Saving the earth by banking glass

Still from The Glass Recycling Company advert

Comparing recycling to banking, and animated by glass bottles that, once recycled, build a better country.

This is the premise of The Glass Recycling Company of South Africa’s (TGRC) latest ad campaign. It is a simulation of an idyllic Africa brought to life by glass bottles, revealing what is saved by what is recycled.

“When you put something in, you get something out,” is the theme behind the ad. TGRC CEO Shabeer Jhetam was inspired while conducting national research. “We found that consumers placed great importance on looking after our environment.” Therefore the advertisement needed to link and communicate the direct benefits of glass recycling.

The TVC was conceptualised with the South African advertising agency Tribe Sauce (TS), whose CEO Ant Hanly says: “We were faced with the challenge of creating a commercial that would break through the boredom of standard environmental communication.”

The ad was produced in Johannesburg by Stephen Hanly who said the task came with much difficulty. “In order to fully visualise the glass-banking metaphor, animation software programmes such as After Effects and Avid were used over a six-week period using 16 computers to render different parts of the commercial.” This was an enormous task as each bottle had to be rendered separately and then placed in position.

Animated in Ireland by Street Monkey (SM) who produced a trial animal (The Giraffe) so that they could test looks, environments and ways of rendering. “We worked for a week or more to narrow down a look. This Giraffe set the tone for the remainder of the job and allowed us to calculate timeframes for all aspects going forward,” says Dermot Faloon, director at SM.

“Once everyone was happy with the test concept the commercial was boarded out on paper by the agency, then roughly modelled using basic 3D shapes in our software Cinema4D. This gave us timings to work to and allowed the client to see a very rough version of the commercial.”

At the same time designers worked on the lighting and environment for the glass bottle animals to come alive. “The animals were all created as basic bone skeletons. In the 3D environment these invisible bones were used to attach the 3D bottles. This was a very tricky part. In conventional 3D character animation, we can bend and deform shapes to make arms and legs work, but this time we had to work with what essentially was a 3D jigsaw,” says Faloon.

“Rendering on this job was time consuming. It’s an unusual request as we had so many transparent, reflective, refractive objects at once. This pushed our render farm hard as we needed feedback every morning to make visual tweaks and amends. Visuals were being calculated 24 hours a day. Some of the more complex frames in this job took 40 to 50 minutes per frame to work out all the glass. Frames and scenes were internally swapped to suit skillsets across four employees,” says Faloon. He confirmed that client feedback was easy using Skype and email as they worked from their location in Belfast.

Faced with continuous challenges Ant Hanly explains: “Bringing the world together at the end was incredibly difficult as the shots cut from a close-up featuring both mother and baby elephant to a long shot of the Earth. This resulted in rendering millions of minute bottles from above so that one could visualise that glass recycling helps the Earth to become more environmentally stable.”

Jhetam from TGRC concludes: “The visualisation of glass recycling and its positive link to creating a sustainable world was done in so much detail, so that one can see that action is needed in order to bring about change.”

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Cera-Jane Catton
Cera-Jane Catton is a writer and journalist with years of experience in community newspapers, blogging and freelance journalism. She has worked in a cache of capacities, often finding herself behind or in front of the cameras, intentionally and less so. She has been a stunt double in two Bollywood movies, has worked in various capacities on a number of natural history documentaries, and other international productions shot in South Africa. Cera is a former Screen Africa journalist.


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