By Christine Bunish
We recently checked in with director/creative director Gary Breslin from New York’s ODD-NY, also known as the Office of Development & Design. ODD was hired to promote Golf Pride CP2 slip-on grips for golf clubs via a commercial on The Golf Channel.
Breslin, formally of Panoptic, helms this New York- and Los Angeles-based design and animation company, whose clients range from broadcast and digital agencies, to feature filmmakers, architects, and global brands.
This Golf Pride spot looks very different than your average “golf” spot. It begins with a close-up of a hand where viewers could see muscle, bones and joints. A voiceover explains that the human hand has over 400,000 neurons. We then see the hand take hold of a new CP2 grip from Golf Pride.
Again, not your average golf product spot. Let’s dig in…
What was your original brief from the agency? What kind of latitude did ODD have to contribute to the concept of the CP2 spot before creating the animatic?
The agency, Atlanta’s Ames Scullin O’Haire, wanted to create something so visually different from the typical “green and swing” golf commercials that oversaturate The Golf Channel.
They had a few frames for boards and were open to creative interpretation and collaboration. Our main focus was to create an analogy between the miracle of engineering that is the human hand and the perfection of engineering that are Golf Pride grips.
I could tell right away from the creative that there was a lot of potential. We wanted to push the scientific and medical visualization aspect, highlighting the latent world of information beneath our surfaces.
How important was the animatic in crafting the full-up spot? Did the spot continue to evolve once the animation got underway?
The animatic was vital. It allowed us to create the blueprint for the live-action shoot, which was crucial since it was one continuous shot with no edits. Every shot needed to have a precise timing with exact in and out points in order to be properly stitched into its CG counterpart.
Most of the problem solving creatively happened within the animatic, so once the agency and I were happy with it, nothing changed too much. The main x-factor was just how sparse it looked after the assembly cut as there were lots of little bells and whistles that didn’t come until closer to the finish line.
Do any other golf companies use animation to this extent in their advertising, or are they largely live-action “greens and swings” types of commercials?
This is something we spoke about right off the bat with the agency since this campaign was going to be primarily seen on The Golf Channel and considering most golf commercials all tend to look pretty similar… a lot of green, basically.
So right away, having all this white, and then contrasty black and white footage, seemed like it was going to be very noticeable and stand out within a block of golfing commercials. I intentionally didn’t want to see any previous golf commercial when I was making this; I wanted to approach it from a fresh perspective.
How tricky was it to balance the “technology” of the human body and the technology of the grips and still be entertaining? And was it the animation’s role to capture viewers’ attention and keep it?
Yes, animation did a lot of the work in terms of drawing the eye through these shots and keeping the pacing up. Throughout the commercial we are either featuring the hand, the grip, or both. So, basically whatever we are showing, we wanted to try to bring out the feeling of engineering/design/technology implicit within these subjects. In a way, the trickiest part was the “acting.”
We had to be very cautious about the simple things like holding a grip, for example. It sounds like there’s not a lot to it — but in such a macro setting any extraneous movement might take away from the balance of hand, grip and animation that was established. It was important that the talent be someone who uses, knows and understand how to grip a golf club. We actually cast our talent at a local NYC golf shop.
What determined the color palette (red, blue, gray, black)? Was it achieved in-camera and in the animation, or was it largely a result of color grading/correction in post?
Early on we imagined doing this in black and white, using Golf Pride’s red as a branding accent. Our initial style frames were in black and white. On the shoot we shot in color knowing we could adjust in post.
Everyone signed on to the palette once the agency and client saw a more final look with some accent color (so the viewer knows their TV didn’t just turn B&W). The hand feels much more sculptural in black and white. In color, the hue tends to flatten out and you can almost forget what it is after staring at it after long enough.
What was involved in creating the stylized “X-ray” views of the hands and, later, the upper body and brain?
Technically, it was really intense. Initially, we tossed around some ideas of using motion capture but in the end it’s real footage composited with a CG hand that is keyframed. The anatomical parts are accurate. The only things we took some artistic license with are the nerves we made so we could fire particles down them.
What tools were used to model, animate and render the 3D animation?
All the 3D was completed in Autodesk Maya. All the compositing and 2D animation was completed in Adobe After Effects. Rigging was used for the CG hand and the body/brain shot. The particles that represent the neurons involved some custom coding as well.
How were the blue neurons and synapses created?
Splines were drawn in 3D to represent the neural pathway. They were then attached to the arm and hand rig that was simultaneously being animated to match the live-action hand movements (as well as the shot traveling up the arm to the brain, which had been prevised).
Once we got those splines to live within our hand and arm animation, it was a matter of developing the look. I wanted to do something that looked new but still read as neurons, or at least referenced the idea of an electrical pulse.
The animation of the grip’s control core must have had to be an accurate representation of the manufacturing — what was it based on?
Yes, we cut one of the grips in half to see exactly how it was constructed. Golf Pride actually provided the physical “control core” part and offered up a lot of insight that helped us easily visualize everything.
How were the 2D graphics conceived? And what tools were used to create them?
The look of this was conceptualized during our pitch process. These elements and textures are pretty similar to our initial style frames. I wanted to reference the light boxes they clip x-rays to in doctor’s offices. You can see the commercials are bookended by this as a framing device. As for the 2D graphics, it was of the utmost importance that I wanted them to feel or actually be useful information.
I didn’t want it to feel like some kind of GUI from a sci-fi movie. I wanted it to feel like everything had an underlying schematic, and the design/plans were just below the surface. Most of the designs were made in Illustrator and After Effects, a bit of it is hand drawn as well. All the 2D graphics are original designs made specifically for Golf Pride.
How did you achieve such fluid transitions from the live-action hands to the X-ray hands and from the real Golf Pride grip to the animated one?
It was all about the previs. We came into the shoot knowing all our key frames the live action needs to work with. What made it the most challenging is that we didn’t shoot the hand on green screen; we actually built a real light box that lived behind the hands. I felt like it was important to make it not just a “hand element,” but also a cinematic space.
Was the product shot at the end a live-action beauty shot? What tools did you use?
We edited in Adobe Premiere because of the way it works so well with After Effects. The product shots at the end are all grips we modeled, colored and animated. ODD completed all the post production while the agency supplied music (Asche and Spencer) and the voiceover.