VFX studio Smoke & Mirrors New York (SMNY) has created VFX for a moving new PSA (public service announcement) that's designed to open up dialogue between US Veterans returning from war and their families. The ad was produced by BBDO for the Ad Council and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

Watch Signs.

Signs opens from the point-of-vuew of an Iraqi war veteran driving home to reunite with his family. As he passes under several freeway underpasses we see banners from his mother welcoming him home. Like many families with children returning from war zones, she hopes her son is okay and has many questions. The banners are an attempt by a concerned mother to foster discussions between her and her son, and make his transition into civilian life as easy as possible.


Having been involved from very early on in the process, SMYY sent Nic Seresin to supervise the shoot on Staten Island. Each message was shot in HD with a locked-off camera by Nic, complete with folds and wind effects. The lighting was matched to the road scenes by matching time of day and compass bearing.

Greg Calas in the 3D department then modelled 3D objects; matching the shapes and folds of the sheets. This gave the element of dimensionality needed, especially as the camera passed under the bridges.


The teams then began the monumental task of tracking a :30, one shot spot. As soon as a bridge was visible in the far distance it not only had to be tracked, but the depth of field and motion blur matched too. Aided by Assistant Flame artist Stephanie Isaacson, large-scale scene alteration was then required to remove overhanging signage, traffic lights and other advertising hoardings that contaminated the scene.

Kirk Balden then used Flame to project and grade the HD captured sheet texture, complete with words, onto the tracked 3D models.


SMNY says that in total the project took a month to complete.