Cracker Barrel

Agency: Havas Worldwide Chicago
Director: Nieto
Finishing and Compositing Lead: Jon Howard
Nuke Compositing: Riccardo Zanettini
After Effects Compositing: Ryan Wieber, Sam Winkler

I worked as VFX Supervisor, offline editor and lead finishing artist on this two spot campaign for Havas. On set, I worked with the director, AD, production design team and on set editor to capture everything we’d need to assemble the spots in post. This included light probes of the set, greenscreen footage of elements to be inserted in post, vfx plates for steam and smoke effects, and photographic reference of props.

On set, a motion control rig was used to capture several passes of the main camera move at 48 fps. The high frame rate would allow us to play more easily with retiming in the edit and also give us extra frames to work with in case there were any issues lining up plates. It also knocked down motion blur which made solving the 3D camera much easier in the finish. The motion control rig was initially set up to run parallel to the ground. All of the plates where the boxes show gravity behaving normally were captured from this angle.

The following shoot day, the motion control rig was mounted on a platform and pointed straight down. From there, a box would be placed at the location where it would have been in the horizontal setup, and a plate would be captured that would, when composited, create the impression of a unique gravity system existing within that particular box.

While on set, I ingested the RED media from the camera department directly into my laptop and did slap comps in Premiere and After Effects that would get passed onto the video tap specialist to feed to the camera department for reference in lining up props and actors for a given motion control pass. Since we were using Premiere and AE, I was able to do this without transcoding the dailies to a proxy format, which greatly sped up the process.

In post, I worked with the agency and director to choose takes with good hand and prop performances. This required not only auditioning takes for the creatives but also quickly putting together serviceable comps using After Effects. For “Wholesome Fixins,” we also needed to create the animation for the flipbook at the beginning of the spot. For this, we used stock footage which I treated in After Effects and, in the offline, composited in After Effects for approval.

When it came to the finish, I supervised a small team of artists to complete the compositing. This included both After Effects and Nuke specialists, so projects needed to be created for both software packages and a pipeline devised to manage the data flow to and from my master projects.

The biggest challenge we faced in the finish was getting the motion control plates to line up as designed. Because of the weight and physics involved with the camera move, there was high frequency jitter whenever the camera settled on a box. This jitter was completely unique and random from plate to plate, so we had to figure out a way of locking one plate to another. This was accomplished using Nuke’s camera tracker and modelbuilder. For a given box, I would solve a camera for the hero plate it was to be composited into as well as the plate featuring the box that needed to be comp’d in. For both plates, I would then drop a card over that box using the modelbuilder. I could then output the UV space of the foreground plate into the UVs of the background plate and the comp would stick like glue. The whole process took 15-20 minutes per box and was an absolute life saver.

Cleanup work was done all over the boxes to match lighting, remove rigging, extend walls, add shadows and create grading masks. VFX plates of rolling fruit, falling veggies, matches, flames, smoke and steam were all tracked in and comp’d in Nuke using a combination of 3D and 2D tracking. No elements for this spot were created in a 3D program. Everything was put together from practical elements and footage.