. All elements were then composited in Flame.

Anti- Gravity Peppercorns – This scene was shot on a Steadicam with peppercorns on the table to serve as both a lighting reference and as tracking markers. Additional tracking markers were added to the walls in order to ensure a solid camera track could be achieved. The hero peppercorn pincered at the end was rigged on garden wire to provide a target for both the girl and for the focus pull. All rig and tracking points were then painted out, and the new floating peppercorns were modelled and animated in Maya. The final comp was completed in Nuke by Sarah Breakwell.

Other VFX in the film included adding logos to doors, background replacements, set extensions, general cleanup to walls and floors, adding cinnamon dust, steam plumes, condensation on visor, colouring and animating drips, CG augmentation of glasses and animated graphical readouts and lasers for the microwave and robot.

It was a pleasure to once again work with Tim & Joe and the creative team from Grey London for this project.

Client: Bruno Banani
Agency: Grey London
Producer: Louise Reimnitz
Business Director: Nancy Suarez King

Production Company: Friend
Directors: Tim & Joe
Producer: Bonnie Anthony
Post Production Company: Rushes
VFX Producer: Jon Purton
Executive Producer: Jule Pye
VFX Supervisor: Leo Weston
Concept Direction: Barry Corcoran
Concept Design: Domhnall Malone
Colourist: Simona Cristea-Harrison
Flame: Leo Weston
Nuke: Sarah Breakwell, Bharathi Anthonysamy
Modelling: Nimesh Patel
CG Supervisor: Andy McNamara
CG: Craig Travis, Adam Lindsey, Chris Lumsdale, Rob Millan
MGFX: Tania Nunes

Neulasta – ‘Rather Be Home’

Knucklehead’s Director duo The Dempseys create this film for Neulasta, which shows the benefits of receiving medication in a home environment instead of a hospital. As the main character goes to sit down in the hospital she is magically transported back to the comfort of her own living room. It was a pleasure to work with the Dempseys for the first time whilst acting as VFX Supervisor for the transitions in the 2 films. Featured here is one of those 2 films: ‘Rather Be Home’.

This transition was shot on a Panther motion control rig in 2 separate locations in Cape Town, South Africa. Each of the two scenes were deconstructed over a series of plates where all furniture, magazines, people etc were gradually removed until the rooms were completely empty. The main actor was shot along with the couch in the home environment but lit to appear like she is in the hospital. She was then rotoscoped into the scene and the plates combined as her lighting slowly changes to complete the transition from hospital to home. In supervising this shoot, it was key to get all measurements of camera height, track position & angle, room size, plus the positions of all furniture and people to enable us to rebuild the scene exactly after the rig had been moved to our second location. It was also important to carefully plan the order in which items were removed from the scene to enable unobscured plates of each object and person allowing freedom in the compositing stage to remove and insert items in any order throughout the transition. I was also able to turn around rough comps with a selection of plates whilst on set in order to give reassurance to the production crew and to assist with explaining the transition to the end client. The final comp was completed at Method Studios New York by John Yu.

I’ve posted here a heavily edited version of the actual film in order to focus on the effects shot. Unless you are shopping for both a VFX supervisor and cancer medication then you don’t need to sit through the other 90 seconds of legal disclaimer. In case you are shopping for Neulasta and not a Flame Artist, then be sure to read everything on this page instead.

Client: Neulasta
Production Company: Knucklehead
Directors: The Dempseys
Producer: Bill James
Post Production Company: Method
VFX Supervisor: Leo Weston
VFX: John Yu
VFX Producer: Robert Holland

Gillette Venus - 'Pre-Party Party'

Gillette Venus beauty ambassador Emma Willis returns in the latest campaign spot from Grey, directed by Friend’s One In Three. The new spot contains five Emmas in various stages of readiness for a Christmas party. The five plates were shot using motion control and then rotoscoped together to create the final composite. A time-lapse outside scene moving from a crisp winter morning through to a cold snowy night was constructed in Flame and then camera tracked into the view through the windows. Other Flame work included adding in a frosted effect to the lower window panes in the bathroom and removing the reflection of the motion control rig and camera from the mirror in the bedroom.

