A dog donning a robotic human suit and taking over the life and career of his master? Thanks to the Sci-Fi Channel, director Albert Kodagolian of RSA and London-based visual effects house Smoke & Mirrors, it's not just the stuff of science fiction. Flame artist and shoot supervisor Tony Lawrence deconstructs the techniques behind the making of the surreal "Human Suit" spot.
Did the Sci-Fi Channel have a vision of what they wanted when they came to you?
They had a strong idea of how the spot would look to align with their very cohesive brand identity, and after talking with the client and the director, it was felt the best approach was to keep the sequence as organic as possible. So we came up with the concept that the dog's head would remain small in keeping with an oversized human suit, which we felt would enhance the surreal quality of the sequence.
Was the human suit an actual suit, computer generated-or a combination of both?
The Human Suit itself was styled as a combination of an animatronic machine and a live-action artist who worked through the motions as would a robotic break dancer. As the concept involved the composition of live-action plates, we made sure all plates in each scene had the same lighting and similar motion for the dog and the Human Suit. We had to track and stabilize the live-action dog's head and retrack it into the scene, then replace the blue human head shot in the suit. These techniques were key in ensuring that the plates melded together.
What was the most challenging aspect of this project?
Making it look as though it was a little dog controlling a human suit, rather than it being a large dog in a suit. Sci-Fi and Kodagolian worked together to arrive at a look they were both happy with, but the dog's timing and reactions were also key to creating an underlying humor. And it was pivotal to the director's look to slightly exaggerate the surreal quality of the piece-a key element of Sci-Fi's branding.
Was the dog difficult to work with?
He was actually very good to work with. "The dog's bollocks," not to put too fine a point on it! [Laughs]