Vision Q&A: Smirnoff's Pure Water

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In the JWT/London spot called "Sea," director Danny Kleinman enlisted Framestore CFC/London to provide visuals of the ocean purifying itself to Smirnoff's rigorous standards. Framestore's VFX supervisor William Bartlett talks about creating these purging seas through innovation, collaboration and travel pics.

We heard the oil rig scene was quite a challenge.
William Bartlett: Because we were shooting aerial stuff in New Zealand in various bays, we thought we'd shoot some shots just skimming across the water that we'd use for the sea in the oil rig scene, which was supposed to be this rugged oil rig worker who's being battered around by the elements. Unfortunately, the water there was really calm and beautiful—those shots were supposed to be like the North Sea or somewhere a bit more blustery and oppressive. Then at the White Cliffs of Dover we thought we could shoot some sea scenes with hopefully more U.K.-style weather. But it was actually quite nice when we were there as well. Fortunately, the film division had recently worked on Superman Returns where they created a whole island that comes up out of a stormy sea. They showed us how they set things up to basically get us 75 percent of the way there in an afternoon, as opposed to us spending weeks and weeks in R&D trying to figure out how to make the right stormy seas.

We also heard a vacation still shot of yours made it into the spot.
It's the bit where the big statue comes out of the sea, the part behind the statue. The background was supposed to look like the Greek Islands, but when we were searching for images that looked from the sea to the land, we couldn't really find any that looked like Greece. Then I remembered I had gone on holiday to Greece a couple of years earlier; my wife and I had hired a little boat and I remembered taking photos of the coast. I think the one we used was a port near Ithaca, and it looked very Greek because, well, it was Greece. Luckily, I had one shot where the light matched up. Everyone had been complaining about the background, then I put this holiday shot in there one day and no one said anything about it again, so I figured everyone liked it.

This spot required a good mix of different effects mediums. How did you find the process of working with them all?
It's always quite challenging when you have to work with all these components, particularly in 3-D where they're using some sort of particle generator for some things, and then they've got fluid dynamic systems for the water action in the sea, then the more traditional animation things—we're putting all these things together while trying to get the best from each bit. For example, we had a plane spinning and coming out of the water, and for the kind of splash you need to get off it, on the one hand you want it to be quite specific, so you need to use 3-D to get that spray that goes with that motion. But instead of spending several months just working on that one bit, we shot some more generic stuff of water splashing about at the same time and mixed the two together—the specific motion from the 3-D and then the more real-looking bit from the live action. Hopefully, we end up with something that looks real and very connected to the object without spending six months on it. You really have to work very much as a team to figure out which methods work for different areas and adapt as you go. It was quite complex.
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