Client: Gillette Venus
Agency: Grey London
Producer: Joseph Ogunmokun, Melissa Beeson
Creative Director: Clemmie Telford
Production Company: Friend
Director: One In Three
Producer: Guy Rolfe
DoP: Oliver Cariou
Post Production Company: Rushes
VFX Supervisor: Leo Weston
VFX: Leo Weston , Glenn Cone, Richard Russell
VFX Producers: Rosanne Crisp & Sara Beckman
Colourist: Marty McMullan

'The Royals'

I provided on set VFX supervision and led a team of Flame & Nuke artists completing over 600 VFX shots for the TV series ‘The Royals’. Comprised of 500+ beauty and cleanup shots and around 100 other mixed VFX shots. The above example is a plate breakdown of one of 5 large crowd replication shots that we completed where 200 extras were replicated to around 10 thousand. That’s me in the foreground at the start of the breakdown. On this particular shot I also animated and comped in the Red Arrows along with coloured smoke particle trails.

Production Company: Privileged Productions, Lionsgate
Director: Mark Schwahn
Post Production Company: Rushes
VFX Supervisor: Leo Weston
VFX: Leo Weston , Sarah Breakwell, Noel Harmes, Bho Anthonysamy, Richard Russell
VFX Producer: Ollie Whitworth

'Nocturnal Animals'

I provided on set VFX supervision and led a team of Flame, Nuke & Maya artists completing over 400 VFX shots for the film ‘Nocturnal Animals’. This included over 150 green screen comps for the car chase and art gallery scenes, 200+ mixed beauty and cleanup shots, sky & background replacements, CG composites, and one scene where we entirely removed and replaced an actor. It was an absolute pleasure to work alongside director Tom Ford and post supervisor Mark Harris for this project.

Production Company: Fade to Black Productions
Distribution Company: Focus Features
Director: Tom Ford
Producer: Tom Ford, Robert Salerno
DoP: Seamus McGarvey
Editor: Joan Sobel
Post Production Supervisor: Mark Harris
Post Production Company: Rushes
VFX Supervisor: Leo Weston
VFX Artists: Leo Weston , Noel Harmes, Sarah Bakewell, Richard Russell,
Craig Travis, Bharathi Anthonysamy, Emir Hashan,
Lorenzo Newell, Ben Simmonds, Ivan Grozef,
Humayun Mirza, Julia Caram, Klaudija Cermak,
Sophie Hills, Adam Tennant, Jason Revillard,
Arnaud Dumeyni
Title Designer: Guy Hancock
VFX Producer: Mireille Antoine, Caroline Laing
Production Coordinator: Oliver Whitworth

LV - 'Make It Better'

Working closely with agency Designate and Dirty Films director Eli Sverdlov, the creative team at Rushes completed the new LV commercial “Make It Better”. Extensive VFX and CG elements were employed to realise the spot, which shows a family in their damaged car being carried by hot air balloons to an LV repair factory, whilst a team of fun quirky animated robots and machines quickly and efficiently mend the car and get it back on the road. I provided VFX supervision for this shoot in Valencia and Barcelona. The final VFX work was led by Jonny Hicks as I was off getting married.

Client: LV
Agency: Designate
Agency Producer: Emma Johnston
Creative Director: Daniel Fagg
Art Director: Faye Carré
Production Company: Dirty Films
Director: Eli Sverdlov
Producer: Alex Bedford
Post Production Company: Rushes
VFX Supervisors: Leo Weston , Andy McNamara, Barry Corcoran
CG Supervisor/Lead: Andy McNamara
Design Lead: Barry Corcoran
Concept Design: Jean-David Solon, Domhnall Malone
Producer: Jules Pye
Production Coordinator: Olli Whitworth
Colourist: Denny Cooper
CG: Craig Travis, Nimesh Patel, Adam Lindsey, Mark Woodcock, Robert Millin, Gerald Crome, Gary Cureton, Linda Johnson, Ryan Passmore, Zahra Al Naib
VFX: Jonathan Hicks, Brian Carbin, Richard Russell, Lorenzo Newell, Noel Harmes, Sarah Breakwell, Sandra Roach

RuboCubo - Viral

Between working on commercials, a few of the guys at Rushes & I had an idea to make a video of me ‘solving’ Rubik’s Cubes while juggling them. We’d seen a guy called Ravi Fernando on YouTube do this for real. It takes him about 6 minutes solving one at a time. We decided to do our own version but push it a bit further by doing it way quicker and in a more complicated juggling pattern. Seemed like a good bit of fun.

