Award-winning digital studio Alt.vfx has helped create the new stunning Pepsi Strong Momotaro advert, the latest star-studded installment of the most awarded commercial series in Japanese history.
In a collaboration with YOMIKO/TUGBOAT and production company Tohokushinsha Film Corporation, the latest film features Hollywood star Jude Law, and brings the folklore tale of Momotaro (Peach Boy) to life like never before.
Directed by acclaimed director Kouichi Iguchi with Masakatsu Kasai on board as executive producer, the latest chapter is part origin story of the Oni - the iconic lava monster seen in previous episodes and designed by the creature team at Alt.vfx.
Alt's executive producer Takeshi Takada has overseen the series from the beginning.
Says Takada: "With each new episode we have revealed more and more of the Oni and our technical approach has had to evolve with each iteration. What began as a Softimage asset with Maya fluids for smoke 2 years ago has been rebuilt and improved over and over again and now is completely different asset now residing in Houdini. The existing high resolution textures were augmented with procedural textures to give an almost limitless resolution as the camera moved closer with every episode."
Says Nick Angus, head of VFX, Alt: "We really raised the bar as we had never been this close to the character so we included rigid body rockfall simulations and extremely high resolution smoke simulations. Also for the first time we added fluid simulations to the close up shot to eject lava from his hot core. These extremely detailed and high polygon character simulations are very complex but the level of detail is very rewarding.
"The 'Ogre' was another creature that was introduced for the first time in this commercial. Originally envisioned by director Iguchi with a rough sketch, and through a process of ongoing design by Alt's artists, the character was sculpted from his original concept to its life-like appearance in the new commercial.
"The 'Ogre' was always going to be chained up. So we needed to account for this in texturing, adding wounds and wearing in his skin layer. We studied the anatomy of animals and mutated and deformed it to make it original character in this special episode. The creature was then groomed with a fur layer and we had to figure out some new techniques to groom based on proximity of the fur to the chains that are tightly wrapped around him. The chains were also required to be simulated to hold the 'Ogre' in place while he violently struggled against them."
Added effects such as saliva, dust particles and even wood splinters were then added to really ground the monstrous character in the plate photography.
Says Takada: "The Alt team have worked on this campaign for over two years, and we have been very proud to be part of the team that brought Momotaro to the small screen. We have tried to bring feature film quality FX and character design to the series and each episode has gotten bigger and more challenging. As one of Japan's most famous fables the pressure was certainly there to make it special and authentic for the die hard Momotaro fans."
Client: Suntory Pepsi Strong
Production company: Tohokushinsha Film Corporation
Director: Kouichi Iguchi
Executive Producer: Masakatsu Kasai
Visual Effects and Creature Design: Alt.vfx
Alt.vfx Executive Producer: Takeshi Takada
Alt.vfx Head of VFX: Nick Angus