Image courtesy of MediaMonks

MediaMonks helps global brands scale advertising campaigns with real-time rendering

John Buzzell
Award-winning global creative and production company MediaMonks has more than 5,000 people across 31 countries. Its services span the creative spectrum, covering everything from films and games to mixed reality experiences and rich media, while its advertising portfolio includes clients like Google, Nike, and Mondelēz—the makers of one of the most iconic cookies: OREO.

One of the challenges for global brands like these is effectively catering to local tastes and cultures, as Sir Martin Sorrell, Executive Chairman at S4Capital, MediaMonks’ parent company, explains.

“Today, local marketing must be met in a far more responsive way,” he says. “Agility is keeping CMOs up at night—and local responsiveness is agility, with the ability to pivot to local trends and audiences.”

For a brand like OREO cookies to fully meet local demands, there are myriad different packaging variations needed to cover the full range of desired flavor and language combinations. This means that commercials need to be recreated for each variation, traditionally a costly and time-consuming process involving multiple reshoots.

The usual solution is to shoot once, and then replace the live-action package with a CG equivalent. But this is still a laborious and lengthy process with a traditional 3D pipeline. Always looking for new efficiencies, MediaMonks recently created a prototype commercial to see if they could accelerate this process using Unreal Engine.
Image courtesy of MediaMonks
“We were looking into adaptation, how can you adapt a commercial after a shoot,” says David Daniels, VFX Producer at MediaMonks. “There's a million different reasons why clients need to do this, but there are really no good solutions for it.”

“Using Unreal Engine’s real-time capabilities, you could actually switch out this packaging much faster than you could in your traditional 3D pipelines, retaining the same amount of quality,” says MediaMonks Growth Executive Shiv Ramann.

To create the test commercial, the MediaMonks team shot many different variations of the pack shot, including a clean plate without the package. And to make sure they could handle even the most difficult pack-replacement scenario, they created a narrative where the cookies were used in a game of “spin the bottle.”
Image courtesy of MediaMonks
The camera position was then calibrated within a 3D world, and taken into Unreal Engine along with the plate. Matching the real-world spinning package helped the team to create realistic animation for the CG replacement, as John Paite, Chief Creative Officer (Art & Tech) for MediaMonks’ India operations explains.

“There's a lot of things involved in animation,” he says. “It could be the friction of the surface that the package is rotating on. So it's really good to start off with a physical simulation that will give you the slight shift of pivot point or the slight shift of location and position that is required.”

The real-world package is also used as reference for matching the lighting. Paite started with three-point lighting, placing a key light to illuminate the object from the diagonal, a fill light to negate the shadows and brighten up the darkest areas, and a rim light to make the product “pop.” He then added two more lights on the subject itself to make it more appealing.
Image courtesy of MediaMonks
Finally, Paite rendered out reflection, diffuse, and ambient occlusion passes from Unreal Engine to assemble in a compositor into one master image.

“I always used to say compositing is like the chef at work,” he says. “You buy all your ingredients, you buy your meat, you buy your vegetables, but you can't eat it. The compositor is like the cook in the kitchen that makes it edible.”

While the team used an offline compositor for the initial test, they later found that they could create entire shots in engine, saving even more time. They employed this workflow to create a social media campaign for OREO in partnership with The Martin Agency, using the same assets—another benefit of Unreal Engine.
Video courtesy of The Martin Agency and MediaMonks

“When you're creating things on this platform, you're creating it for all the platforms,” says Daniels. “We now have this asset that is not bound to only work on this TV commercial, but we've created it and you can use it in different ways.”

Overall, the test proved a huge success. The immediacy of working in Unreal Engine, compared to a traditional 3D pipeline, was very appealing to the team.

"What’s exciting about real-time 3D is that it ticks a bunch of boxes for a brand,” says Tim Dillon, SVP Growth at MediaMonks. "Working closely with Unreal Engine as a partner, we’re able to innovate in ways that were not possible just a short time ago. You can use it in product design, in your marketing, in retail innovation—it’s touching so many different end use cases for brands.”

For Sorrell, real-time technology is clearly the way forward for global campaigns.

“We're using tech like that of Unreal Engine as part of our strategy to bring the very best ideas forward and disrupt the way things have always been done,” he says. “In partnership with Epic, S4, MediaMonks, and MightyHive are transforming decades-old approaches to provide global brands with a better option to scale creative and content production, and more effectively reach local audiences." 

If you’d like to try your hand at creating a commercial like this using Unreal Engine, check out our new online learning pathway Unreal Futures: Careers in Advertising. It’s part of a brand new Unreal Futures learning series that can set you on the way to exciting careers in interactive 3D across a variety of industries.

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