CRAFT SECRETS: How AMV’s crazy horses rode waves for Guinness Mairi Clark describes the process behind the spectacular ad which features surfers and wild horses.

It may seem hard to believe once you’ve seen Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO’s new masterpiece for Guinness, but the horses in the waves have never been to Hawaii, where the film was shot, nor did they ever ride with the surfers who seek the ultimate wave in the 60-second epic. In fact, they didn’t even have to put a hoof in the water for their starring role in the ad - it was all made possible by computers.

It may seem hard to believe once you’ve seen Abbott Mead Vickers

BBDO’s new masterpiece for Guinness, but the horses in the waves have

never been to Hawaii, where the film was shot, nor did they ever ride

with the surfers who seek the ultimate wave in the 60-second epic. In

fact, they didn’t even have to put a hoof in the water for their

starring role in the ad - it was all made possible by computers.



The idea for the film was dreamed up by the AMV creatives, Walter

Campbell and Tom Carty, who fondly remembered being told tales as

children about the white surf on the crests of waves actually being

galloping white horses.



Their only problem was how to realise that image - until they talked to

Jonathan Glazer, the Academy director, who brought on board the Computer

Film Company. Glazer had worked with CFC on several pop promos, and knew

that the company had the ability to create the effects Carty and

Campbell wanted.



The first decision the CFC team had to make was whether to use real

horses or computer-animated ones. Obviously, computer-generated horses

would have been easier, but wouldn’t look as real, so it was decided

that real waves and real horses had to be used.



The surfers were filmed in Hawaii over a nine-day shoot. For once, the

crew was looking for a cloudy day but the weather during the shoot was

mostly typical Hawaiian sunshine, so the stormy sky had to be imported

using film that Glazer had shot earlier.



Meanwhile, three horses were filmed over three days jumping over a pole

in a studio. Hair extensions were used to give the horses a wild,

unkempt look, and all three were made up every day so that their bone

structure was acutely defined. The wild-eyed whites of their eyes were

added in post-production.



When the rough cut of the surf shoot came back, the 12-strong project

team had to decide which parts of the horse shoot would be spliced

in.



The editor, Sam Sneade, started the laborious process of piecing the

films together to show the horses interacting with the surfers. All the

filming was shot in colour and only towards the end was it converted to

black and white.



Using the compositing software, Cineon, on silicon graphics machines,

the horses were added in and duplicated to make it look as though there

were about ten horses in the surf. Cineon was chosen specifically

because it has an application that makes it possible to mix various

speeds of film.



The movement of the water also had to be changed. Animation and 3D

software - Houdini, Maya and Renderman - were used to add water and surf

around the horses. One part of the film shows a surfer falling from his

board and narrowly escaping being kicked by a stray hoof, which had to

be artificially created using Maya and inserted using Cineon.



Finally, the waves were made slightly bigger and bubbles were added

around the horses’ legs using Houdini.



For those of you who were impressed by the hero who manages to surf the

wave, rest assured that he actually did it - although it had to be

filmed on a different day to the main surfing shoot.



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