Directed by Mill NY ECD Ben Smith and CD Kinda Akash, the elegant film features a 100% CG, photo-real panther (the Cartier Panthère)
With the iconic Cartier Panthère at its heart, this film is a celebration of love, family, and the spirit of giving found during Ramadan and Eid. Following the Panthère as the catalyst and hero, viewers enjoy a transformative journey of effervescent illumination, as she spreads the magic of Cartier throughout an imaginary Arab town.
Beginning in darkened, moonlit streets, the film builds towards a joyful crescendo, where the whole town is alive with warmth, laughter, and light.
The Mill’s 3D team, led by James Mulholland, crafted the CG Panther in micro-detail, after conducting extensive research and development on the animal’s natural movement, mannerisms and behaviors. James tells us more:
One of the biggest challenges was creating a fully photoreal CG panther that would look realistic and alive even up to an extreme full frame close-up of her eye.
We spent a lot of time researching African leopards in macro detail. We studied movement, mannerisms and behaviour from any online reference we could get our hands on, and we collected a massive amount of photographic and anatomical data. We knew we didn't want to use real life furs or skins as reference, and so we reached out to panthera.org
— a beneficiary of Cartier — who loaned us two amambatha replica leopard pelts to use as reference for lighting and shading.
We built a system in Houdini which allowed us to simulate how muscles, skin and fur would behave when the Panthere moved. We tested this on both walk and run cycles, so that the system could be optimised to give us more automated and predictable results, meaning faster animation iterations.
The beginning shot is a fully CG water simulation in the form of a ripple that acts as a misdirect. The CG image of moon and stars then transforms to reveal a watery reflection presenting our heroine and the fanous she enchants.
The magic illumination of the fanous was created using multiple simulation effects, vapour, particles and glows which illuminate the lanterns and bring light to the city.
The panther was built from the bones up, sculpting individual muscle groups which were rigged along with its skin and whiskers. The skin was then textured and shaded without the fur, focusing on the look of her skin, eyes, claws. Anything not covered by fur was textured and sculpted in meticulous detail.
The massive undertaking of the groom was executed in a manageable timeline thanks to The Mill's bespoke fur pipeline "Furtilizer" which allowed us to create the many variations and subtleties present in leopard fur.
“Furtilizer,” was driven using painted attribute maps which control everything from length, width, frizziness, and curling to tufting and dozens of other controls. An additional groom was created for downy fur and some added detail in the face and head.
Our animators went to great length to study leopards both in the wild and in captivity, in order to give our Panthere as much life as possible. It was a challenge to recreate the elegance with which panthers move, so we focussed particular attention on subtleties such as eye darts and how the tail moves and acts as a counter balance.
Four matte paintings were created for the film. Our matte painting team built the top down shots of the city completely in CG as a base, even smaller details like awnings and street lamps were created in CG. We then used a combination of substance and photoshop to add extra details like patterns on the walls and domes and paving stones. A frame was then rendered with a moonlit HDRI and additional lights were rendered as light groups in Arnold. The light groups were additively comped in sequential order onto the moonlit render to give the effect of the panther lighting a large area of the city as it moved throughout.
See more spots created in collaboration with Cartier here.