The Bank – Lumene True Mystic Volume Mascara Commercial

I was recommend to The Bank by Caroline Matthews (Marketing Director) whom I have worked with multiple times during her time at Airside and Rupert Ray she is now at Koto and it is always a pleasure working with her.  Initially I met with the team and was shown the project.  I loved the concept they were proposing of a continual loop.  We were to start with a sky full of northern lights and the product above the treetops the camera would move down through the trees to reveal the talent applying the mascara, further transitions would happen until we found ourselves again above the horizon viewing the northern lights and the product.  This was an ambitious job for The Bank as it was to be done internally to give them full creative control but they needed someone with the experience to guide the job and work closely with the inhouse talent to produce the final commercial, this was my role.  It was very much a hands on role, I was planning and supervising how we were going to solve each problem and working up shots early on to show timings and how the piece would look before the heavy duty VFX work was to proceed.
Running up to the shoot and during, the initial storyboard concept got diluted a little as you’ll see in the final video.  We did still get to work in half of the video as seamless transitions but the need for locked off beauty shots was strong that it had to change, we were able to end on a similar frame to how we started.

The first 5 seconds of the commercial had a camera solved so we could start to build the environment in After Effects.  The tail end of this 5 seconds was heavily styled to look more magical and lit.  I created a fake zDepth pass to add depth of field to the shot.  The same pass was used to make the cone of light moving through the trees react in a more realistic manner.  We pull further away from the forest out through the pupil of an eye.  The eyelashes don’t yet have the mascara applied as the brush passes through the eyelashes we reveal the now strong vibrant bold black lashes.  This shot required a lot of warping and stabilising to match the two takes together.  There was a lot of detailed beauty work done to the final close up of the eye; removing mascara clumps and smudges that are really now only picked up by the high resolution cameras used in productions.  After the mascara application shot it was mostly beauty work.  Frustratingly it rained a little during the shoot and the water droplets left odd smudges and white spots on the talent, along with those fixes we worked to make eyebrows look tidier and softened off shadows and creases.  We were taking care to keep the original skin texture and made sure the beauty work was subtle and local to the fixes required.  In comparison to the original it made a positive change.
In total including myself we had up to 4 of us working on various parts of the VFX for the commercial predominantly we started off with myself and Luke Doyle.  Luke Doyle, The Banks in house designer (now freelance) had been working on the look for the northern lights and built the product in 3D and animated it.  He took care of the CG compositing for that section.  Luke Carpenter and David Robinson were later brought to complete the team.  Luke Carpenter worked on the final packshot, and put in some R&D for the northern lights (which sadly went the live action route at the very last moment) and Dave Robinson was stellar in assisting me with the beauty work.  I have known both for a long time so knew to expect good things.



Nuke – How customizing, and python scripting made me enjoy using it

I have been using Nuke by the Foundry for a long time now as a freelancer.  Having used After Effects for a large majority of my career it took a while to fall in love with Nuke.  It was not the fact that Nuke was node based ( I had used Shake before) nor that it had a limited timeline, I just felt you had to spend a lot of time as a single user homing your gizmos, toolsets and to create the experience you personally wanted.  I started to enjoy using it once I got into doing this.  I started small,  just setting up node defaults in my  I progressed to adding a user tab to some nodes that automated certain actions, for example shuffle node to set all the RGBA channels to be all Red or Green.  My next step has been jumping into python.  I can not count the times I have been working on a job where at some point I have turned to someone and said ‘I wish this would work this way, or I know this could be sped up with a small bit of python’.  I joke with a good friend of mine Tim Bacon that we send Dear Mr. Foundry letters, pointing out why on earth does something work like this.  Well with python that can all change!

I had one of those conversations this week about something that was annoying me.  We are doing a lot of Nuke 3d and I felt it would be better looking in the node graph if the nodes spread around the scene node…and there it started.  I started to write something simple that would just place dots in an arc that had a start and end angle, then this moved into selecting some nodes and moving those into an arc.  If we move those though what about the nodes above?  Well we best move those into there new place also.  I soon realized that you might want the two angles not to go left to right, and you might want to reverse the order of the nodes.  This all works great as a function.  I have yet to make a dialog box to interface with it, but I could write a function that is attached to a shortcut to make it run in the GUI.  I realized that I would probably rather in this instance select my main node and have any nodes above that to move, and this is where I am at.  A weekend of coding and a nice tool to position my nodes.  I think it is just the start of this problem as pressing “L” in Nuke just does not cut it, it needs to be improved and I am sure it could be.  this is just the start of me writing python code to fix my day to day issues.  I am going to test this some more in production and once I get a GUI made to allow users to interface with all the options release the code.  I am sure the code is not pretty and could be improved but it does the job!  You can see a video below of it working.