December 4th, 2014

Sainsbury’s recently trumped the 2014 Christmas charts with their #Christmasisforsharing campaign, led by director Ringan Ledwidge’s touching dramatization of the WW1 1914 Christmas Truce.

The ad, created by AMV in association with Sainsbury’s and The Royal British Legion, was part of a fitting tribute to the centenary commemorations marking the start of the First World War. It documents a day in the life of a young British soldier who dares to venture from his trench into No Man's Land to greet his rivals and come together in a football game. He shares a moment of connection with a young German soldier and, as the truce ends and they return to their trenches, the German soldier is moved to discover that his British friend has hidden the gift of a chocolate bar in his pocket.

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Director Ringan Ledwidge

In touching on such a momentus world event, it was key that director Ringan Ledwidge remained sensitive and true to the original story, with as many historical accuracies as possible. He comments: “There's no one specific account of the moment, so I based the story on various soldier’s letters. The important thing to me was stay true to the spirit of the moment and what it meant to the soldiers on the Western Front.

“To ensure the detail was as accurate as possible, we did extensive amounts of research. The image most of us have of WW1 is that of mud and water filled trenches, but that came later in the war. Come Christmas Eve it was extremely cold, the ground frozen and the soldiers resting and waiting for spring to start fighting again. Their uniforms were spotless as their days were about waiting and keeping your uniform and weapons clean as a way of staying occupied.”

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The Mill’s VFX team helped bring the ad to life by seamlessly comping in a series of backgrounds and matte paintings to transport the soldiers back to 1914 No Man's Land. Lead matte painter Aurelian Ronceray explains: "We used reference photos of trenches, burned and dying trees, foggy landscapes and No Man's Land to start building up a concept look, which once approved, we set to apply to all shots in order to make the players seem like they were amidst war-torn winter on the Western Front.

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"For the first section of the ad, we used classic 2D extensions with assets gathered from the shoot that we were able to re-use in our DMP as well as hand painted elements such as dead trees. The strong library of assets was key in creating a historically accurate and aesthetically pleasing matte painting.

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"As the football game consists of a range of shots and camera moves, we chose to re-create the environment using 3D. From this 3D scene, we were able to render out a huge DMP that we then projected into a sphere using Nuke. Each shot was then linked to this sphere using the correct camera angles, 3D tracking and roto. This enabled quick changes to be made to one matte painting, which could then in-turn update all shots at once.”

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Ringan adds, “It was a real honour to pay respect to those that endured or died during the WW1 and I hope that in some small way the film has done that.”

The advert was made in partnership with The Royal British Legion to mark Sainsbury's 20 years of support for the Legion, raising over £4.5million pounds alone in 2013. The chocolate bar featured in the advert is now on sale at Sainsbury's with 100% of profit from each block being donated to the Legion.

Watch the film below and learn more about the extraordinary historic event on The Royal British Legion's website.