Framestore collaborated with director Bryan Buckley to create a Super Hero infused Direct Line spot. Featuring a live action horse and live stunts Framestore worked on 50 shots for Direct Line’s latest spot featuring Marvel Studios’ Super Hero King Valkyrie.
Working alongside agency Saatchi & Saatchi, director Bryan Buckley at Hungry Man, and Marvel, Framestore was involved from beginning to end. Having worked on several Marvel films including the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder, now playing only in cinemas, Framestore has a unique relationship with the Marvel Cinematic Universe which supported them creatively during the production. Framestore’s VFX Supervisor Jay Khan oversaw the project with the VFX team’s work covering previs, on-set supervision, a fully CG Warsong, cloth simulations, 2D face replacements, DMP and environments, carried out using a combination of Maya, Houdini and Nuke.
In the spot, King Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson and her horse Warsong are on a visit to the UK when they hear a sudden crash. They quickly come to the rescue only to realize there isn’t imminent danger when it was just two teenagers accidentally crashing their skateboard into a store window. Then, King Valkyrie and Warsong are encouraged to take a break and relax, which takes them on a fun and relaxing journey in this energetic Direct Line spot. The narrative follows a similar theme to previous Direct Line commercials, some of which Bryan Buckley directed, where iconic superheroes swoop in to help only to find they are surplus to requirement because Direct Line has it covered.
Most of the filming took place in Lisbon and required substantial enhancements including a DMP skyline in order to transport the viewer to the streets of London.
A stunt double was used to create shots such as King Valkyrie riding a horse and sliding down a steep railing and the team extended her live action cape in CG, to create a large and dramatic superhero cape.
"For the more complex shots where a stunt double was used, we reverse engineered the camera moves so Tessa could be shot static but carrying out a similar action. We could then execute a 2D face replacement bringing the two elements together." said Jay Khan.
The brief required King Valkyrie’s trusty horse, Warsong, to be shown both standing and in flight so, working with Marvel Studios, the team settled on how to portray the horse including its emotional response to King Valkyrie’s adventures.
“In the films, Warsong is always either in flight or walking, so we undertook significant development of how much the wings should be folded when idle,” said Jay Khan. "CG wings that go from fully folded to open is traditionally a tricky task requiring intricate engineering. To solve this, we built a rig where animators had control of the wings as a whole as well as individual layers of feathers. On top of this, we designed a CFX setup where any intersections were taken out and the individual feathers were polished."
“We explored iterations of where the wings should sit to convey the right emotion, finding a happy medium between its shoulders being down and the wings still slightly spread,” continued Jay Khan. “When we see Warsong in the carousel scene, it is unhappy at being excluded. Here, our animators had to find a tricky balance between the shoulders being down to make it look sad but keeping the feathers looking dramatic.”
Additional CG elements were required throughout the scenes including some involved plate augmentation.
The team built and animated a CG frisbee asset for Valkyrie to fling, tumbling CG umbrellas which Valkyrie throws like a javelin, a CG lighthouse and a CG Test Of Strength game complete with explosions and bulbs smashing.
"The chance to work with such an inspiring and fun character, is one that we were grateful for and very excited by,” said Jay Khan. “Warsong’s wings were a technical challenge, one that required everyone to work closely together to achieve the necessary results. We are proud of our collective achievement and very much enjoyed working with Bryan Buckley and Saatchi & Saatchi to make this happen."