Category Archives: 3D

Chris Hill & Sami Tahari

Imaginary Forces expands with EP Chris Hill and director of biz dev Sami Tahari

Imaginary Forces has added executive producer Chris Hill and director of business development Sami Tahari to its Los Angeles studio. The additions come at a time when the creative studio is looking to further expand their cross-platform presence with projects that mix VR/AR/360 with traditional, digital and social media.

Celebrating 20 years in business this year, the independently owned Imaginary Forces is a creative company specializing in brand strategy and visual storytelling encompassing many disciplines, including full-service design, production and post production. Being successful for that long in this business means they are regularly innovating and moving where the industry takes them. This led to the hiring of Hill and Tahari, whose diverse backgrounds will help strengthen the company’s long-standing relationships, as well as its continuous expansion into emerging markets.

Recent work of note includes main titles for Netflix’s beloved Stranger Things, the logo reveal for Michael Bay’s Transformers: The Last Knight and an immersive experience for the Empire State Building.

Hill’s diverse production experience includes commercials, experience design, entertainment marketing and branding for such clients as HBO Sports, Google, A&E and the Jacksonville Jaguars, among others. He joins Imaginary Forces after recently presiding over the broadcast division of marketing agency BPG.

Tahari brings extensive marketing, business and product development experience spanning the tech and entertainment spaces. His resume includes time at Lionsgate and Google, where he was an instrumental leader in the creative development and marketing of Google Glass.

“Imaginary Forces has a proven ability to use design and storytelling across any medium or industry,” adds Hill. “We can expand that ability to new markets, whether it’s emerging technologies, original content or sports franchises. When you consider, for example, the investment in massive screens and new technologies in stadiums across the country, it demands [that] same high level of brand strategy and visual storytelling.”

Our Main Image: L-R: Chris Hill and Sami Tahari.

China’s online video network Youku calls on Nokia’s Ozo ecosystem for VR  

One of the largest online video platforms in China, Youku, has chosen the Nokia Ozo VR ecosystem of technologies to create and distribute immersive VR content to more than 500 million monthly active users. Their platform features daily views of more than 1.1 billion.

Youku will use the entire Ozo VR solution, which includes the Ozo Camera, Ozo Software Suite, Ozo Live and Ozo Player SDK, in the creation and distribution of content ranging from film and television to news and documentaries, as well as professional user-generated content featuring Youku’s top talent.

Youku will integrate Nokia’s Ozo Player SDK and Ozo Audio solutions into all its platforms, mobile apps and consumer offerings, enabling its enormous audience to enjoy 3D 360-degree VR. The Ozo Player SDK allows VR pros to create VR app experiences on most major platforms with a single, unified development interface.

Full-featured reference players are also included in the SDKfor all supported platforms — including Oculus Desktop, Oculus Mobile/GearVR, HTC Vive and Google VR for Android and iOS. The multi-platform Ozo Player SDK is now available in a free version as well as a Pro tier with more features and larger deployment options.

 

Dell 6.15
The Famous Grouse

Putting The Famous Grouse into CG environs for holiday spots

By Randi Altman

Flaunt Productions in Glasgow teamed up with the Leith Agency on a two-spot campaign for the Scottish blended whisky brand, The Famous Grouse. Heading the effort was director Ben Craig and Flaunt’s head of lighting, Jon Neill — they were tasked with putting the iconic grouse into a CG version of his natural environment for these holiday-themed ads.

The first spot, Perfectly Balanced, was released earlier this month and takes the viewer on a flight through the Scottish Highlands to reveal the Grouse with his chest puffed out and feeling proud of his environment. The second commercial, called Smooth, which aired the week of Black Friday, starts as the camera spins through the snowy Scottish Highlands.

flauntTo create the cinematic photoreal landscape, Neill and some of the team shot drone footage in Glencoe, which allowed real-life textures to be applied to the CG world.

In order to create a realistic grouse, Flaunt applied a feather system based on a fur and procedural shader that gave on organic look to the model. When it came to movement of the body and wing feathers, specific movements had to be animated to give a sense of realistic movement and the personality that is associated with the Famous Grouse.

We reached out to executive producer Andrew Pearce about the project and its workflow…

Photo:Mike Scott

Andrew Pearce

How early did you get involved in the project? Was the agency up for suggestions, or did they already have a specific plan locked in?
Director Ben Craig worked with Flaunt on a creative treatment, based on scripts from The Leith Agency. Their central idea was to bring the much-loved Grouse into his home environment: the epic, sweeping Scottish Highlands. Previously, all ads had been set against an infinite white background. With that in mind, we worked collaboratively with the agency to bring the ads to life.

