From design, animation, and VFX studio SUSPECT comes this stunningly creative animated spot for New Balance 509 sneakers, shot on location for five nights in New York City by animator turned director Doug Purver, with a time-lapse camera rig he built himself. Purver and the team created a slow-motion narrative that’s both fluid and arresting and brings across an important message in the process. It’s a project they designed to push their own limits and the industry’s.
The camera rig that Purvor custom built captured a three-second exposure every seven seconds while panning over the nighttime street, and caught quick streaks of light from passing cars. He wanted all of the footage to come from one perfect take, and on the eighth try, he was finally satisfied. He project moved into SUSPECT’s New York studio. The team went for a lightly-stylized photo-real look that required meticulous post-production and compositing.
In the spec spot, a pair of photo-real New Balance 509 sneakers jogs in super slo-mo along a high speed, time-lapsed streetscape, leaving bursts of beautiful flowers and other plant life that is in stark contrast to the gritty, New York City cobble stone street.
Check it out the video…New Balance “Running Green”
The SUSPECT team photographed an actual pair of 509 sneakers from every angle, giving them ample reference and true texture maps to create a high resolution 3D model with photo real textures.
The shoe was then put into motion with a highly detailed rig, which had almost as much control as a full CG character might. “A lot of attention was paid to how the shoe naturally ripples and flexes. There were slight differences between how each of the different materials react with one another. We made sure to create the control we needed to showcase those subtleties.” said SUSPECT CG Supervisor Steve Burger.” We wanted every motion of the CG running shoes articulated properly, down to the laces.” They did the same with the stargazer lilies, daisies, ivy and blades of grass.
The difficulty of animating all of the CG was second only to texturing, lighting and rendering it all realistically. “With gorgeous plants and flora like this, its easy to go overboard with hues and saturation” commented Lighting TD Andrew Cohen. “Doug was adamant about shading the colorful plant life realistically within the context of the gritty, urban street scene. We even animated the lighting to properly interact with the intermittent, streaking taxi lights. It was intense.” TD Dave White added ” Doug even brought each kind of plant on location and photographed it in the natural light of the environment to use as a lighting guide. He was singular in his drive to maintain photorealism.”
As CG plant growth was getting underway, SUSPECT lead flame artist John Geehreng wrangled with the daunting task of match moving the entire, one-shot, 45 sec spot. ” None of the spectacular artistry being crafted in our CG dept would matter if it didn’t track properly to the camera motion. So there was just a little bit of pressure.” quipped Geehreng. What initially seemed a minor task quickly revealed itself to be a monumental challenge. “In spite of all the detail and resolution we had in the footage, not much stays still at night on a bustling New York City street for two hours, let alone two minutes!” Geehreng had to contend with car traffic, pedestrians and light flaring into camera from headlights just to name a few obstacles. “It took several days and placing hundreds of manual tracks, but we got a rock solid camera solve in the end.”
“The intensity of the detail work was the biggest challenge” Purver said. “These guys were challenging and pushing the limit, doing some of their most creative work ever. It was hard but worth it. The animation mixed with this style of time-lapse looks like nothing else out there.”
Purvor who was part of SHOOT magazine’s New Directors Showcase in 2009 states “We started with the idea of green power, of promoting a shoe company that’s committed to the environment and social responsibility. New Balance is very forward thinking, and they were the perfect brand for the spot.
Client: New Balance
Spot Title: Running Green
Air Date: N/A – spec
Prod Co: roadnorth
Director: Doug Purver
DP: Doug Purver
Post/Effects Co: SUSPECT
Lead VFX Artist: Doug Purver
EP(s): Rob Appelblatt, Tim Crean
Technical Director(s): Dave White, Andrew Cohen
Sneaker Animation: Ricardo Vicens
Shoe Rigging: Lee Wolland
CG Artist: Steve Burger
Additional Shader/Texture Artist: Jimbo Rowel
Camera Tracking: John Geehring
Music and Sound Design by Q Department
Shoot Location: Washington & Water Streets, Dumbo, Brooklyn
NY-based Conceptual Design, Animation and Visual Effects studio, SUSPECT was co-founded in 2003 by CD/VFX Artist Tim Crean and Executive Producer Rob Appelblatt, creating an environment that reflects both their personal style and creative sensibilities.
Since then SUSPECT has blossomed into a collective of designers, animators, 3D and VFX artists. Whether it’s a complex Visual Effect, a sensitive Brand solution or a fully design driven concept, SUSPECT consistently surpasses client expectations and produces a dynamic range of creative solutions.
SUSPECT has recently worked on major campaigns for PUMA, Fathead, Eucerin, Reebok, FedEx, MTV, L’Oreal, AT&T, Motorola, Miller Lite, Samsung, Visa, Sierra Mist and Christina Aguilera Fragrances. The studio has collaborated with leading agencies, including BBDO, Wieden+Kennedy, Y&R, McCann-Erickson, mcgarrybowen and SelectNY.