The Mill gives a voice to pets and pool floats in charming campaign for Orkin

Work June 1, 2021

We teamed up with Director Harold Einstein of Dummy Films and The Richards Group on a series of charming spots for Orkin Pest Control. In the campaign we see colourful pool floats, a watchful dog, felted lambs and a crescent moon discreetly rave about the dedication and style of an Orkin technician. Our VFX team expertly crafted the characters focusing on refined, elementary movements which mimic stop motion animation.

We sat down with VFX Supervisor, Ed Boldero on how the team seamlessly blended the world of whimsy and realism.

“For this project, Harold Einstein combined two distinct worlds: one of close-up photoreal detail where our Orkin technician exists, and one of whimsy, in which toys and animals can talk.

One challenge we encountered was that the proximity of the two worlds meant that the lines that the toys delivered were sotto voce, as if they were keeping their voices down so as not to be heard in the real world. This meant that we had to find a balance between the elementary style of animation that Harold was looking for and the subtle delivery of whispers, without anything looking over or under animated. For the nursery spot, a limited palette of mouth shapes were chosen, mimicking claymation. For the pool floats, we balanced a simpler flapping animation with enough subtlety to sync with the audio without looking overly animated.

The dog presented its own challenges, seeing as it is an animated object in it’s own right, we wanted to find a way to carry through the simplistic, elementary style of animation developed in the other spots without breaking the illusion that this was in fact a real dog. We approached this by setting ourselves the limitation of not animating the dog to make human mouth movements. We ultimately animated movements that a dog could realistically make with their facial muscle groups face and muzzle. This allowed us to keep the animation small, subtle and natural.

The second half of the technical challenge was embedding the mouth movements into the photorealistic materials – ie: the felted moon and the dog’s fur. We knew that the small details of the materials would be crucial to help blend the movements into the real world. In the case of the dogs fur, we actually had to use a different approach to our normal fur pipeline.

The main challenge of the dog spot was that as we were framed so closely the shape and colouration of each individual strand of fur became apparent. To solve this, our team developed a customized approach to mimic the melanin pigmentation on an individual hair strand basis. When viewing a dog’s fur on such a detailed close-up in real life, you can see that no individual strand of fur is the same. So it was important to be able to reproduce this same level of unique fur strand pigmentation and shape. Using melanin provides a much more physically accurate representation of how fur strands derive their color. With Houdini’s ability to manage data effectively the team was able to control melanin values easily on an individual strand basis.”

Contact us to get in touch with our VFX team about an upcoming project.