BASF Spots Farmed Out to Z Animation

The Z Animation team of Emmy Award-winning director/designer David Chomowicz, co-director/producer Rob Issen and exec producer Peter Barg has completed a campaign of four 30-second CG-animated spots for BASF Headline fungicide and agency Brighton/St Louis. Targeted at farmers, the campaign is now breaking during planting season in crop-specific markets in seven states.

The campaign was created by Brighton exec creative director Tim Farthing, senior copywriter Melinda Wrigley and producer Sue Willing. Farthing comments, "Most [agricultural] spots are geared towards a product shot and a live farmer in a crop field, or a simple tabletop with stock footage. But with four different crops (wheat, sugar beets, peanuts and potatoes) to show, each with different planting and harvest dates and visual signatures, it would have been near impossible to shoot this campaign live-action. Animation provided the perfect solution."

Each spot opens on an establishing graphic that asks, "What is an intelligent fungicide?" The scene immediately shifts to the BASF lab, where a pair of technicians evaluates test growth. An over-the-shoulder zoom then takes the viewer through a technician’s clipboard and into a field, where a farmer is similarly evaluating his own crops. A quick time lapse demonstrates the harvestable growth as the camera pulls back to a bird’s eye view showing the full scope of the fields. Finally, corkscrewing down, a seamless dissolve brings the viewer back to ground level, where the farmer is seen sharing a sample of his crop with a friend.

Barg assembled a team from around the country that included Portland, Oregon-based visual designer and illustrator Arthur Mount, who provided art for the print campaign, as well as style frames for the animation team led by Jason Strougo. Chomowicz notes, "We felt the greatest challenge was to choreograph CG environments and camera moves that could be applied to all four spots while keeping the action flowing. Each spot highlights a different crop with its own growth cycle and idiosyncrasies, blended with typographic elements and transitions".

Softimage XSI was chosen to create the toon-shaded CG character animation. The Z team says Softimage’s character control and unique Renderpass system allowed the CG animators to mix and match 3D elements without having to rebuild scenes. This allowed several animators to work concurrently and share data, rather than having to update each other.

According to Rob Issen, the most demanding creative challenge was building a single telescoping zoom shot that included realistic time-lapse growth cycles of four different crops, one for each spot. "We just about took Agronomy 101 learning the intricacies of these plants," he says. "The agency and client both provided valuable support making the final completely accurate. From there, all we had to do was make it look beautiful."

Targeted at farmers, the campaign is now breaking during planting season in crop-specific markets in seven states.