ENVY Advertising has collaborated with 4Creative to create the Dubai sponsorship idents for this year’s Grand National. Combining footage shot on location with CGI balloons, the final result is pair of idents depicting a hot air balloon race in the skies above the Dubai desert.
The idents ran both immediately before and after the race; the first wishing luck to all the runners, with the second congratulating this year’s winner, Rule the World. With 40 horses competing in the race, and no way of predicting the winner, ENVY had to prepare an ident for every single horse that competed, totalling over forty individual films.
Alongside director Brian Harrington, each department worked closely together to create the visually striking idents that aired to an estimated audience or ten million viewers. Dean Wyles, Senior VFX Artist at ENVY Advertising, comments: “It really was a wonderful team effort. One of the biggest challenges we faced, and one that I particularly enjoyed, was creating a dramatic, realistic and visually striking ident in which virtually everything was created or enhanced in post-production.”
The balloons were a fully CG build that utilised the skills of ENVY’s CG department; the offline guide was created by editor Kel McKeown before colourist Danny Wood graded the film in Baselight, with Flame then used to stabilise the shots, create the cityscape scene, replace the skies, and plan the position and movements of the new balloons. 
Based on a reference supplied by the director, the balloon’s skins were designed by Matt Lawrence, Head of Design, and then passed on to CG artist Caspian Graca Da Silva. Additional balloons were modelled, textured, lit, and tracked into every scene in Maya, additional passengers were added to baskets, and everything was pre-comped in Nuke.
Final compositing was completed in Flame by senior VFX artist Wyles, with each balloon individually graded into the scene where haze texture, flare and flames were added to create realistic depth. To cover the different coloured silks of the potential winners, 45 different versions of the hero balloon shot were created, all designed in After FX by Andrew Niven and composited in Flame by Martin Waller. 
Director Brian Harrington comments: “To echo the excitement and grandeur of The Grand National, we decided that an equally epic approach would be the way to go with these idents. Showcasing the wide desert vistas of Dubai from the air, we shot a hot air balloon in situ and got the VFX wizards at ENVY Advertising to add the rest. I knew things were moving on nicely when I was no longer able to tell the difference between the real balloons the 3D creations.”
Director: Brian Harrington
Producer: Charlie Bettice
Creative Agency: 4Creative
Sound Design: Rich Martin
Offline Editor: Kel McKeown
ENVY Team:
Producer: Pete Winslett
Colourist: Danny Wood
CG: Caspian Graca Da Silva
2D Design: Matt Lawrence & Any Niven
Flame: Dean Wyles & Martin Waller
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