Motion Theory Gives Generative Art a Human Touch for IBM

March 21, 2010 11:43 pm

Tags: Adobe, After Effects, Autodesk, CINEMA 4D, MAXON, Maya, Motion Theory

Scientific Data is Transformed into a Unique Visual Language in 'Data Baby,' Directed by Mathew Cullen for Ogilvy & Mather/NY


Venice, CA -- March 16, 2010 -- Creative production studio Motion Theory applies generative art techniques into a new TV commercial for IBM via ad agency Ogilvy & Mather/New York. Directed by Motion Theory's Mathew Cullen, the :30 spot "Data Baby" is part of IBM's "Smarter Planet" campaign and incorporates data-driven design derived from a newborn's vital signs to convey that IBM's technologies help analyze data to build smarter hospitals. "Data Baby" broke on network television on March 14.


"We wanted to convey to people that we now have the computational power and advanced analytics to see data in new ways so we can make sense of it to help build a smarter planet," said Tom Godici, Executive Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather/NY. "We knew Motion Theory had a lot of experience with generative art, turning mathematical algorithms into dynamic natural patterns, and could work with us to find the most compelling ways possible of visualizing actual data."


The cornerstone of the "Smarter Planet" campaign is a new visual language developed collectively by the director, designers and code artists at Motion Theory. The team built custom code that translates spreadsheets of raw numerical data derived, in the case of "Data Baby," from a newborn's respiratory, heart rate, blood pressure, EKG, oxygen saturation and temperature readings into motion paths that move and evolve design elements organically across image sequences.


In the spot, patterns gently float up in-frame, seemingly from the surface of a newborn baby resting in a neonatal ward. Ethereal CG life patterns, fractal-like shapes and other visual expressions flow upwards to form a stylized mobile that is captured as a reflection in the baby's eye. These beautiful design elements warmly envelop the baby, delivering an authentic visual representation of the myriad pieces of data made available to doctors with the help of IBM technology. This is data, as the spot conveys, that helps doctors treat babies more effectively and build smarter hospitals.


Production on "Data Baby" spanned January through March 2010. R&D included bringing on board a medical consultant, developing custom code to process and visualize data, and implementing a workflow for importing camera motion paths and tracking, curves, and models of the baby to match the exact movements of four infants filmed live on set. Cullen directed and oversaw a three-day live-action shoot in LA, teaming up once again with Academy Award-winning DP Guillermo Navarro, a longtime Motion Theory collaborator whose feature film credits include "Pan's Labyrinth," "The Devil's Backbone" and "Hellboy." Production, VFX, editorial and finishing was handled in-house at Motion Theory. In addition to C++ code developed for this campaign, the production toolkit included Autodesk Maya, MAXON CINEMA 4D, Adobe After Effects and The Foundry's Nuke.


"Our challenge for 'Data Baby' and IBM's overall campaign is to strike a balance between artfulness and an accurate representation of technological data. It took extensive R&D and a unique production pipeline that included a specialized team of programmers helping to visualize mass authentic real world data sets," said Cullen. "'Data Baby' is at its essence a spot that seeks to humanize data and reinforce the comforting presence of science and human interconnectedness. It's the most challenging generative project we've ever done and the culmination of our almost 10 years working with scientific visualizations and programming art."

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Motion Theory's 'Data Baby' spot for IBM

About Motion Theory

Motion Theory is a creative production studio that unites the efforts of directors, animators, designers, visual effects artists and writers, resulting in a deeply collaborative approach to creative development, filmmaking, design and innovative visual effects.

Motion Theory has delivered work for some of the world's leading companies, including IBM, Disney, Nintendo, Budweiser, Honda, Nike, Hewlett Packard, Tanqueray, Lexus, and Universal Music Group and partnered with top advertising agencies, including Wieden+Kennedy, Ogilvy & Mather, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, Leo Burnett and Young & Rubicam. Additionally, leading artists, including Weezer, Green Day, Beck, Adele and REM have sought out the studio's directors to create music videos.

The studio has been recognized for its groundbreaking projects, receiving awards from the AICP, Grammys, AIGA, Art Directors Club, Clios, and D&AD awards for outstanding direction, creative design, animation and multi-channel work. For more information, please visit

IBM"Smarter Planet"
Title: "Data Baby"
Length: 30 seconds
Air date: 3.11.10 cable
3.14.10 network

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather/NY
Executive Producer: Lee Weiss
Associate Producer: Rich Fiset
Sr. Partner/Worldwide ECD: Susan Westre
Sr. Partner/ECD: Tom Godici, Greg Ketchum
Creative Director: Rob Jamieson, Chris Van Oosterhout

Production Company: Motion Theory
Director: Mathew Cullen
Executive Producer: Javier Jimenez
Line Producer: John Marx
Director of Photography: Guillermo Navarro

VFX Company: Motion Theory
Creative Directors: Kaan Atilla, Mathew Cullen
Producer: Patrick Nugent
VFX Supervisor: John Fragomeni
Art Director: Angela Zhu
Design Leads: Paul B. Kim, Satomi Nagata
Designers: Heidi Berg, Leanne Dare, Kenneth Lee
Onset FX Supervisor: Sean Looper, Trevor Tuttle
3D/Nuke FX Lead: Marion Spates
3D/Lighting Lead: Trevor Tuttle
Pre-visualization: Trevor Tuttle
3D Artists/Animators: Brandon Lester, Gil Hacco, Casey Hupke, John Robson
Matchmover: Joe Cullen
Comp Lead: Danny Koenig
Compositors: Andrew Ashton, Chris Riehl, Daniel Raschko, John Stanch, Dorian West
Code Artist Supervisor: Keith Pasko
Lead Code Artist: Josh Nimoy
Code Artists: CJ Cenizal, Ekene Ijeoma, Jeremy Rotsztain
Finishing: Danny Yoon
Rotoscope Artists: Megan Gaffney, Gil Hacco, Rob Liscombe, Eva Snyder
Production Manager/HR Director: Tina Van Delden
Production Coordinator: Paul Pianezza
Production Assistant: Sarah Smith
Medical Consultant: Kathlynn Michelle Dominguez, MD, MPH

Editorial Company: String
Editor: Jeff Consiglio
Assistant Editors: Jeff Aquino

Sound Design Company: Sound Lounge
V/O: Forest Whitaker
Music track: "Boatfriends" by Black Moth Super Rainbow
Executive Music Producer: Karl Westman

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Article Comments

infinity10 ( posted at 3:49AM Mon, 22 March 2010

Lovely. Great novel concept. I love the entire outcome.

shyliekee ( posted at 6:07PM Tue, 23 March 2010

I love it! Such visual! I also wanted to 'pop' the bubbles and hold the baby. ;]

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