The first stage after treatment would normally be storyboard. However, because our camera move was so extreme, we felt a 2D animatic would be misleading, so we proceeded straight to previs.

You used drone footage for the Grouse’s environment. How did you go about turning it into CG?
We drove up to the Glencoe ski resort and jumped onto the ski lift to get as high as possible. After a 30-minute walk, we attached a camera to the drone and sent it up into the sky — 360 overlapping stills were taken at three different heights.

We merged the images together to create a 360-panorama and applied this to geometry in Autodesk Maya. From there we rendered out the shot with this background, making creative decisions on what to add or take away. Next, we made simple 3D hills on which to project the images, thus providing parallax and a three-dimensional feel.

Was Maya your main animation software? Did you write your own particle systems off of that? What other tools were used?
Maya was used for animation, Side Effects Houdini for FX, Houdini Mantra for lighting and Nuke for compositing. We also had to write a feather system for the Grouse, which worked inside Houdini.

Can you talk about giving the Grouse personality in the CG world? What about facial (or beak) expressions, and his eyes and movements?
For these adverts, the Grouse was in a real-world environment. With that in mind, we didn’t want to go over the top with cartoony animation. The realism of the Grouse asset wouldn’t support that style, but we needed to give the Grouse some character beyond that of a real one.

Real grouse faces don’t move that much, and we didn’t want to change the anatomy too much. So we used the eyebrows and eyes as much as we could. Our rig also enabled us to exaggerate the shape of the eyes and eyebrows beyond the norm. These subtle anatomical exaggerations were enough for us to push the facial animation enough to engage the viewer.

When it came to the motions of the Grouse, we had to tread a fine line between realistic and anthropomorphic — fans of this brand love how it has moved in previous campaigns. We created various versions of all the actions as we honed in on the motion we wanted. The Grouse’s wink at the end of one of the adverts was the product of many iterations, having explored head tilts, nods, lifts, raised eyebrows and so on.

Before we leave you, anything you would like to add?
We had to strike a balance between a look that was both realistic and magical. This was partly achieved by mashing up some of the most incredible landscapes in Scotland. To augment the magical feel, we added lens flares and camera lens aberrations in the compositing. Subtle pollen particles were also added to give a sense of space as we flew through the environment.

Check out the making of the video here.


Behind the Title: Broadcast Designer/3D Artist Sophia Kyriacou

NAME: London-based Sophia Kyriacou

COMPANY: I’m a freelancer, but split my time working for the BBC in London as well.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE KIND OF WORK YOU DO?
Mostly broadcast design creation, but I’m looking to branch out into features as well.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Broadcast designer and 3D artist

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
I design everything from opening titles, content graphics, 3D explainers to program designs and program branding projects. I design for a variety of genres and age groups.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Directing shoots for opening titles sequences or content work. Some clients think motion designers only sit in front of a computer all day working digitally, and for some, that is the case and it’s absolutely fine. However, our work does also include directing or co-directing, especially if the work you are creating is footage-based — a combination that needs heavy post or simply making sure you have the required shots you need from your client approved storyboard.

It is essential for designers to be part of the process and work with everyone on the shoot, especially the director of photography, to discuss lighting and composition and make sure you get all the shots you need. Decreasing budgets over the years has naturally impacted this valuable skill and, sadly, some designers have never even had the chance to experience directing, forcing creation to be computer-based from start to finish.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I’ve always enjoyed seeing the creative process through with my client. They are key to the process and should always be made to feel part of it. While everything I create is for a client and their audience, there is no denying that what the customer needs must always be paramount.

Understanding your target audience is very important, and as a designer you must always bear in mind that while you want to create a strong body of work, you are never designing for yourself.

Looking for Safe Shores

“Looking for Safe Shores” courtesy of the UNHCR.

What I also love about my work is the variety and the creative satisfaction I get from bringing visually engaging sequences to life. While I am always learning something new, I will never let myself be dictated by faddy design trends and popular plug-ins. For me, the concept is my focus — strong ideas with appropriately strong execution.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Having to make a call when tweaks are beyond what is considered as acceptable. With any project you take on, one to two reasonable tweaks are very much part of the process, and it’s a good thing as projects can dramatically improve. If clients want endless tweaks beyond the initial budget for free, that’s not good at all. Nobody should be expected to keep tweaking endlessly for free, so I am very firm with that.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
The morning! Working sensibly is very important, and I find that not only do I create my best ideas at the earliest part of the day I am at my most productive as well.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
This is a tricky question, as the creative world has been very much embedded and a part of my life for an incredibly long time. There are many areas I have an interest in, but possibly a career in science and technology… an inventor perhaps?!

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I was always been interested in art, way before my age hit double figures. For me, painting and drawing was natural and something I wanted to do and learn out of my own choice. My interest in art then grew into design and photography.

