Filmworkers’ applied its visual effects wizardry to an ambitious new campaign from State Farm and DDB, Chicago, featuring classic characters from Saturday Night Live.

One spot, breaking the first week of the NFL season, features Kevin Nealon and Dana Carvey reprising their ‘90s SNL characters Hans and Franz. The pair employ hilarious means to “pump up” State Farm Discount Double Check spokesperson Aaron Rodgers, including having him tow a tank across a desert and paddle a kayak while they water ski.

For both the desert and water skiing scenes, Nealon, Carvey and Rodgers were shot against green screen and composited into background environments by Filmworkers’ VFX team, Churchill Studio. Creative director Rob Churchill personally shot footage of a Wisconsin lake as background for the kayak scene. The desert scene, meanwhile, was created with background photography of the California desert and a CGI model of an M-1 tank. “We replicated the tank right down to the weld marks on the side panels,” notes Churchill. “You would never know that it isn’t real.”

The water skiing scene required skillful finessing. Rodgers, who was shot in a kayak in a water tank, had to be placed into the lake in proper scale and appear to paddle across it in 3D space. Nealon and Carvey, who were also shot in the water tank, had to be oriented in the background scene in a similar manner. Churchill helped to sell the effect by adding ripples to the water that appear to be caused by Rodgers’ kayak.

Animators and compositors employed similar detail-minded care in placing the CGI tank into the desert. Creative Director Daniel Pernikoff attended the live action shoot with Rodgers and the SNL stars in order to provide VFX advice and gather lighting and camera data. During post, artists created 3D geometry of the scene and projection mapped the desert environment onto it. That gave the scene dimension and made it possible to mirror the camera moves used when shooting the talent.

“We used the background shot like a matte painting,” recalls Pernikoff. “I painted in clouds and color corrected the foreground elements to make it look like Aaron is running in the desert. We added smoke and dust. It was fun bringing the scene to life.”

Filmworkers also provided editorial compositing and color correction services for the campaign.

The State Farm campaign is one of the largest and most complex projects to date for Filmworkers’ newly expanded visual effects and animation team. “We have capability and the depth and the resources to do this work quickly,” observes Churchill. “We have a great team of very talented artists and our aim is to partner with agencies in order to bring their ideas to life.”

Filmworkers is located at 232 E. Ohio St. Penthouse, Chicago, IL 60611. For more information, call (312) 664-9333 or visit