Foundation Against Cancer – Birth

Foundation Against Cancer in Belgium is running a fund raising advertising campaign featuring an about-to-be-born baby. Sophie (or Emily in the English language version) tells us about the life she’s likely to live. The forward narrative is brought to a halt by the revelation that she will be diagnosed with cancer the day before she turns 40. The ad finishes with an appeal for financial help for research.

Foundation Against Cancer baby

Click on the image below to play the Birth video.

See the ad in French and Dutch.

Birth Credits

The Birth ad was developed Openhere, Antwerp, by creative director Stijn Gansemans, copywriter Koen van Deun, and art director Johan Roelandt.

The ad was produced at Glassworks, Amsterdam, by Flame artist Morten Vinther, 3D artists Dan Hope, Markus Lauterbach, Martin Contel, and producer Evelien Schenkkan.

Making the baby look real as well as engaging the viewer emotionally took research, a variety of referencing of pictures and videos was essential to visualise and model the baby prior to the edit. Once the baby was modelled, a ‘pre-viz’ to visualise the edit was generated choosing the most interesting camera angles and the most pleasing movements.

Markus Lauterbach, 3D ‘look-expert’, worked on textures, shading and rendering, to make the baby appear as beautiful as possible.

“The challenge for me was to get as much detail as possible into a very shallow depth of field. I used hi-res textures of real baby skin to cover our model, thanks Milo and Marco, we added some CG hair to get fine highlights and used Arnold, our new render system, to generate the skin shade. Arnold has excellent subsurface scattering options, which turned out to be a great help for our backlit scene.”

Senior 3D animator, Dan Hope, rigged the baby so every little part could move, and started to breathe life into the baby.

“For my part it was important to get the baby moving in a subtle, believable way and yet make the piece still visually interesting. Due to the close-up nature of the shots it was decided early on that we would try facial motion capture to mimic subtle life-like movements. Careful attention was paid to the interaction between body parts such as hands and feet to make the body shots visually believable yet not overly animated.”

Morten Vinther, head of 2D, was involved from the beginning.

“Giving birth to the Baby, Emily, quickly became a labour of love for all of us. The challenge from a compositing point of view was to make it believable that Emily really was sitting in a womb. The animation and lighting on the renders from our new renderer Arnold were amazing but they lacked the atmosphere surrounding a baby in a womb. To achieve the liquid feel we shot many elements in a water tank here at Glassworks with macro lenses. We combined these elements with particle systems in Flame and supplemented with XSi particles where necessary to achieve a watery feel. Layers of colour identification, bones, veins and ambient occlusion passes were used to get just the right tones for the areas of the skin where light passed through it. Procedural effects like local area distortion, defocus and some slight chromatic warping combined with a depth-based grade in Flame completed the look.”