California Milk talking cows part of your family

California Milk Board‘s latest instalment in their iconic talking cow campaigns shows talking cows taking part in everyday family scenes. The first spot in the “Make Real California Milk part of your family” campaign is “Friends.” A mother struggles to keep with the complexities of her daughter’s social life, but all is explained by the friendly cow. Further commercials in the campaign are Shower, Birthday Party, Family Night and Rapping California Cow.

California Cow talking friends

Method Studios provided visual effects behind the scenes for “Friends”. During filming, the team shot four individual cows, one per spot, live on stage with tracking marks strategically placed on their faces for registration later. Director Savage and Method filmed the cows as secondary plates to split screen in with actors later in post, but wherever there was key interaction between the cows and people they tried to keep as much of the shot live and in camera as possible. Savage and Method worked to preserve as much of the cows’ natural reactions, but also to allow for the maximum range of performance that the cows were comfortable with.

Autodesk Maya was used to model, rig, and animate the cows, Houdini to light and render fur and skin, Zbrush for fine detail modeling and texturing, and Autodesk Nuke and Flame for compositing. The pipeline itself involved modeling the cows from survey reference photos gathered on set, match moving the cows using the small tracking markers placed on the cows faces during shoot (which were then cleaned out in post), and then animating/rendering on top of the match moved cows heads.

Method also filmed reference footage of the various voice actors performing their lines to use as a starting point for the animators when they built out the cows’ performances. A bulk of the animations was created in Maya but Method’s team added a fair bit of secondary animation (eyes, cheeks, etc.) using Flame for 2D warping wherever the performance warranted. By doing the animation this way, they could preserve as much of the real cow as possible and only change the bits needed. Their 2D pipeline involved ingesting the CG into nuke and manipulating it there with a blend of proprietary tools and Nuke’s built-in 3D capabilities (geo import, UV handling, etc) before exporting pre-comp’ed plates to the Flame for finish compositing.


The California Cows Let us into your life campaign was developed at Deutsch LA by chief creative officer Mark Hunter, group creative director Karen Costello, creative directors Jeff Bossin and Scott Hidinger, senior art director Sara Oakley, senior copywriter Melissa Langston-Wood, copywriter Ryan Contillo, art director Katy Hamilton, director of integrated production Vic Palumbo, director of broadcast production Victoria Guenier and producer Dave Stephenson.

Filming was shot by director Fred Savage via Über Content with executive producers Phyllis Koenig and Preston Lee, and director of photography Robert Yeoman.

Editor was Adam Parker at Cutters, Santa Monica, with executive producer Nicole Vikram.

Post production was done at Method Studios by VFX supervisor Gil Baron, executive producers Robert Owens and Stephanie Gilgar, producer Pip Malone, coordinator Anastasia Von Rahl, 2D supervisor/nuke artist Chris Bankoff, lead Flame artist Noah Caddis, nuke artist Carlos Morales, paint artist Pam Gonzales, 3D lead Calin Casian, modeller Scott Brust, rigger Marc Berrouet, animation team Joon Lee, Aaron Schultz, James Parris, lighting team Calin Casian and James Kirk, texture team Josh Frontino, Frida Sahono-­Jozwik, tracking team Fabio Zapata, Lauren Van Houten, Tom Stanton, Luis Rodriguez, Juan Colon, Alex Tirasongkran, and roto artist Kenneth Lui.