The spot, produced as a partnership with agency Dentsu/Tugboat and production company Tohokushinsha, features gigantic judo fighters doing battle on the playing field of a packed Kashima soccer stadium, as well as miniature rugby teams clashing on the rich green pastures of a pool table in a busy bar.
Playing with illusions of scale and looking to the future of holographic sports viewing in a globally connected world, the spot saw the Alt team face a number of exciting challenges, giving them a chance to develop an innovative set of solutions to help realise director Hideyuki Tanaka’s vision for the commercial.
“The agency had seen the work that we did on the Kirin Japanese beer commercial,” said Alt’s Executive Producer Takeshi Takada. “In that series, we placed real people as tall as mountains in natural locations, and that photo real illusion of scale was something they wanted to capture for NTT Docomo. Their brief was to highlight the potential of holographic technology, where a judo match might be happening in Paris, but a crowd in Japan could watch the match live in front of them in a stadium in Japan.”
Using the real life Kashima soccer stadium, the Alt artists did a lot of pre-vis prior to the shoot to work out how tall director Tanaka wanted his Judo fighters to be, and what camera angles needed to be shot when the team got on location. The team used a model of the stadium too make sure the geometry worked, working with extensive measurements captured from a drone survey.
Takada and VFX Supervisor Jay Hawkins travelled to Japan for the shoot, working with the director and a cast of some 300 extras.
“The stadium shoot was in two stages, with the first night obtaining all the background plates,” Hawkins said. “The second night we worked with the actors and all the extras in situ, flying a drone through the stadium to provide eye tracking and cues to how big the Judo fighters would be.”
With only 300 extras in a 40,000 seater stadium, the Alt team created a range of crowd replication tools, capturing a range of movements and feeding these into Houdini. “We used motion capture to get all the different range of emotions a typical crowd might go through, ending up with a huge library of different reactions we could use throughout the stadium for the different stages of the match,” Hawkins said.
The Alt team then filmed the Judo fighters on green screen using a 3D camera, tracking motion and perspective perfectly, and combined the two plates digitally using composting techniques to give the impression that the giant figures were in the stadium with the full stadium crowd.
The second part of the shoot involved capturing rugby players for the bar scene, which led to another interesting use of technology for the Alt team.
“Due to studio size we couldn’t shoot real players,” said Takada. “We had to shoot some plates for reference, and then our animation team in Brisbane – led by Chris Gardener – used a lot of motion capture to act as the base for our CG animated rugby players. We captured everything needed in the shot including tackles, passes, catching and running, and animated the different teams.”