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Visual Effects for Washington Lottery’s “Birds” Ad


The “Birds” shoot was a great experience. The director, producer, crew and agency folks were all top-notch and a pleasure to work with. Unfortunately, the weather was not as cooperative as we all had hoped it would be. Every morning was socked with fog that usually lasted into early afternoon - which led to some creative thinking.

Fog on set

For one thing, the gliders we composited into the spot were shot against “white screen” (fog) instead of blue sky, as we had hoped. The emu element was shot against green screen (as planned) but they had to set up a “fog barrier” so we wouldn’t have the mist drifting through, thus contaminating the green.

Glider shot set-up

Glider RigSince there were no insane glider pilots available to fly with a 150-pound payload suspended between them, the emu shot was built in the Flame. The biggest challenge was to figure out what a pair of gliders would do! Clearly, they would not behave as normal?gliders do in flight and as there was nothing to reference, it was a matter of best-guess (and trial and error) until we arrived at an animation that worked. In addition to the glider challenge, the emu’s “performance” was singularly uninteresting, so for the composite we needed to animate his legs and head first and as separate elements.

The emu’s rig

Emu RigA couple shots in the spot required air-to-air photography. This was achieved with the Borg (”Resistance is futile”) helmet cam, which was a Photo-Sonics 16mm 1VN camera mounted on Joe Greblo’s helmet (”Glider Joe”). Look at the photo and you’ll see why I felt the Star Trek reference apropos. He did a great job filming while piloting a motorized glider above the subject glider. The other camera you see attached to his helmet is a consumer video camera which was aligned with the film camera and served as the video assist, as the Photo-Sonics had no video tap.

Glider Joe

One of the overhead glider shots required additional gliders. These were shot on green screen from above while being suspended from cables. The same rigging setup was used to photograph them from ground level with a second camera (against the “white screen” sky), so we had overhead and profile glider composite elements to use in post.

- Jake Parker, Visual Effects Supervisor and Flame Artist

Fischer Edit/FX, Minneapolis, Minn.
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Last edited by mandelake on Wed Jun 10, 2009 3:45 pm, edited 7 times in total.
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By Wingspan34

That was a great commercial. Very lighthearted. And how could you not like hang gliding, or it's pilots, after watching it? Helping out all those flightless birds and all. :mrgreen: :thumbsup:
By jball
:thumbsup: it was all cute, exp when the penguin had his wings out. but then, that poor emu.. lol.. that looked mighty precarious :shock:
Last edited by jball on Fri Jun 12, 2009 12:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
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By mandelake
I know ... and every time someone is saying something, I end up looking again over this add.

It`s so funny, in an inventive way ...

I wish you great flights!

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By sg
2 years ago... how the HELL did I miss this thread?!?!?!?

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By Mellowmoods
That last shot with the two wings tied together holding the Emu..... wow.... scary. No green screen there.
By blindrodie
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

You're kiddin right!? 8)
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By ChattaroyMan
That ad sure made me feel good about where my lottery $ went to! Think I'll go out and buy another ticket just for kicks! If I win I'll buy everyone a FlyTech!
By miguel
Nicely done.

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