Monday, 1 March 2021
Creating the first-ever Christian Louboutin Beauty and Fragrance Christmas campaign is no mean feat. Having to supply over 150 deliverables with the added strain of a global pandemic can’t have been easy. Velvet Badger discuss the process and their vision while we walk through the main advert created for the campaign.
Before we discuss your recent work for Christian Louboutin (CL), can you tell us about the studio?
Velvet Badger was conceived through the successful fusion of Motion Design Director, Chris Joyce, and Executive Producer, Kerry Adams, at the start of 2018. Velvet Badger was created as a full-service Design and Motion studio that crafts beautiful moving images for agencies, brands and events. Our clan has expanded since 2018 and with it, so has our fabulous list of clients and skills. We have successfully managed and produced several projects, including the Puma Skills Cube in NYC, numerous adverts for Twitch, along with a plethora of different Christian Louboutin projects. Content is in our genes and we are always ready for any challenge, big or small!
When Puig approached you with the brief for this campaign, what was the first step you took to get the project off the ground?
Receiving a new brief from a client is always an exciting and welcomed challenge and this one was no exception. The brief was to deliver the first-ever Christmas campaign for CL Beauty and Fragrance and premier the latest products and Christmas packaging for social, digital and retail use. It was essential to build upon the brand as not only an iconic fashion house but a beauty destination. We set to work crafting and designing a range of creative treatments with a number of different ideas for the client to consider, maintaining the retail icon of the Christmas snow globe as the central focus. Once a creative route was chosen, the fun began as our talented Creative Director, Chris Joyce, art directed the storyboard and led the team into building the multiple universes.
The ad begins outside. The viewer is taken inside to a dark, cold living room before zooming into a magical snow globe. Instantly, the mood changes as we enter the magical world of CL Beauty and Fragrance. The real magic starts once we enter the building. The pendulum breaks to reveal a lipstick that drops into water, creating this beautiful crown splash that instantly turns to ice. Can you tell us how you came up with this idea and how it was executed?
It was important for Chris to keep a fluid nature to the edit with creative transitions between worlds. The ice splash came about as the products needed to have individual personalities shown in how they move and dance, so they had to be the central point in moving between scenes. We explored many ideas using X-Particles, ranging from the ice growing out around the pillars to jagged shards branching out to freeze the products in motion. In the end, we thought freezing the water from contact with a product was the most impactful and it gave us an entry point to the next scene.
The theme of ice continues as the camera flips the viewer upside down into a frozen magical world. Ice grows, then shatters to reveal more CL products. How did you go about creating these growing ice structures?
The Tape à L'Oeil eyeshadow and Vernis Rouge Louboutin nail varnish are perfectly positioned in the ice room to mirror icy stalagmites. The formation and break of the frozen product required hours of research and development to create a realistic glass effect to magically transition the product into the shot. The result was actually a combination of three X-Particles simulations. The ice and products grew separately, and the final break was its own simulation, then all three were comped together in After Effects. X-Particles was fantastic for this process. We were able to quickly go through multiple ideas and routes to present to the client before improving the simulation quality.
After this shot, we are taken down through the floor into another room, filled with reds and golds. The Christmas tree is center stage, the iconic CL high heels as branches. The heels dance around while imitating the components of the tree. How was this effect realized?
By far the most luxurious and seductive world, the golden room acts as the film's crescendo as a grand and opulent space of luxury and hedonism. The room's architecture is a piece of art, inspired by Middle Eastern design influences.
The golden dome and high ceilings required lengthy modeling and geometric design. We designed the tree and lipsticks with an express rig for full procedural control. This gave us options to present different variations of patterns and speeds for the client to view.
In the closing scenes, we focus on a mascara wand floating upwards as confetti fills the scene. As we ascend, more ice is building up around us before realizing this is the top of the snow globe we entered at the beginning. Can you tell us more about this scene?
The ceiling is supported by large mascaras that perfectly blend into the room. The golden lipsticks and golden shoe tree, used by CL in a previous Christmas fashion campaign, stylishly hints at the seasonal elements underpinning the film. Ready to transport us back to the new reality, a monstrously large mascara wand catapults us into the snow globe and to the end of the film.