First, I purchased some really cheap knock offs from eBay. These ‘Rubix’ cubes (advertised as speed cubes) did not even turn without a lot of effort. I’m fairly sure I’m the only person to ever receive these cubes and not immediately send them back for a refund. Fortunately, we did not intend to turn these cubes at all, so they were entirely suitable for our purposes.

Somebody had told me once that it is possible to solve a Rubik’s cube from any position in 20 moves. As I was juggling 3, we decided that I needed to do at least 60 catches to make the video semi-plausible. We shot the video on the roof deck at Rushes and decided to frame in the Rushes logo in the background as a clue that all was not as it seemed. Although this clue was ignored by most of the people that eventually watched the video.

Our CG department were busy on actual jobs, so we built a CG model of a Rubik’s cube in Flame and scrambled it up one twist for every catch that I had made. The colours were then shuffled for each of the 3 cubes so that each one appeared different (although the solve algorithm remained the same on each one). From these models we then figured out what the faces would need to look like on each cube at the start of the video when I show the cubes to the camera to demonstrate that they are shuffled. We then scrambled up the real cubes to match the CG models and shot stills of these cubes in the same lighting conditions for each of the positions where my hands aren’t moving. These stills were then tracked on top of the shot plate of the unscrambled cubes and we faded between each still during the moments when the cubes were motion blurred.

We used a different technique for the part of the video where I start juggling and the cubes need to start solving. For this section we tracked in the CG models of the cubes and animated them to match the movement of the cubes we shot with. They were animated to gradually solve each time they were in my hands. Fortunately, due to the motion blur on the actual footage, you couldn’t see a lot of my fingers whilst my hands were in motion, so we didn’t have to do much work on the fingers themselves. Just a few frames here and there. Comments were even made between us at this stage like “This is so pointless” & “Nobody is going to watch this frame by frame”. We had no idea the level of scrutiny that the video would eventually have to endure from the “cubing community”.

The drawback of the motion blur in the shot footage on the other hand was that just placing new CG cubes in front of the shot ones was not enough to cover them entirely, so we had to paint out the original cubes frame by frame. (About 500 frames in all). This was by far the most time consuming task, and was taken on by Rich Russell, Lorenzo Newell & James Dooley. During this process, we were pleased with my decision to wear a plain black jumper that day, but less thrilled with the decision to film in front of a complicated background of overlapping railings and windows which was pretty much different on each frame. Rich said halfway through the painting process: “Next time we have the idea to do a thing like this, can we just not!”

Finishing touches included rotoscoping my fingers back in front of the composited cubes & adding believable shadows, reflections and lighting to the surfaces. I then recorded the sound from an actual Rubik’s Cube being solved and added this twisting noise to the video each time our CG model moved.

I had a Youtube channel already that I never used. We thought it best to not upload to a new channel. I changed my name from leowestonvfx to RuboCubo & had spent the few days before this deleting anything VFX related and liking and sharing videos of juggling and Rubik’s cube solves. I also for a laugh posted a comment on Ravi’s video saying “I think I can beat this”.

Then we posted the video.

Nothing happened obviously. I had no subscribers on my channel. I shared it to Facebook amongst my friends and got a couple of likes. Most of my friends knowing what I do for a living saw it for the sham that it was and weren’t afraid to say it in the comments.

