This is the fourth in a series for Halifax which has seen The Mill help to bring everyone’s favourite fictional characters to life and place them in the real world. The series began with Top Cat
followed by Flintstones
, Scooby Doo
and now, Thunderbirds.
The humorous spot sees Lady Penelope and her long-suffering butler, Parker, visit a Halifax branch as Parker is rewarded with the top prize of £500,000 in the Halifax Savers Prize Draw.
Before long, Parker is depicted sipping cocktails on a beach watching water-skiers as Lady Penelope is left hanging in her mansion with no-one to refill her tea.
This installment presented The Mill’s VFX team with a new challenge; to carefully create a fully photo-real CG version of Parker for the branch shots without showing any signs of the difference between the actual puppets shot in-camera and the CG characters.
The team also recreated the iconic pink FAB 1 in the exterior shots, ensuring that it fitted to scale on the country roads of Marlow, Buckinghamshire, where the spot was shot.
Extensive research was carried out into the original Thunderbird characters, working with experts to study every detail of their movements, including poses, gestures and the way light reflected off the puppets. The Mill team also worked to subtly enhance the miniature sets in keeping with the archetypal Thunderbirds style.
Mill Lead 3D Artist Jon Wood explains, ‘It was great to continue working with dom&nic on this latest spot for Halifax.
For the puppets to occupy the human world we had to expertly rebuild the characters in CG, whilst honing in on every detail to ensure they mirrored the authenticity of the real Thunderbirds.
The finer details of the puppets’ hair required a great deal of attention to balance a sense of hyperrealism with the overall synthetic appearance of the puppets.
Unlike in other jobs, where we’d try to remove any signs of imperfection, we had to add in details such as the puppet strings which would be integral in determining how the puppets should move.
The cloth simulation also required a great level of care. We worked to rescale the clothing to match the size of the puppets in the modern world and their interaction with real humans. We also added details such as loose threads and perfected imperfections in the puppets’ appearance, all adding to the sense of accuracy.’
Mill Colourist David ‘Luddy’ Ludlam explains, ‘To catch the true original feel and look for the spot dom&nic shot on 35mm film and then we graded the spot to match the original 60s and 70s references. We focused on keeping it filmic and true to the original.
Attention was paid to classic film RGB colours and skin tones to the puppets. Due to the craft and techniques used in the spot, it looks different to most ads out there at the present time.’
As Thunderbirds is such an iconic show we worked layers and layers of detail into the models to faithfully recreate the original 1960’s look everyone remembers, using many of the same techniques we’ve developed for our creature work.
For the car interiors and end section, dom&nic shot puppets with back projections and miniature sets working with Thunderbird puppeteers so it was great to go “old school” as well.
To further enhance the look, we augmented the interior mansion shots with CGI to make sure they were identical to the original series.
There are some jobs that everyone wants to be part of and this was one of them. I think the team did a fantastic job and I hope there’s more to come in the campaign.’