Jordie Bares, a 3D supervisor at The Mill, played a lead role crafting the Super Duty commercials at the visual effects shop.
“When we started the job we knew we had to surpass in complexity previous commercials that played with the idea of cars assembling and of course we wanted to make sure it looked great,” says Bares.
To get the high degree of realism that Bares needed, Ford provided The Mill with actual Computer Aided Design (CAD) files from the Super Duty used to engineer the pickup for manufacture.
“Thanks to Ford's collaboration we received all the CAD data from the car which is something unheard of. This turned to be both a blessing and a nightmare as the actual complexity of the truck is huge with more than 16,000 pieces split on small surfaces”, explains Bares.
But 16,000 pieces represents only about a quarter of the total parts found in a real Super Duty rolling off an assembly line. Including the true number of parts in the commercial would have created too dense a parts field for the spokesperson to walk through. So in the commercial you won’t see things like carpet and wiring.
Another indication of the commercial's complexity – a typical computer generated project at The Mill renders objects with a total resolution of around 1 million polygons. The more polygons, the more detail about an object that can be communicated visually. By the time the whole Super Duty was converted from CAD data it had grown to 100 million polygons!
Bares staff also had to figure out how to virtually rig the car in space so that all of the pieces would fly together without crossing paths to create the Super Duty. Eventually 60 “noodles” were rigged to move the 16,000 pieces through space, with 26 noodles used to assemble the engine and its 4,000 plus parts that you see in the commercial.
Creating the scenes also required a tremendous amount of computing horsepower that sucked up the resources of the biggest machines at The Mill. “The average low resolution scene was just 12 million polygons and due to our needs we started to get all of the big machines at The Mill to work with, as 4 gigs of RAM was vital just to work low resolution,” Bares recalls. Over 200 computers were used in the project, which started with 160 machines and required the purchase of 40 more to complete the job on time.
As December and January wore on the project became the talk of the town in London’s pubs near The Mill. JWT creative director/truck group Paul Kirner recalls that tables of CG staff were talking about the spots as they took a break from the grueling schedule. “Towards the end, people were crashing from the effort to complete the commercials.”
While the virtual work rapidly progressed in London, across the Atlantic in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles the search was on for the actor who would become the human face to explain the Super Duty’s capabilities. Over 400 auditions were held before ex-NFL linebacker Matt Battaglia was chosen to star alongside the F-450 in the commercials.
Battaglia filmed the commercials in Los Angeles on a stark white stage because the flying parts could only be added later during post-production at The Mill. And to help Battaglia envision the Super Duty coming together, Ford supplied a rolling chassis for him to walk around.