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5 amazing uses of CG in 2014 ads

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This feature is brought to you in association with Masters of CG, a new competition that offers the chance to work with one of 2000AD's most iconic characters and win an all expenses paid trip to the SIGGRAPH conference. Find out more at the end of this article...

Most ads are boring, and the commerical break is the signal for most of us to go and make another cup of tea -- or just fast-forward through if watching on a digital recording.

Every now and again, though, a commerical comes along that you actually want to watch. And sometimes, they're even better than the programmes they interrupt.

Here are five recent examples, all created with the help of The Mill, of where clever use of CG has created eye-poppingly unique commercials that you'll want to hang around for.

01. Hay Day

With millions of free mobile games cluttering up the App Store and Google Play Store, how do you make yours stand out? With an eye-popping use of CG animation, that's how.

The artists at The Mill created a host of wacky CG farmyard animals for the campaign of the hugely popular iPhone and Android game. They worked in collaboration with Barton F Graf 9000 LLC, the marketing and game teams at Supercell, and Noam Murro of Biscuit Filmworks.

Believable look

"It was an incredibly interesting challenge making a cartoony design look photo-real and believable," says Chris Bayol, lead 3D artist. "Just a small part of the process was using skin simulations, making the skin wobble and stretch as it would on a real animal."

Jacob Bergman, lead 3D artist, adds: "We wanted to maintain the recognizable style of the game and keep it simple whilst playing with the comedy and having fun with the animation. The script itself is full of funny moments, so it was a joy to get into the animation of it.

"The pig is a very faithful character, so we played off that dog-like devoted vibe with features like tail-wagging, head-shaking, sitting at his owner's side, ears flopping, eating corn like a dog would a bone -- plus giving him the ability to break into a big grin."

02. OHSU

From the ridiculous to the deadly serious... The Mill teamed up with Wieden+Kennedy to create this breathtaking ad for Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) new campaign, 'One Down: Make Cancer the Victim'.

Directed by The Mill's Robert Sethi, it's a visually stunning look inside the body, showing the progression of cancer and, in this case, its disappearance.

"Instead of individually sculpting each cell we used a set of noise and rules to randomly generate them, giving us a lot more freedom," says Ashraf Ghoniem, 3D lead artist. "And the comp team, led by Martin Karlsson, did a really excellent job. They took our renders and really pushed the electro-microscope effect to the maximum."

Dark to light

Robert Sethi, director and creative director, adds: "This piece is inspired by reality without trying to replicate it: it's a way of visually conveying the message that OHSU has found a way to successfully treat a type of cancer. Whilst we did a lot of research to understand cells and cancer, we used it more for inspiration.

"Initially it's a darker world which progressively lightens as the cancer explodes and disappears. The colours shift and the camera goes from static to loose movements, all conveying this sense of hopefulness and victory."

03. Jacobs

Crackers might be seen by the younger generation as a slightly old-fashioned thing to eat. So this campaign for Jacobs, directed by Jon Watts out of Smuggler, brings them right up-to-date with the loud, slightly mad and endearingly tiny 'Jacob The Baker'.

"To make a six foot Jason Cook look like he is four feet tall we used an old school in camera scaling technique," explains lead 2D artist Richard De Carteret. "After measuring the cameras position on the location shoot, we doubled its distance and height from Jason in the grey screen studio.

"Once composited, this created the illusion that he was much smaller compared to his environment. A golf cart converted into his van and scaled products helped his interaction within each scene."

04. Duralast

If the last ad wasn't over-the-top enough for you, check this one out. A testimony to the strength of Duralast's car brakes, 'Stopping Power' by Doner Company, and directed by James Mangold of Aero Film, stars mixed martial arts fighter Chuck Liddell, a charging bull and a wrecking ball. And the results are comically explosive.

The Mill's Robert Sethi, creative director and shoot supervisor, was on set for this VFX heavy spot. "It was important to get the best interactions possible between Chuck and the props for both performance and VFX purposes," he explains. "To do that, we used as many stand-in props as we could. For example, the wrecking ball was a sandbag that Chuck actually head-butted repeatedly whilst filming. Nearly everything in this spot comes from something real, including the car that we really did launch it off a cliff!

"Whilst we shot live-action explosions, we made them even bigger back at The Mill. It's a fine balance to strike in something like this -- our VFX work had to assist the comedy by creating an exaggerated world for Chuck that's a little removed from real-life."

05. Prefa

Tiles are another one of those consumer products that it's difficult to get excited about. But that didn't stop the Mill+ team here, as they collaborated with Lovestone Film to create a CGI Bull to promote Prefa's weather-wearing tiles.

The idea was for the bull to convey the strength and durability of Prefa's tiles in all weather types including snow, ice, wind and rain. The team captured these elements on a live action shoot using a 3D printed bull, which enabled them to re-create the scene back in the studio, finessing how each condition could look when impacting the CG model.

"We decided to comp the ad in Nuke and keep all the 3D in Cinema 4D," explains animation director Nils Kloth, "as this allowed us creative flexibility and a quick turnaround. We had a team of three people working on and off on the CG development and one lead Nuke artist with some helping hands on the side ensuring that the work flow was fast and efficient and that we got the best possible results out of the final piece."

Win a trip to Los Angeles!


Masters of CG is a competition for EU residents that offers the one-in-a-lifetime chance to work with one of 2000AD's most iconic characters: Rogue Trooper.

We invite you to form a team (of up to four participants) and tackle as many of our four categories as you wish - Title Sequence, Main Shots, Film Poster or Idents. For full details of how to enter and to get your Competition Information Pack, head to the Masters of CG website now.

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Tom May is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. Author of the Amazon #1 bestseller Great TED Talks: Creativity, published by Pavilion Books, Tom was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. Today, he is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq and its sister sites Digital Camera World, and Tech Radar. He also writes for Creative Boom and works on content marketing projects.