Steelworks’ ongoing partnership with Casper, the award-winning mattress company, sees the studio combine large-scale live talent with dreamy CGI
For the uninitiated, it can be easy to overlook a short ‘n’ sweet 30-second spot. Unless you work with CGI, motion, animation and post production, it is hard to comprehend what goes into cute and colourful campaigns like the latest Casper commercial. For those lacking practical experience in these areas, it would come as a surprise, then, to learn that projects of this nature can take months. Luckily for Casper, the decision to partner with creative production studio, Steelworks, has given them access to an abundance of specialist experience in these specific fields.
Channelling the Casper ethos of “Better Sleep, Better You,” Steelworks set to work on bringing the sleep specialists’ latest advertising campaign to life. Led by head of production, Hannah Byers-Brown, and executive producer, Chago Venable, the Steelworks team masterfully pulled off an ambitious brief that incorporated both CGI and live talent, engineering an ‘oddly satisfying’ sensory illustration of how the Casper mattress provides the best night’s sleep.
Here, Hannah and Chago break down the spot for LBB, revealing the collaborative process behind the dreamy film.
LBB> Your latest work with Casper is a technical feat that combines high-speed live-action photography, practical effects, and animation; could you walk me through the various technical elements of the spot and how they were conceptualised?
Hannah> The films were broken down into two chapters: the CGI “Dream Factory” and the live talent dream sequence. In order to create the concepts for the CGI Dream Factory, we looked at how each element of the mattress is created in reality and then imagined how that would work in a dream factory. Each short animation that makes up this sequence is inspired by oddly satisfying animations. The result is that each element of the mattress creation is a soothing stand alone piece which culminates in the full assembly of the mattress.
Chago> For the live talent scenes, our production design team worked with Casper to create the layout and choose furnishings for the bedroom set that was eventually built within a sound stage. The falling scene was shot with a phantom camera at over 900 frames per second, while the talent was repeatedly dropped from a scaffolding into a Casper mattress - they are that soft and supportive in real life! All of the floating objects were rigged with a complex system of fishing wire and pulleys and at just the right moment were snatched into the air. All of the different takes were comped together, along with the CGI landscapes and clouds (outside the windows), during a painstaking post production process where we also removed the fishing wires, did beauty passes on the talent and colour grading.
LBB> Can you describe the collaborative process of working together on this project?
Chago> We worked with several partners on this project. From the great support for the creative teams at Casper/Big Day, to the production support from Crucial on the live talent shoot, to the detailed sound design from UK-based Echoic Audio - whom we have worked with on several projects in the past.
LBB> Have you worked on other projects that combine CGI and live animation? If so, how did this project differ?
Chago> This was the first time we have worked on a live talent/CGI project of this scale under the umbrella of Steelworks. However, our core team members have extensive experience with projects of this scale, and larger.
LBB> In what ways did this project help the Steelworks team hone their craft/skills?
Chago> Working with and coordinating the efforts of all of the different teams was a welcome challenge to our producers. Every few weeks was a “new phase”: from initial concepting/storyboarding with our creative director to casting, production and shooting of the live talent scenes, rounds and rounds of CGI conceptualisation and rendering, weeks of post production, to final handover of almost 40 deliverables!
LBB> How technically complicated was this project and how long did it take to execute?
Chago> From initial concept/storyboarding to final delivery was roughly 5 months! This was a very technically complex project consisting of not only precise details of how to represent the mattress creation in CGI to a multi-faceted post production process. On top of this was a unique live action shoot.
LBB> How does the use of CG and live animation elevate the aesthetics of the Casper brand?
Chago> We were able to create a dream factory that really would not have been possible without the use of CGI. Adding the live talent gave that “human touch” that was necessary for the consumer to connect with the experience of a Casper mattress.
LBB> Blending the brand's trademark creative storytelling with advanced product innovation leaves the spot both aesthetically pleasing and alluring. What lasting impression do you hope to leave on the audience?
Hannah> The whole feeling of the spot is comforting and relaxing, yet playful. Bringing together so many different elements, both technically and creatively, gives the audience something memorable which is precisely what we wanted to do for Casper. Other mattress commercials have a more clinical feeling, whereas this spot takes the audience to a whole new, dreamlike world. I hope we leave the audience with the lasting impression that Casper brings something new to the table.