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How MPC NY Whipped Up a CG Storm for Arnold WW's New Balance Spot

MPC New York, 2 years, 2 months ago

A look into the VFX behind the action-packed ad directed by Johnny Hardstaff

How MPC NY Whipped Up a CG Storm for Arnold WW's New Balance Spot

Conceived out of Arnold Worldwide and directed by RESET’s Johnny Hardstaff with VFX from MPC NY, the bold new spot launching New Balance’s “Always in Beta” global brand campaign embodies the brand’s promise to relentlessly improve, evolve and push its limits.

MPC’s CG & 2D team created over 50 complex VFX shots within six weeks, reimagining a fully CG storm breaking over the Moroccan-shot mountainside and engulfing the protagonist in an intense plume of sports figures running, batting, smashing onwards towards even greater athletic accomplishments. VFX artists seamlessly composited the infinite host of athletes across the sequence of shots as they charge together through the dramatic storm.

Creative Travis Robertson said: "This project was full of creative and logistical riddles. Shooting a CG job of this scale on three continents, with 17 professional athletes and a small army of extras proved to be a truly massive undertaking. But when the dust settled (no pun intended), we were left with an amazing visual spectacle we are all incredibly proud of. MPC did a fantastic job bringing the bizarre, colourful and violently poetic storm to life. From the countless hours of smoke tank and saltwater filming to the violent and dynamic bursts of colour to the motion tracking and effects supervision throughout the storm, no detail was overlooked."

In close collaboration with the director and Arnold’s creative team, MPC’s artists, led by VFX supervisors Rob Walker and Vicky Osborn, took the creative reins to explore and enrich the storm sequences. MPC took a two-pronged approach to create the storm: the exterior and the interior. Rob comments on the process: “The starting point for the interior of the storm came from a cloud tank element shoot in Miami, which provided most of the dramatic backgrounds. We shot some pretty amazing footage, and lots of it, at up to 100 frames-per-second with 5K resolution that allowed us to zoom into a part of the plate without compromising quality. In the end, we whittled down roughly 10 hours into 12 minutes of beautiful footage that formed the basis for the inside of the storm. We combined this with a simulated CG storm.”

In parallel, Houdini artists began R&D on the exterior of the storm, exploring its movement and developing its look. A key part of the agency brief was to have the storm mirror the structure of a wave, which proved to be challenging as the Houdini simulations were based on real world physics and scale. The rendered simulation would often produce quite random results, each one being totally unique. “Our next stage was to simulate the interior storm,” Rob continues. “Johnny's boards had interesting sketches where you feel the storm chasing the athletes and partly swallowing them in it. This was something we found interesting and wanted to develop. A key part of our creative decisions in designing the storm was the need to recognize the athletes rather than having them obscured or lost within it.”

The team took an inventive approach to design a 'kit of parts' rendered in Houdini, offering flexibility and control in compositing the athletes’ prominence on-screen. This technique enabled the team to choreograph all manner of motion and intensity, and play with varying scale in the same shots. 

The result is flawless cohesion across the film, ensuring the “Always in Beta” state of mind remained center stage in the dynamic yet ethereal New Balance storm.

Creative Agency

Account Director: Todd Sperry, Will Gurney

Assistant Producer: Patrick Carney

Creative Agency: Arnold Worldwide

Creative Director: (SVP, Copywriter) Greg Almeida, (SVP, Art Director) Travis Robertson

Executive Creative Director: Pete Johnson, Wade Devers

Executive Producer: William Near

Head of Planning: Milla Stolte

Managing Director: Paul Nelson

Music and Sound

Composer: Guy Amitai, Jan Kos

Music Production: Pivot Audio

Sound Mix: Rex Recker @ Audio Engine


Edit Company: Cosmo Street

Editor: Paul Hardcastle, Mark Potter

Producer: Anne Lai

Post Production / VFX

Colourist: George K

Executive Producer: Camila De Biaggi

Managing Director: Justin Brukman

Post Production House: MPC NY

Senior Producer: Armand Weeresinghe

VFX Supervisor: (2D) Rob Walker, (3D) Vicky Osborn

Production Company

Director: Johnny Hardstaff

Executive Producer: Dave Morrison, Jeff McDougall

Producer: Annabel Ridley

Production Company: RESET

Production Manager: Moira Hurley

Category: Clothing/fashion , Sports

Genre: Visual VFX