When Arm & Hammer wanted to showcase its AbsorbX kitty litter made from desert dry minerals, they turned to The Mill/MPC to direct and create a spot that demonstrated its benefits in a fun and memorable way and highlighted the product’s origins – the desert.
Working closely with the team at The VIA Agency, our director and artists created a host of photoreal cat cowboys and cowgirls congregating in a desert saloon. The shoot took place in an existing two-story desert saloon bar in Bulgaria with a limited crew and The Mill/MPC Director, Michael Gregory, directing remotely. In addition to the production, we remotely handled the animation and VFX, enhancing the western feel to the footage and the set. The animation team seamlessly blended CG cat heads with human bodies. All of the cats in the spot were based on real cats, which were used as references on set for lighting and modeling. These references were then handed to the animation team to build out the characters.
This campaign is an example of what can be achieved when teams are working remotely across the globe. The end result is an award-winning campaign that is unforgettable and demonstrates true craftsmanship. The high-quality creature work was recognised at the prestigious VES Awards, winning the award for ‘Best Animated Character’ and was nominated at the AEAF Awards for 'Best Animation'.
Arm & Hammer
The VIA Agency
The Mill/MPC Creative
Michael Gregory, The Mill/MPC Creative
“Doing everything remotely was a whole new experience for me as a director. From casting and wardrobe to SFX, tech scouts and callbacks on Zoom – it all took a little getting used to at first, but we quickly adapted and made it work. We were able to work with a scan of the location prior to the shoot, which enabled us to do an extremely accurate pre-vis, and we had the Arri camera and Cooke lenses on the location scout which was a huge help in blocking out the action and working out the framing prior to the shoot.”
To keep the lip-sync feeling animalistic, our animation teams sacrificed some of the ‘ooo’ and ‘w’ mouth shapes that start to make the face look too human and instead, we focused on a solid sync for the jaw movement, exaggerating the closed mouth shapes and using the head to gesture the more animated phrases. This technique enabled us to make a talking cat feel convincing while preserving the cat-like features and expressions.
The Mill/MPC Creative shot the film in an existing Western film set in Eastern Europe. With Covid only a few months old, the travel and on set restrictions our teams faced were a significant challenge. The Mill/MPC Creative Live Action Producer was on set with our Director (and clients) viewing the entire pre-production and shooting remotely from the US. Working across four time zones, the shoot was ambitious and complex, from wardrobe fittings to art department briefings, to the actor’s performances on set to the VFX requirements.