How VFX grabs a viewers attention and why it is so important in Advertising.

28 February 2017

Your darling puppy ran away from you. How will you find him? Or, you want to sell your old stuffs, rent your apartment, add staff to your business or improve the reach of your business. What is one thing that facilitates all of this? The one thing that has been around since ancient civilizations. Advertising. Whoever and wherever you are, almost all human beings have made use of advertisements one way or the other. Human beings wouldn’t have been here without advertising. Today we see advertisements of different magnitudes and enormity. Some of them have left us amazed, others have made us laugh and some others got us thinking. As technology improved and became accessible, creative brains made the best use of it and astonished the world. One of the giant leaps in technology that revolutionized the Cinema and Television industry were Visual Effects. So, let us see the importance of visual effects in Advertising. 

In 2011, GenArts, a visual effect developing company, worked with MarketTools, an online market research company to determine the impact of visual effects on audience engagement using a national footwear company’s video promotion for a new footwear model. GenArts submitted two video advertisements, one with visual effects and one without to be tested with MarketTools team of 518 18 to 54-year-olds. Overall, the video with visual effects superiorly outperformed the other with 90% of people preferring the video with visual effects. 

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Unless you are selling Rolls Royce or Bentley, you need to advertise your product or service for a broader audience! When you decide to do so what will be your main goals? Easily put, you need the advertisement to leave an impression in the viewer’s mind. Only then can you improve your sales. You don’t want advertisement to cost more than your business! So, the longer a person looks at an ad, the better the impact it will carry. Consider this. Your product is a mosquito repellent. Which is more likely to grab your attention? A monster mosquito who flies around a home or a real mosquito? And if your mosquito repellent shows the giant mosquito succumbing to its effect, it leaves an impression to the viewer that the repellent is very effective. Because it did kill the GIANT MOSQUITO.  This is where visual effects prove effective. Well made visual effects naturally hold a viewer’s interest. On that note, let us have a look at some of the important players of visual effects in advertising.

Canal+, a French Premium cable Television Channel came up with a wonderful ad enriched with visual effects and went on to become the world’s most awarded Television Spot in 2012. The ‘Bear’ ad had a CG bear as a Film Director and it provided a humorous look on behind the scenes of a film set. The goal was to imply Canal +’s commitment to cinema beyond a mere broadcaster. The special effects for the ad were produced at Mikros Image. For the Bear, which was the main attraction of the ad, the crew initially planned a huge puppet but later opted to do a complete CG Bear. An actor in a bear skin performed all the actions on set. The special attraction to the bear was that it was very thin!  With no special trackers on set they had to use Syntheyes for the 3d Track. Other than the bear, effects were also used for explosions and fight scenes. One other element that stood out in the ad is that, the behind the scenes footage looked like it was shot on cheaper cameras looking genuinely like behind the scenes! Color Grading played an important role here.

VFX for Coca cola, Srushti VFX

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Another commercial that flabbergasted the viewers came from Coca-Cola in 2012. The commercial featured a group of warriors invading another village of creatures. The ad emphasis on the fact that sometimes a little happiness is the most effective weapon. Visual effects were supervised by the London-based ‘Framestore’. All the animations for crowd were captured in a motion capture studio at Framestore and Maya Particles system were set up and rendered everything in mental ray. Enough variations were made for textures and geometry so even though there is duplicated animation and geometry viewers never really saw the same guy too close together. The fireworks, smoke, fire, dry ice effects coming from dragon and walls of smoke were done in Houdini. To get the painterly look the crew decided to use depth of field, motion blur and chromatic aberrations judiciously and not as an obvious effect. Without depth of field, to get to the depth of the shots they added atmosphere like haze or volumetric rays. That’s how they separated characters from the background and Mid ground.

There is someone we can never keep away when we talk about visual effects. He first amazed us with Terminator and then made Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences run out of awards in 1998 through Titanic. James Cameron! Founded by none other than the man himself along with Scot Ross and Stan Winston, ‘Digital Domain’, based in Los Angeles is one of today’s best explorers of visual effects. Three of their feature films, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’, ‘What Dreams May Come’ and ‘Titanic’ went on to receive Academy Awards. Their commercial Nike “Biomorph” bagged Visual Effects Society Award in 2013. The commercial spotlighted how the new technology makes the shoe a seamless wear. For the ad, Digital Domain created an anatomical view of human foot and the shoe. Before the start of production, Digital Domain team visited Nike’s Portland Facility and got a feel on the production of shoes in knitting machines. During the production, using a Phantom Camera, a real foot was filmed to serve as reference and to form transitions between anatomical and shoe shots. Professional runners put the ball of the foot first instead of heel and thus a key frame became the underneath view of foot landing. Spline curves were animated with a particular type of deformation to show how the shoe fitted together in a seamless manner. 

The Mill, based in London is another prominent player of visual effects. One of their most famous commercials was the ‘Maya’ ad for SSE, a British Energy Company. The ad features ‘Maya’ a CG Orangutan exploring a city and cherishing the beautiful things energy can do for us. The ad became the winner of 2014 Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial from the Visual Effects Society. Prior to the production of the ad, The Mill team watched several hours of Orangutan footages to understand how they move and emote. The team were keen not to use motion capture and so for each shot they got an actor who they used a reference for the Orangutan. The amount of work that went into creation of under skin played a massive role in giving a realistic image to the Orangutan. The anatomically correct skeletons, simulation of hairs to match gravity and wind were all examples of dedication and the thrive for passion in the minute of details.

There are several other studios such as Prime Focus, Method Studios etc who have made stunning commercials using visual effects. Just like any other moving pictures, video commercials too can’t leave out the importance of visual effects. Very simply, if a seller wants his buyer to watch the ad again and again, there is no running away from visual effects!

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