Motorola "transformer"

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The Guess

Allen and Davis: The spot was filmed with a combination of CG and stop motion animation.

Humble: This is a combination of CG animation and stop motion.

the unfolding

The Orphanage, San Francisco helped Motorola wrap up a message about its new Razr phone in a neat package in the spot "Transformer." The VFX-heavy ad from Ogilvy & Mather, New York, directed by Bruce St. Clair of Chelsea Pictures, opens with an attractive woman sitting in her stylishly spare home. It's clear she misses her boyfriend as she watches a flatscreen TV displaying images of the couple. A moment later, she coolly smiles as an idea pops into her head. The woman closes her laptop and then everything around her-from cameras and headphones to the room's walls and furniture-magically starts to fold up and disappear. Finally, the floor beneath her folds away and transforms into a Razr that she picks up and holds to her ear.

"Before we even got down there we wanted to start talking about what does 'folding' mean," says Jonathan Rothbart, founder/VFX supervisor at The Orphanage. "It was important for us to get together a look and get it to everybody involved so that they could chime in on what 'folding' meant." The effects process basically required reconstructing the spot's entire set in 3D, so that it could be dismantled and then "transformed" into the Razr. The spot's original footage was shot on a stage in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

By the time the stage shoot took place, the project had been clearly mapped out. On set, Rothbart and CG supervisor Shadi Almassizadeh photographed everything. At night, they would upload those images to The Orphanage's San Francisco office, where artists would model the sets. The resulting animatics would then be sent back to Sao Paolo and used as reference material for the shoot.

Rothbart describes a shot from "Transformer" to illustrate how the folding effect was achieved. "In this shot we had to replace a number of elements against the wall and the floor," he says. "We started by shooting the girl in the room and all the props on the set. We then removed almost any prop that appeared in front of the actress and would be folded later."

The VFX shop proceeded to match the set lighting with the digital lighting and replace the contents that were going to be folded away. "What we found was that we had to not only model the props to look realistic on the outside," he says, "but also the interior pieces needed to be created so when the elements folded over, you would see the guts of something like the plasma screen TV or the wall." Rothbart describes the process as "amazing [because of] the feedback we were able to give everybody. It made it an extremely collaborative process."