The Mill Goes Wooly Bully for Levis

Even the best of animal wranglers would have a tough time keeping hundreds of stampeeding buffalo in line for a shoot. That’s why effects house The Mill was called upon to create the illusion for the new 60 second Levi’s spot Stampeed, which premiered during the Super Bowl this year.

The spot, promoting Levi’s new Type 1 jeans, was directed by Jorn Haagen at Academy for agency BBH New York. It opens with a stampede of bison travelling through the desert on their way to the city. They arrive to find the city is empty save for a Levi’s-clad couple standing on a bridge. The bison see the stitching on the back pockets of their jeans and the whole herd decides to narrowly avoid them, sensing the boldness and dynamics of the brand new jean design.

After location footage was shot in the deserts of Trona and L.A., where real bison were filmed, the CG team in London began its task of creating a herd of 600 photo-realistic bison using SOFTIMAGE XSI. The animated bison needed to blend in perfectly with their live-action counterparts and even replace them where necessary.

Yann Mabille was in charge of modelling, texture and hair. Starting from extensive reference materials, he used hair dynamics within SOFTIMAGEA XSI to tackle the always tricky task of creating realistic-looking animal fur.

Mill 3D artist Dadi Einarsson designed the skeleton rig and animation cycles of the animals and built up a library of cycles, gestures and moves, including gallops and jumps. At the same time, Jordi Bares was researching ways to control the crowd. Using SOFTIMAGE XSI, he developed tools that allowed him to manage and render the entire herd of 600. Additional CG work was carried out by Russell Tickner, who completely revamped the environment and reconstructed the city skyline.

The flame team, led by Ant Walsham, worked on virtually every shot of the commercial, taking on everything from general clean-up to complex compositing and lighting.

Helen Weil produced the spot for The Mill. The effects team included supporting flame artists Justin Bromley, Chris Knight and Ian Plumb; 3D artists, Koji Morihiro and Rob van den Bragt; and Telecine artist Fergus McCall.

The commercial can be viewed on the Mill’s website www.mill.co.uk, via BEAM.TV.