We noticed fantastic attention to detail throughout; the eye in the railings as we ascended to the top of the globe; the smoke coming from the chimneys on the building before we entered. However, the specular reflection that lights up the scene as light catches the products throughout is a lovely touch. What processes do you go through, as a studio, to ensure these finer details do not get missed?
As the saying goes, "The devil is in the details," and the Velvet Badger clan truly believes this is the key to a stunning and richly visual animation. Super-organized production is the key to this, as producers put rigorous structures in place to sign off the process from creative treatments, storyboarding and art direction to animatics. When everything is in place, we then make sure we have time to refine as many details as possible. This is by far the most fun part for the team and, as a collective effort, everyone obsesses over the small details, which in the end results in a better final piece.
Why was X-Particles chosen for this project? And how did it fit into your workflow?
For this project, X-particles was involved right from the start. It helps to quickly render simulations for the art direction phase, but you have the advantage of having a base particle system to start the animation if it goes ahead. It also worked very well within Cinema 4D and Octane Render, so we did not feel the need to branch into other simulation software.
It was not just the slick video you had to create for this campaign. How many assets were there in total? And what did they consist of?
The Christmas campaign needed to transcend all platforms and modes of publication, which required an army of assets in multiple formats to ensure they could be used across retail and social media. We identified the perfect pack shots and compositions for gifs, stills and cutdown videos to be edited and rendered in multiple formats while crafting the film. In addition, we created individual capsule videos to tease more of the products for a range of global markets. With over 150 individual deliverables, we had to develop a production asset handbook to aid the client in asset management to support the campaign rollout. The proof is in the pudding - or the statistics in this case, as the campaign had the best global reach of the year for Christian Louboutin Beauty and Fragrance, totaling 26.5 million along with 32.7 million global impressions. The stunning myriad of campaign assets also saw an increase of 7.8 thousand visitors accessing the website and over 31 thousand interactions.
What was the most challenging part of this project to complete?
A national lockdown in the middle of production! Like many, this year has been full of unexpected challenges; this project certainly kept us going and provided our dedicated team focus throughout. We adapted and changed throughout the project to ensure we could continue to work to our highest level, working remotely from multiple countries, relocating multiple render machines into our cozy homes (daily Zoom calls with pets and kids included). We believe the final campaign captures our core values of beautiful moving images through fastidious direction and delivery.
Client: Christian Louboutin
Studio: Velvet Badger
Creative Director: Chris Joyce
Illustrator: Hélène Tran
3D: Lukas Kuhn, Enric Rodriguez, Nemanja Ivanovic, Tabriaz Waheed, Lisander Qorri
Audio: Box of Toys
I highly recommend anyone using X-Particles to use it in tandem with Cycles 4D. The bridge between the two allows for some amazing effects and control over the appearance of your particle systems. Being a regular Cinema 4D user also meant that Cycles 4D was fairly easy to pick up and integrate into our workflow. - Matthew Encina Blind.com
Cycles 4d is the render engine I’ve always wanted to have as a C4D artist. It’s a feature rich engine that doesn’t ask you to change the way you work to get the render you want. You can render entirely procedurally, or with image textures. It doesn’t feel like a plug-in at all, it feels like an update. - Casey Hupke
I find this is the absolute go-to anytime that I want to do anything with particles… There are so many possibilities and great looks you can achieve with even just some really simple setups - Mike “Beeple” Winkelman
Playing with TP and Xpresso is a thing of the past for me now. - Ash Thorp
Territory use X-Particles a lot when it comes to detailed simulations for feature film UI. The ease of use means we can turn work around quickly without sacrificing a demanding quality bar - David Sheldon-Hicks / Founder and creative director / Territory Studio
Designer-friendly and technically advanced, simply powerful and art direction-able, X-Particles is an integral tool of my workflow, always impressed how Insydium are constantly developing and refining the most important toolset for Cinema 4D. - Motion Designer; Director; Brett Morris
X-Particles is an essential tool in my creative workflow - whether it be for creating daily images or commercial client projects. It allows me to quickly and intuitively throw together visual concepts or drill down into more complex, technical setups. The integrated interactive and video manual are outstanding, and if you can’t get the answers there, the support team are personal and very quick to help out. - Joey Camacho, Raw & Rendered