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The story behind creative crows

David Burtenshaw  March 25, 2016 4:42 PM

Adelaide Crows TVC 2016 #weflyasone Watch the brand new Adelaide Crows TV commercial for the 2016 season.

It began with a simple idea but the visual effects behind Adelaide’s 2016 TV commercial required teams of world-class specialists to bring it to life.

Actual footage of birds flying together – in murmuration – sparked the idea that needed nearly four months of intricate production work to meet the Club’s season launch deadline.

Adelaide’s marketing brief to SA-based advertising agency Showpony last October was to create something that was world-class, brave and genuine.

“I challenged our marketing team and partners to take ‘We Fly As One’ to the next level,” said Crows CEO Andrew Fagan “and bring it to life in a way that could be applied across a range of digital and match day platforms.

”They certainly delivered on that brief - and then some. It was very much a labour of love, with our partners coming together to produce something special".

Showpony’s creative team looked to the air for inspiration, realised the mass bird ballet fitted the desired theme and then storyboarded the tale of a lone crow joining a flock flying in fluid formation from regional South Australia, through the suburbs and city to Adelaide Oval.

Turning the storyboards into a crows murmuration taking the shape of Crows players and finally supporters was the role of another SA production company, KOJO.

There were ten days of shooting at locations including Burra, World’s End and the oval and three Crows players – Taylor Walker, Eddie Betts and Rory Sloane – were also involved in shoots.

The key piece of the project was the building of the 40,000 murmuring computer-generated crows required hours of complex visual effects work.

To ensure the look was as authentic as possible KOJO engaged highly skilled specialists in VFX crowd creation to build the simulated crow murmurations and lead a team of artists.

Rob East, a senior VFX Technical Director in crowd based simulation, along with a small team of highly skilled crowd VFX artists – who have worked on films including the Hunger Games, Gods of Egypt and Happy Feet 2 – added international expertise to the project.

All of the artists were based onsite in KOJO’s Adelaide studio to allow for direct creative and technical communication.

KOJO director Mike Wilson said the first step was to design a crowd system that created the movement of a real bird murmuration.

“We started with 10,000 points and moved up to 40,000 points to create the epic mass needed for the murmuration,” he said. “We then worked on how it moved, folding in on itself and stretching with all points moving as a group.

“This was created using algorithms and a lot of highly complex mathematics to ensure each simulation remained unique. No two simulations were ever the same which gave the mass a natural feel. From there we added the CGI crows to the simulated points.”

There were three types of flight patterns - straight, gliding and slowing down. The birds would animate between these three depending on what the simulation was doing.

“The hero crowd formations were quite epic in proportion, so to ensure the simulation was fluid and believable we made simpler birds that could be animated easily on mass,” Wilson said.

“For the birds that were closer to camera, a hand animated high resolution bird, with defining features such as feathers and eyes, was created.”

The other challenge was to make these birds form the shapes of the players. Betts, Walker and Sloane had been filmed marking, kicking and handballing and this footage was used to create “attraction points” for the bird to fly to.

“The birds were all lit from the direction of the sun in shot to make sure they looked like they were a part of the environment,” Wilson said. “From there they were composited in with shadows, depth of field and motion blur to truly set them into the scene and make them feel real.” 

The result? A cutting-edge TV commercial proudly promoting the Adelaide Football Club and our ‘We Fly as One’ slogan, first created before the 2015 season by Showpony Advertising in close consultation with the Crows.

"We Fly As One isn't just a marketing tagline,” Fagan said. “It was created last year to represent our strategic vision of 'Bringing People Together to Achieve Great Things'. People sit at the core of this vision - our members and fans, our players, our business partners and the broader community, amongst others. 

“In 2015, it became nationally recognised and universally embraced by our supporters, through the best and worst of times, to become almost immediately synonymous with the Adelaide Football Club and those who are part of our journey.” 



Showpony Advertising

  • Greg Kavanagh – Group Account Director
  • Parris Mesidis – Group Creative Director
  • Andy Scott – Creative Director
  • Jonathan Pagano – Senior Art Director

KOJO Productions

  • Mike Wilson – Director
  • Matt Byrne – Executive Producer
  • Miles Rowland - Director of Photography
  • Sarah Bond – Production Manager
  • Jade Robinson – Offline Editor
  • Richard Coburn – Online Editor
  • Rob East – VFX Supervisor
  • David Smith – VFX Animator
  • Simon Herden, Emily Probert, Eleni Taylor – VFX Compositors
  • Bree Whitford – VFX Producer
  • Kate Butler – Post Producer
  • Zoe Drummond – Post Coordinator

 SONAR Music

  • Alejandro Gomez – Composer
  • Sophie Haydon - Producer