When the Canadian Real Estate Association decided to craft a spot portraying an old woman and her dozens of children living in a shoe-shaped home, they turned to Dashing to craft the colossal structure, inspired by the classic nursery rhyme about a matriarch raising her brood in a shoe. Working with MJZ/Radke Films Director Blue Source via Crispin Porter + Bogusky Toronto, Dashing created an unlikely and impressive building at the nexus of the real and fantastic.
Old Woman is narrated by its star, Carmela, a determined mother who rises at 6 a.m. each day to care for her enormous brood. As she dishes out breakfast, works the endless lines of laundry, leads calisthenics and band practice, and corrals her children onto the school bus, she boasts about how much easier her life has been since moving to her new home and how helpful it was that her REALTOR understood her needs. The spot ends with a slow-moving, panoramic shot of the Dashing-created, entirely CG, shoe-shaped house, a tremendous aging beauty with three floors rising off the "heel," an ivy-covered porch, and a large multi-windowed room in the "toe," all set on a sprawling lawn.
"Blue Source wanted to build a house shaped like a shoe instead of an oversized shoe, so we set out to create a house that felt like it was really built that way and had evolved over time," noted Rob Moggach, who acted as VFX supervisor and Flame artist on the spot. "Building the house with CG gave us the flexibility to build a photoreal house that could be art directed to meet changing creative needs and be incorporated into an undetermined selection of wide and medium shots. We worked closely with Blue Source's production design team throughout the design and development to get the look exactly right."
Dashing built the house in Maya and Mental Ray over a two-week period, experimenting with different window shapes, floor scales, stucco and brick exteriors, and clay or wood roof tiles. They then aged the house, making the different floors settle into place so that - much as in many actual old homes - nothing was perfectly flat. Ivy was added on the walls and water damage textures and cracks were the final touches.
"To maintain the realism of our integration we completed all the visual effects in a flat film color space and the grade was applied to our fully integrated shots once they were finished," said Moggach. "This meant our work was graded in the same way the rest of the film was graded, helping the cohesiveness of the shots within the film immensely. We needed to cover ourselves for different scenarios ahead of seeing any footage, so we were careful to add a lot of detail to our model and texture elements."
Once Dashing received the final plates, they had less than two weeks to track the shots using SynthEyes and Nuke, finish texturing, then light (Boxx workstations with Renderpro satellite solution), render and composite (using Nuke and Flame) the shoe into the plates. "One of the big challenges was tracking the documentary style, handheld, and very grainy super16 footage, which gives the film it's very real and intimate personality," said Moggach. "Lock-offs or dolly shots were not part of this piece, and many shots featured energized kids running through frame, adding to the challenge."
This project marked the beginning of a new relationship for Dashing with both CP+B Toronto and directing team Blue Source, though they had worked with both MJZ and Radke in the past. "They entrusted us with the CG/VFX based on Rob's reputation for producing great work locally and abroad," stated EP Danielle Lyons. "There was a collaborative synergy in the whole team that enabled the great result. The film tells the story in quite a clever, revealing way, and I believe both the film and the VFX maintain the integrity of the original vision. Our VFX work serves as a backdrop to an already great narrative."
Anchored by Founder and Creative Director Rob Moggach, Executive Producer Danielle Lyons and a select team of top digital artists, Dashing is tailor made for handling projects with demanding creative and technical challenges.