Here's How They Get The California Cows To Talk In Those Commercials

poor dumb cowGot CGI?

Photo: Flickr/JelleS

Although the rumour was that producers of the classic TV show “Mr. Ed” got the horse to talk by putting peanut butter in his mouth (it was really via a nylon string), the team at Deutsch LA goes through a significantly more rigorous process when getting real cows to “talk” in the famously happy California Cows’ ads for milk.When debuting a new, comedic spot for the California Milk Advisory Board—directed by Fred Savage from The Wonder Years, no less—Deutsch LA also revealed its complex method to make it look like the cows are really talking.

We have a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to get the cows to start gabbing.

Meet Gil Baron, the VFX supervisor on the ads. He is responsible for getting the cows to talk.

First things first: Get a real cow.

Preferably wearing a shower cap.

The team uses several real cows, one per commercial.

The team puts blue dot stickers on the cow's face that can be tracked by a computer. They'll eventually be edited out.

The next step is tracking. The blue dots are used to line the virtual cow up with the real cow.

And after that comes modelling

The model uses lines and squares to make a surface. A cow mould, if you will.

That way designers can build on fur, colour, etc.

It looks like this.

It's not just about animating the mouth. Eye animation is important, too.

And then there's cheeks and jowls. The agency doesn't want it to look like only the mouth is moving. The whole cow must move organically.

And finally there's compositing, which evens out the colouring of the shot.

And there you have it. Cows can talk.

And here's a video showing how they did it:

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