Tiger -> Rabbit: NeRF AI and a Giant Billboard
For McDonald’s Lunar New Year 2023 – the Year of the Rabbit – we partnered with award-winning digital content creator Karen X. Cheng to produce a campaign featuring cutting-edge technology.
Role at IW Group: Creative Concepting | Art Direction | Motion Graphics | Design
IW Group enlisted the help of Karen X. Cheng to bring a new dimension to the 2023 Lunar New Year Campaign. We asked her to create a unique AR filter to help people celebrate the New Year on social media. I was brought on to flesh out ideas for the campaign, including the TV commercial and additional digital and physical collateral.
Bringing NeRF to the TVC:
As we were brainstorming ways to create a unique and appealing TVC that broke the mould of McDonald’s cultural commercials of the past, I delved deep into Karen’s history as a creator and explorer of new trends. It was here that I identified Neural Radiance Fields (NeRF) could be a great way to visualise the section of the script featuring the story of Karen as a child.
It melded perfectly for the collaboration with Karen: she had experience with the technology and the dreamy look of NeRF fitted Karen’s backstory aesthetic. It also brought a fresh feel to the TVC and pushed the innovative tech narrative we were aiming for with our collaboration. At the time NeRF was cutting-edge technology and the McDonald’s TVC was one of the first to use it in a commercial setting.
NeRF is a way of converting a web of 2D images into a 3D point-cloud. Then AI training is used to fill in the blanks and create a detailed 3D model of the scene with realistic point-of-view lighting and texturing. A process that used to take hours to: capture the scene, tweak the 3D models and render the environment; ends up taking only minutes and can be played back in almost real-time on set, using Unreal Engine, to ensure the quality of the shot.
Here is an article with Jose Norton, the Director of our commercial, talking about the NeRF process, including some BTS content.
Times Square Billboard:
To get the word out there we thought we would go big in Times Square on the McDonald’s-owned giant billboard above their TSQ restaurant. I was asked to come up with a few concepts and take them into production.
I wanted to keep true to the original AR filter design by only adding some subtle textures to the model and giving the flecks some more visibility. Then I built a scene for the transition to take place with a white border that gives it the illusion of the model breaking out of the screen. Lastly, I found some ways to animate the Tiger and Rabbit with deformers in Cinema4D so that we wouldn’t break the illusion of the original filter, but give it some life with moving whiskers, twitching ears and subtle breathing motion.
This is the final billboard at Times Square along with some behind-the-scenes breakdown of the project:
The full 4K animation asset for the billboard:
Thanks to Hey Mister! for rendering assistance for the 4K project.
Adapting the AR Filter:
We needed to adapt the rabbit from the AR filter into a 2D design that could work across different mediums. I lead a team to refine the design and implement its application across digital content and print media as well as a hoodie, tote bag and red envelope.
Custom QR Codes and Websites:
Our main point of contact with the consumer was going to be QR codes. So, for flexibility in their design, we used Bitly’s QR Code Generator. We built more than 10 custom QR codes to appear across different media, and we further altered them to match the McDonald’s brand colours, flip the bars and add logos.
Additionally, I helped build a biosite that could house our links…
And a website, McDLunarNewYear.com, which we built on Vev, a new platform known for its unique scrolling capabilities. We had more control over scrolling elements than a platform like Squarespace, which gave our website a unique feel and the ability to show off the entire campaign.
Activation at San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival:
The final piece of the campaign was a brand activation at the San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival, the largest New Year celebration in the USA. I designed the initial mock-ups and plans for a series of rooms inspired by infinity-mirror booths that would showcase elements from Karen X. Cheng’s AR Filter as well as the Metaverse Space she had designed. The final production of the booth was developed and installed by ASV1.