Suntory is a client with a history of making some pretty bold creative leaps, but even for them this script was a little… unusual.

For this surreal Suntory TVC featuring Hollywood legend Tommy Lee Jones, Fin was tasked with turning a party of hikers into talking birds. Pulling this off required more than the usual bag of visual effects tricks, and took a little over 3 months and thousands of lines of custom code to make these birds take flight.

The outdoor background plates and actors were filmed in Suntory’s own pristine forests with additional shooting against greenscreen in the famous Toho Studios – home of “Godzilla” and “Seven Samurai”.

To accurately follow the motion of each actor’s body as they transitioned into bird form, their movements were simultaneously recorded with the main film camera, a pair of Blackmagic 4k cameras and a depth-sensing Microsoft Kinect. By meticulously processing this small mountain of data, Fin’s artists were able to grow feathers on top of the actors’ clothes while gradually adjusting the length of their arms and legs mid-action to more bird like proportions.

Birds hold a special significance in Suntory’s corporate identity due to their long history of conservation. For this reason species native to Japan were selected and great care was taken during post production to keep the renders true to the real-life reference material. To realize director Toshiyuki YAGI’s very particular and humorous creative vision took many iterations of animation. Dozens of options for timing and staging were explored beginning with previs in November 2014 and continuing through post production into 2015 before the director’s very specific vision had been brought to the screen.