The next day we posted it to Reddit. Harder than you think. You need a “Karma score” to post to the main videos page of Reddit which you earn over time by being an active & engaged user of the site. None of us filled this criteria. We then discovered that our head runner at Rushes was pretty active on Reddit so got him to post the video (3pm UK time – when America awakes – is apparently the best time to post). Then it started getting quite a few views and comments. Although nearing the end of the day I think we worked out we’d probably had about one view per hour of work invested in the video. Not such a good ratio. However one comment came from a journalist at Metro who had seen it on Reddit and asked if he could feature the video on their site. We obviously said yes. When I went to bed the video had about 500 views which I thought was pretty good going for the first 24 hours. I hoped that by the time I woke up we might have a thousand.

I woke up and checked the views on my phone in bed and it had 18,000 views! I thought this was pretty spectacular. Couldn’t wait to show the guys at work. By the time I got to work an hour later the views had doubled to 36,000. By 10am I had an email from a journalist at Buzzfeed asking for an interview about how I felt that the video was trending on Twitter in Japan. He included a link to the tweet. We clicked it and it linked to a gif that somebody had made of the video and tweeted. It had been liked and retweeted over 40,000 times and every time we refreshed the page it was gaining another thousand.

After that, it appeared on The Telegraph, then The Mirror, and The Sun. The messages on the Youtube channel were filling up with requests to post the video to various sites and feature on various TV stations. Fox News, ABC News, Fuji TV in Japan, Discovery Canada, The New York Post, Huffington, LadBible, Unilad etc. I obviously just said yes to everyone. I tried to answer all their questions while avoiding divulging whether or not the video was real or fake.

I think that we realised that we had actually “gone viral” when the video became the number 1 trending thing worldwide on Reddit (albeit a gif repost). So funny!

Reddit

The point at which we shit our pants a bit was when Reuters got in touch wanting to push the video to every News network worldwide and directly asked: “Is the video ‘as shot’?”. We decided that we shouldn’t lie directly to Reuters, and avoiding the question was as good as a confession, so we ignored the email.

Over the following 48 hours across all the sites that we allowed to repost, the video got in excess of 20 million views.

It seems like lots of people believed the video was real (38% according to the Telegraph poll). But the best thing for us from a visual effects perspective was that even the ones who thought it was fake didn’t suspect CG. Theories ranged from reversed video, prearranged cubes, swapping in cubes near the end, self solving cubes etc. Probably Definitely the best endorsement of my compositing I have ever received!

Most of those who cried “fakery” took the video in the spirit in which it was intended – as a bit of fun. I suspect though, if you’re sat at home investing all of your time into trying to legitimately beat some kind of Rubik’s Cube solving record, and then some guy pops up on YouTube and undeservedly gets all the credit, then you could be forgiven for writing “Kill yerself” on the comments… possibly.

My favourite disgruntled comment was this one:

know the cube

Happily though, since we revealed the illusion, I’ve received only positive feedback. Although one Japanese journalist did email me asking how I could have lied to him.

The thing that made me most happy is that Steve Mills himself – the inventor of ‘Mills Mess’ (The juggling pattern I’m doing in the video) got in touch to say how much he enjoyed the video!

SteveMills

We really enjoyed the 20 seconds of internet stardom we had, and are mainly happy that the hours we spent making the video weren’t a complete waste of time.

Once again, massive credit to Rich Russell, Lorenzo Newell & James Dooley for the time they spent with me making the video. And also to our PR guy Thom Trigger who had to deal with the shitstorm of press enquiries.

Below is a collection of some of the press the video got:

300kJapaneseTweet

BuzzfeedJapan

LadBibleFB

Metro

Telegraph

The Mirror

TheSunFB

Unilad

Then 50 Cent posted it…

On a random web show in the U.S.

Here’s a breakdown of how we made the video:

and here’s us picking up ‘Best Viral Video’ at The Lovie Awards…

Client: Rushes
Post Production Company: Rushes
Director: Leo Weston
Camera: Glenn Cone
VFX Supervisor: Leo Weston
VFX: Leo Weston , Rich Russell, Lorenzo Newell, James Dooley

2016 Lovie - Viral Video
– 2016 Lovie Award Winner – Viral Video Award
2016 Lovie - People's Choice
– 2016 Lovie Award Winner – People’s Choice Award