Working in collaboration with advertising agency Fallon London and director Adam Gunser, through Darling Films, Freefolk has delivered creature shots for a series of adverts for ebookers – the online travel provider.

The spots, to be shown across Europe throughout 2022, depict Eboo, a small monkey that pops up and directs people to use the ebookers app to book their holidays.

The artistic challenge in creating Eboo lay in the fact that although his appearance is realistic, he needed to come across as a friendly and helpful human personality as opposed to a wild animal. “Striking a natural balance between an appealing character and a realistic creature was challenging,” says Freefolk 3D artist Jansen McCord. “We overcame this by tuning the density of the fur to be more expressive, and brightening the eyes to allow for more emotion.”

The trickiest parts of the whole project were the transitional shots in which we follow Eboo from one location to another. The sweep of the camera had to be one fluid movement, which was difficult to achieve with the source material.

2D artist, Rob Sheridan, carried out work in Nuke and commented, “Unfortunately, as with most things, there were limitations on what they could achieve in the timeframe, with neither transition matching up correctly in camera. To get the camera movement to align we tracked both shots for each of the two transitions and created UV textures in Nuke using the cameras that we could then project. One of our 3D wizards blended from one camera’s movement to the next, allowing us to project our UV textures back onto the geometries and then rendering through the combined cameras’ movement – all inside of Nuke.

This was really complicated when you take into consideration the amount of motion blur and the native camera vignettes that made painting a flat UV texture a troublesome task. At a certain point when the cameras have gone back to their original movement we could then switch back to the original footage, fooling everyone into thinking Eboo really does have magic powers.”

There was also an extensive amount of 2D required around interactions with clothing and objects, as well as colour grading and the usual complexities that come with mixing CG and live action.

A team of five 3D artists and one animator worked for one month to deliver the Eboo asset using Mari, Houdini, and Maya with Yeti and Arnold. “In order to keep the creature workflow focused inside one package, we tied the groom created in Yeti to an nHair simulation rig, scripting the caching process for the fur to be used later in lighting,” says Jansen.

VFX Producer and Freefolk’s Head of Production Cheryl Payne commented, “The project came to us via Fallon London, with whom we worked very successfully throughout 2021, particularly on the Skoda Enyaq Robots spot. It was wonderful to reunite with some of the team as well as meet new faces. We hadn’t worked with Adam Gunser from Darling Films before so it’s been great that this project has brought us together; it’s always nice to meet and collaborate with directors we haven’t had the pleasure of working with before. Hopefully, our Eboo will get the chance to go to some new and exciting destinations in 2022!”

Maryse Gauthier, Director of Brand Marketing said: “Our new creative signals a fresh look at how travellers today want to create a trip perfect for them based on their individual interests and passions, so it was important that our fun-loving brand mascot Eboo emulated this enthusiasm too. The Freefolk team, in collaboration with Fallon London, have given Eboo a new look which brings to life the personality of our brand in a unique and eye-catching way. We are looking forward to seeing what new adventures Eboo has in 2022.”

Jon Creamer

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