Show Don’t Tell 

February 12, 2012 7:37 pm

Tags: 3D, Adobe, After Effects, C4D, CINEMA 4D, MAXON, Meleah Maynard, MoGraph

New York City-based Beehive offers a glimpse at the magic behind creativity

The creative process is nearly impossible to explain. But that never stops people from trying to get to the heart of it. Where does inspiration come from? How are ideas realized? Words just don’t do these kinds of questions justice. But visuals, well, that’s another story. And New York City-based Beehive’s imaginative promo spot goes a long way toward offering a glimpse of what creativity in the making might look like.

Many elements in the Beehive spot were modeled from scratch using C4D, and others, such as the gramophone,
were purchased as stock and modified. MoGraph was used to help create the lush array of plants.

“Our goal was to design a rich environment, something magical and filmic that reflected the organic nature of Beehive’s name,” recalls Ada Whitney, the design house’s creative director. Using MAXON’s CINEMA 4D, they created a “kind of beehive workshop” complete with honey, bees, mushrooms and waterfalls. “We kept thinking about how wonderful it would be to go down into a hole and discover a universe where all kinds of creative stuff is made,” she continues. (Watch the spot:

Creating the spot’s dark, atmospheric look was challenging for the Beehive creative team, and getting plants
(besides the mushrooms) to look real took a “really restrained hand,” says art director Marcelo Cardoso.

How is it made? By a little TV-like machine with arms equipped with all sorts of tools like magnifying glasses and film counters, of course. Curiously, the machine runs on honey pouring slowly down from an unseen source above. “As we modeled different elements, we kept playing around with different things that spoke to the process of the work we do for television,” explains art director Marcelo Cardoso. “We especially liked the magnifying glass because it adds more to the message of how you have to look at things closely to get them right.” (Check out Beehive’s reel:

Getting the camera to move smoothly and naturally through the short, narrow cave was the biggest challenge Beehive faced, says Cardoso. “We animated the camera along a spline, which was a nice way to control it as it moves through all the tight spaces.” It also took quite a bit of finessing to get the honey going into the TV to look realistic.

Beehive’s name was hand drawn on the piece of wood they shot for the beginning of the spot.

Footage of the honey being poured was shot on green screen with a Canon 5D. “It took a long time because we had to keep putting the honey back into the refrigerator so it would move slowly enough, but it couldn’t get so cold that it wouldn’t flow,” Whitney says. Getting the lighting right on the viscous fluid was tricky too because of its semi-transparency.

Mushrooms, moss and other vegetation in the cave were modeled in C4D. Grass that the TV is sitting on was made using CINEMA 4D’s Hair. “It was the first time we had created grass natively using C4D, and we’re really happy about how it turned out,” Cardoso says. To animate the mushrooms, which sway gently to and fro, the Beehive team used a bend deformer. Shrubbery, which moves in a more fluid way, was rigged to enable it to bend. Background textures were created using Projection Man, and After Effects was used for compositing.

Lights assigned to individual objects and gobos were used to make it look as if shafts of sunlight were coming into the cave from above.

Several artists contributed to the promo in between other jobs they were working on. So Beehive kept things moving by splitting the project into a lot of individual CINEMA 4D elements. Saved as Xrefs, they were slowly swapped into the main C4D file over time. “Being able to split the project into Xref components was really helpful because we could all work independently whenever we were free,” Cardoso explains, adding that it took about three weeks to complete the promo from start to finish.

From the initial birdcalls and cricket songs, to the soft, mechanized whirring and creaking of the honey-fueled TV, sound design plays a key role in creating the magic of this spot. “We used Soundtrack Pro and tried different sounds from stock libraries before choosing this organic sound design,” explains Cardoso. “It was a really fun project to work on.”

Editor's Note: Be sure to check out the following related links:

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Meleah Maynard is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Contact her at her website:



February 13, 2012

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