Since its creation in 1896 by Georges Vuitton, the iconic monogrammed flower motif has been constantly reinvented. The pattern has gradually come to life, and the little flower has become Vivienne, a character full of personality. Alongside her is the Louis Vuitton Teddy Bear and its coat marked by the brand’s iconic initials. This year Louis Vuitton offers us a festive Christmas tale with its iconic characters.
Above the fireplace, the Bear and Vivienne escape from their glass bell and begin a frantic chase. Vivienne, more spirited, has already put on her skis while Bear is still struggling to get out of his display case. As in any good Christmas tale, a beautiful adventure begins in snowy settings, all dotted with iconic Louis Vuitton products. Vivienne leads the way followed closely by the bear. Both transport us into the world of the brand, from jewelry to perfume to leather goods.
From photogrammetry, which consists in taking a series of photos to recover the 3D volumes after processing them, to shading of the hair through rigging and animation, our Parisian artists have given life to the two mascots in 3D. Meeting the expectations of the brand, the multi-watched director Gary Freedman and the cinematographer of La La Land Linus Sandgren, our artists personified the mascots and then integrated them into a shot set. They added details such as eyelids and eyebrows, giving them distinct character traits through their expressions and movements. Through the meeting of between the real and the fictional, Louis Vuitton invites us into its whimsical imagination.
This magical film showcases our Parisian artists character animation skillsets and marks the third collaboration between Louis Vuitton and The Mill Paris this year.
“For this film, our main mission was to animate the two iconic characters of the brand and integrate them into the filmed sets. As a VFX supervisor, I was present from the preparation of the project and on the shoot. These creative phases feed the whole project, it is essential to share the right information and to come back with clear creative directions to anticipate and facilitate the VFX work. We started by making a previs (animated storyboard) in order to illustrate the use of the sets under construction in a first cut of the film. A first characterization of the characters was also proposed so that each one could project the future presence of the characters in the shots. (Cycles of steps, simple actions present in the film...)
During the shooting, we made several tests with 3D prints of the characters to enrich the reading of the shots and to make sure to create a connivance between the two protagonists of this story.
Once the shooting was finished and the proportions validated, we started to work on the acting of the mascots. Vivienne was to be a prankster, playing tricks on the clumsy bear. Louis Vuitton and director Gary Freedman's vision was clear and gave us some artistic freedom to bring the characters to life. As a result, we added some additional elements to the real mascots such as eyelids and eyebrows. It was also a pleasure to work with the cinematographer Linus Sandgren who quickly understood the issues related to the space, the variations in universe sizes and of course the 3D manufacturing.
As the schedule was short, we changed our usual work methodology (linear work and succession of CG disciplines) to organize the different trades simultaneously.
To advance on the animation and the integration of the characters in the sets, we scanned the different universes and created temporary cameras. With this flexible production method, the animation was almost finalized before we even received the camera trackings. It was a pleasure to work with the artists of The Mill Paris who worked hard and flexibly to keep the busy and tight schedules while fully feeding the universe of this project.
“The Louis Vuitton Christmas film was a challenging project both for its story and for the CG work to be produced. From the beginning, we knew that the organisation would have to be impeccable so that all departments had a clear understanding of our objectives and could work in parallel on the sixty or so shots we had to create.
During the shoot, Alain Boutillier and David Roubah scanned all the models and sets that had been made in order to be able to create our various 3D scenes as quickly as possible (CG sets, camera tracking, conformation of character scales by environment and the animation of these), all in parallel with the editing. The timing being tight, we had to work on everything simultaneously, which was probably the biggest challenge.
The characters were recreated following the classic steps of construction, but with a solid base from our scans made during the shooting: Modellers recreated the characters in a clean way, thinking about the constraints of animation, the riggings artists made the skeleton and the manipulation tools which are then used by the animators who add all the acting and give life to the characters, while we worked on the materials, hairs and textures of them.
The goal was to stay as close as possible to the models of the characters of the brand, with a few details to make them even more credible and endearing in their new environments: by playing with the materials of Vivienne, the shades of Bear's fur or even their poses and their eye contact.
As a CG supervisor, it was a very stimulating project because you had to find technical and artistic solutions, check the good quality and the harmony between the shots. Knowing how to centralise and share information with the different departments, in a team of almost 20 artists. For example, if an animator couldn't make a movement with the character, we had to send the information to the set up/rigging team so that they could add controllers and respond to the needs of the other teams in a very short time.
Our artists did a great job and thanks to them we are transported into a Christmas story in the colours of Louis Vuitton. ”
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