Enter the CGI: The Mill helps Johnnie Walker, BBH China and director Joseph Kahn bring martial arts master Bruce Lee back to the screen
Johnnie Walker's latest spot "Change the Game" features a fully
CG facial performance from legendary Bruce Lee. Whether you watched
his fast moves and daring fights as a child, or your big brother
did, Bruce Lee holds an iconic place in cinematic history.
Working again with BBH China's executive creative director,
Johnny Tan, The Mill delivered "Change the Game" for Johnnie
Walker. The spot features a walking, talking Bruce Lee and what was
vital for the film, was that the story and performance were
believable and seamless. The film had to show an authentic Bruce
Lee, one that the audience would completely believe in, especially
as he is an internationally renowned screen legend and one that the
Bruce Lee estate felt really captured his true style and protected
his integrity, completely representing a lifelike Bruce Lee.
The Mill wanted to create a new benchmark for achieving the most
realistic and seamless head replacement shots ever used on a
commercial to date and as part of this challenging process decided
not to use the traditional method of motion capture. Bruce Lee and
Johnnie Walker needed to be groundbreaking and push the boundaries
of what can be achieved, so all of the facial CG was created
through hand animation.
The teams were headed up by 2D lead artist Andy Dill and 3D lead
artists Sam Driscoll and Francois Roisin, lead modeller, Dan Moore
and lead animator, Carlos Fraiha, The Mill worked very closely with
Johnny Tan from the outset and began by all sitting down and
reviewing hours and hours of Bruce's archive footage, pulling out
as many images from as many different angles as possible. Each new
angle brought the team closer to the most realistic 3D face.
Andy Dill explains some of the process "I think Johnnie Walker
"Change the Game" is incredibly special because of the distinctly
unique human approach The Mill decided to take. The decision to
minimise motion capture techniques and instead rely on the skills
and talent of the artists really shines through in the final film.
The team did whatever it could to get every shot to work and we'd
normally have an easier task with the motion capture technology,
but the level of micro detail that the artists were able to
develop, craft and include is what really makes the spot look so
convincing and feel so incredibly lifelike, we all pushed our
skills to the limit and trusted our eyes above all else."
"The team used the Bruce Lee footage as reference, and hundreds
of Bruce head models were created with every single feature
meticulously modeled to get the exact nuances and facial
expressions absolutely right. What everyone wanted to achieve
was a seamless performance, so convincing that when you watch Bruce
you can see his real emotions and believe that you are watching
Bruce Lee the man, not a model, pixels or wireframes, which is why
it was so important to create the animation by hand. The challenges
and level of detail involved on this project are something we are
all hugely proud of.
"We were very lucky to have incredible input and feedback from
Shannon Lee from the Bruce Lee Estate, which was invaluable in
creating the true emotions of Bruce, as well as working so
collaboratively with Johnny and Joseph, which was a great
experience with both of them providing support and direction
through the entire project".
Joseph Khan, Director, HSI comments "The final product is
something that is truly beautiful and your talents really shine
through. I think we've taken CGI humans to a whole new level and
this will be the bar everyone will look up to now. I feel very
fortunate to have worked with such a talented and brilliant group
of artists and the committed production staff that supported it.
Every bit of your sweat and blood have been noted and appreciated,
you've rolled with the punches and delivered something truly
magical. You remind me why I love working with visual effects - to
create impossible dreams".