Blind Uses CINEMA 4D to Create a Magical 3D World for Bright House Networks
When Santa Monica-based Blind was hired to do four TV spots promoting Bright House Networks’ HD digital cable, high-speed internet and digital phone service bundles for its Orlando, Florida, customers, the first thing the design and animation studio did was think up fun ways to bring the common household products to life. Turning to pop-up books and origami for inspiration, Blind came up with a cast of paper figurines to look as if they were made by hand, though they were actually built in 3D using MAXON’s CINEMA 4D. “We wanted to create the illusion of a hand-crafted world to encompass the Bright House products and brand to make the campaign standout and engage the viewer,” says director Tom Koh, who has been using C4D for four years.
Though everything looks as if it were made of folded paper, all of the elements in the four spots Blind made for Bright House Networks were created in 3D using MAXON’s CINEMA 4D.
It was Fry Hammond Barr, an Orlando ad agency, who asked Blind to do a pitch for the project, having worked with them on a previous job. Though the other project was very different, mostly “2D and After Effects,” Koh says, Blind’s original ideas made them the top choice. Storyboards were all created in C4D, as well as pre-visualizations that included a basic animation to block out camera moves and objects in each scene. Final compositing was done in After Effects.
They were given a straightforward goal: showcase the Bright House products in a way that brought them to life in a clean, white world. So Blind (www.blind.com) was in the enviable position of having a lot of creative freedom. “We initially developed a variety of directions in both a graphic and 3d realm. They were very gravitated towards exploring dimensional elements,” Koh recalls, “because Bright House spots aired in such frequency, they wanted something that would not only stand out but continually maintain viewer interest.”
Even the lettering used in the Bright House spots was intended to look handmade, says Tom Koh, Blind’s director on the project. “We textured 3D type with a folded paper material so it would feel like it was made by hand like all the other elements,” he explains.
Blind had about two and a half weeks to work on each of the 30-second spots. Four 2D animators and four 3D animators contributed to the project that Koh describes as a realization of a stylistic direction he’s been crafting. “This kind of project incorporates 3D in a very practical way. This is something I’m really drawn to,” he explains. “I’m interested in the challenge of depicting a reality that strikes the imagination.”
The crowd in this scene was created using photos that were imported into CINEMA 4D and cloned using the MoGraph Module. While the laptop was modeled, its keyboard was simply textured to save time.
In the spot for the TV and Road Runner bundle, for example, the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” playing on a flat screen serves as the backdrop for a scene that includes two battling pirate ships converging on an island complete with a treasure chest guarded by a giant octopus. Just off shore, a green shark comes up out of the water, its mouth full of jagged teeth. Everything looks like it’s been meticulously folded out of paper. In truth, the pirate ships’ tattered sails were made by crumpling paper (and tearing tiny holes in some parts), scanning it in and texturing it on top of 3D planes.
Depth of field in this 3D scene was created using the depth pass in After Effects.
The octopus, shark and the ships are all 3D, too, though they look real enough to have been shot on a tabletop. For the smoke trail coming from the paper rocket ship that ends the spot, Blind’s artist used the spline effector and cloner object, part of MAXON’s MoGraph module. All of the elements for each scene had to pass one, simple critique, Koh says: did they look and feel real enough? “That was the constant question we’d ask ourselves,” he recalls. “if what we had created in 3D was something that you or I could fold and make, if not, it fell short of our creative standard, so we would hit the drawing board to add in a fold or take out geometry.”
This screenshot shows how the crumpled paper used for the sails was mapped onto the same plane for both ships. Textures were created in both C4D and Photoshop.
A scene from the movie “Death Race” plays in the background of the spot for Bright House Network’s Triple HD bundle, setting the tone for the 3D car chase going on below. All of the cars, including one decked out with monster-truck-rally-like teeth, were modeled from scratch in CINEMA 4D using reference images the team collected. Above the action, a 3D helicopter (also made in an origami style) follows the path of the cars. “We collaborated closely with John Logan, Fry Hammond Barr’s creative director and copywriter, on the look,” Koh explains, adding that Logan was especially interested in bringing the origami/pop-up book style to the project. “Once we figured out the design approach, we explored the gamut to define each of the scenes and stories.” (Watch the spots on Blind’s Web site: http://www.blind.com/work/commercials/bright-house-network-bundles-campaign)
All of the vehicles in the car chase scenes were made from scratch using C4D. “Creating each vehicle was a fun exploration of joining inspiration from various car designs,” says Koh.
The decision to go with 3D rather than shooting the project on a tabletop turned out to be a good one for many reasons, Koh says. Not only was Blind able to get a more interesting stylized look with 3D, they were able to maintain a greater sense of collaboration and flexibility with the client on the project that allowed them to maximize creative freedom while working on a tight deadline. “MoGraph was especially helpful because it allowed us to tackle different types of problems like smoke from the rocket ship and a crowd simulation in ways that felt organic rather than canned,” he continues before adding that the team used a Mac platform for this project with the machines being used as a render farm at night. The average render time per scene was two to four hours.
The rocket ship’s smoke path was made using MAXON’s MoGraph module. Everything in the scene was modeled with the only post work being color correction.
CINEMA 4D fit smoothly into Blind’s pipeline for this project on which they also used Adobe Illustrator and After Effects, as well as Photoshop. “When output a 3D scene using Multi-Pass, I have everything I need as separated layers to create a complete composite,” Koh explains. “if I have a need to re-render something it can be as easy outputting a single pass to update the composite.” He also found it helpful that C4D could be used easily with Illustrator to generate paths for objects. Currently at work on a second round of spots for Bright House, Koh says his entire team is pleased with the “creative disctinction” they were able to bring to the project using 3D and they plan to explore more ways of doing this in the future.
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Meleah Maynard is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Contact her at her website: www.slowdog.com
February 1, 2010
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