Puggerflies, ostriches and robots: Behind the magic of Britain's VFX scene

The magic from the UK's visual effects studios has spread around the world. Three top VFX companies to pick their favourite projects from the past year.

Puggerflies, ostriches and robots: Behind the magic of Britain's VFX scene

Created in London's Soho, the magic from the UK's visual effects studios has spread all the way to Hollywood, with their work appearing in films such as the Harry Potter franchise and Blade Runner 2049, as well as ads such as Samsung's 'Ostrich'. Campaign asked three top VFX companies to pick their favourite projects from the past year.

The Mill 

Three ‘Puggerfly’ 

For me, "Puggerfly", a 100% CG spot for Three, is a standout project and a great example of what we do best: photoreal VFX. OK, a "puggerfly" may not be a real thing, but he looks real, his environment looks real and he kind of rubs his bum on the grass, which is what dogs do, right?

 This bold, irreverent campaign was brought to life by Mill+ director Jorge Montiel and the creative team at Wieden & Kennedy. Although the spot was crafted in an incredibly tight schedule (just seven weeks), the team did what it always does and pushed things up a gear. The level of detail that was achieved in this amount of time is incredible.

 The campaign invites you to rear your very own puggerfly using our CGI asset for Three’s bespoke Snapchat filter, and this mirrors the wider changes taking place in the industry where deliverables and the reach of projects are far more diverse than they have ever been.

Jonathan ‘Wes’ Westley, executive creatve director, The Mill

Framestore

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

This has been the year of the multi-platform project, illustrated by Framestore’s work on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Particularly memorable is the film’s opening sequence. Briefed by the film’s director, James Gunn, to produce the most awesome opener of all time, our creatives went to town. The Guardians’ first cinematic outing in 2014, on which we supervised VFX, built the strongest of foundations for an IP with an imagination and fearlessness that knows no bounds. Both it and Vol. 2 scored VFX Oscar nominations for their epic environments, introducing memorable characters in Rocket, Groot and Baby Groot.

Baby Groot even appeared in an ad, "Team up", with long-standing Framestore client, the insurer Geico. The spot features our brand-mascot creation Gecko, and was a direct collaboration between our film and ad divisions, playing to our ability to share pipelines, assets and intricate knowledge of our characters, under one roof.

Elsewhere, with Walt Disney Imagineers, Framestore designed and delivered vignettes for the award-winning Mission: BREAKOUT! ride, in a move reflecting a wider industry shift to innovative, multi-platform tellings of film IPs. 

Mike McGee, chief creative officer and co-founder, Framestore

MPC

Edeka ‘2117’

One of MPC’s standout creative projects in the past year was our online ad for German supermarket Edeka. The epic, four-minute spot, entitled "2117", continued the brand’s tradition of delivering brave Christmas advertising and was set in a future in which robots have taken over. 

The hero robot was made up of more than 3,000 mechanically accurate parts and the film included 80-plus CG shots produced against a tight timescale. The result was phenomenal. Conveying subtle emotion in a hard, robotic character is tricky. The solution lay in the design and animation combined. It was important that the audience believed the design of this robot belonged to his world, while the subtle lighting changes within his scanner (or third eye) was a way of conveying emotions. This "visual vocabulary" allowed for greater engagement.  

Balmain

‘My city of lights’

We also created a unique VR experience for luxury fashion house Balmain and, along with Sunshine, developed an immersion into the creative process of the brand’s creative director, Olivier Rousteing. 

We maximised real-time technologies while allowing the installation’s physicality to be sympathetic to a high-end fashion brand. The result was a fluidly coherent narrative, ascending through a series of fantastical and surreal environments, culminating in a panoramic view of Paris. Creatively, our challenge was to translate the very personal narrative given to us by Rousteing  into a vision that felt both familiar and out of reach. 

Our developers pushed the limits of real-time volumetric smoke and lighting effects to create spaces that felt vast and atmospheric.

Jonathan Davies, managing director, MPC London