One thing started to influence the other, and once I started my training, that expanded to include advertising and animation as well. It was my passion for studio photography that inspired me into the moving image. I simply wanted to make my photography move, so one day I took the Super 16mm Bolex film camera out of retirement from the photographic studio and took it to the Film Stock Centre in Wardour Street, which sadly is closed down now. I held it up and asked the staff, “What film do I need?” I then loaded it up and off I went.

I never believed in rules. I always wanted my film graded my way so that it was aesthetically pleasing and not the way that was considered technically correct. This was simply because I wanted my film to look a certain way and play a role in the concept. I was, and still am, a firm believer that if you know less about something, it has a bigger influence in your end result because you never have pre-conceived ideas of where you are heading. There is something incredibly tactile about film that digital doesn’t give you.

As my work became more motion-based, I started to write scripts for animated shorts. I had hideously long journey’s traveling to and from art college every day, so I would write scripts on the bus and tube, sometimes laughing to myself as I read through them. I became very interested in narrative. Telling a story along a timeline is essentially what I do now, whether it is an opening title sequence for a show or an explainer for a variety of subjects and audiences; I’m essentially a storyteller using imagery and sound, and I love it.

Paper Town

Paper Town – Courtesy of BBC News

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
It’s hard to choose any one favorite, as they are all so different. A piece of work I created for the BBC, commissioned by the BBC Business Unit called Paper Town is probably one of my favorite BBC sequences. The overall process of modeling to the animation was so enjoyable and an effective technique too. It was also nominated for a PromaxBDA Global Excellence Award, and it changed my career path in a very positive way.

Another project I recently finished was for one of my private clients at Noon Visual Creatives. Called The Human Rights Zoetrope, it was an amazing project in many ways. It gave me the chance to get absorbed into the concept and build a fully functional 3D zoetrope, which is something I’ve always wanted to do in 3D. The Human Rights Zoetrope also recently won Gold at the Muse Creative Awards 2016

The Human Rights Zoetrope.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
It has got to be The Human Rights Zoetrope. While I have not been freelancing very long, it was the first project I was awarded as a creative independent. That aside, I am very proud of all my achievements, including the BBC, but this was a special moment for me. It’s about getting the recognition on your own and that really does taste very sweet.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My iPhone. I love my phone, keeping track of my emails and social media is incredibly important, especially when you are self-employed and have to constantly market yourself.

I love my Mac Pro and my new rendering PC. Having reliable kit is essential. I will most likely add another PC workstation to my rendering family soon, but for large-scale processor-heavy rendering, I would use an external renderfarm.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I have a Facebook page that I use to plug anything new and reinforce projects I feel proud of. I have a steady stream of followers, which is great.

I have started using Instagram again. I like Instagram because I’ve found that generally audiences respond immediately to eye-catching imagery. In a world where everything is becoming more and more fast paced, it is easier to like a strong static image than a video… unless you are a potential client. They would want to see my latest reel and other supporting motion sequences.

I really like Vimeo and Behance. YouTube is great, but because it’s so vast in scale it does have the tendency to attract some undesirables.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
Sometimes I do, yes. It all depends what I am creating. Music naturally influences art and design, so it can dramatically have an effect on an overall design at the concept stage.

I sometimes find playing uplifting music, like dance or R&B, while 3D modeling very therapeutic and it makes me work to a regular pace. Within my work I am mostly choreographing to sounds or music anyway, so music does play a huge part within the whole creating and building workflow.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I enjoy spending time with family and close friends. Stepping back is essential, not only for the sake of individual well-being, but who wants stale ideas? Everyone should take a breather to recharge physically and mentally. Giving yourself that timeout will only help promote the best creativity and outcome. Working when fatigued does not help anyone and only hinders the whole creative and production process. Even screen breaks will help you look at your work differently when you return to your workstation. When you stare at the screen too long you stop seeing what isn’t working. Screen breaks not only help rest your eyes, but also help to improve the whole design and creation process. I can’t stress how important it is, and it’s something I do take seriously.

Check out my reel!


Artifact helps goat breathe fire for Georgia Keno spots

Atlanta-based Artifact Design completed VFX and design work on The Fire King, the latest 30-second spot for Georgia Lottery Keno! via BBDO Atlanta. Playing on the popularity of medieval fantasy (we’re looking at you, Game of Thrones), this humorous spot features Kevin “the fire-breathing” Goat reprising his heroics from earlier campaigns.

The Fire King story follows Kevin’s quest for the throne in the land of 12 realms. Battles and cooking of meat ensue before he and his human sidekick, James, oust the sitting King Aragor with a fate-sealing blow: “Your dragon is no goat,” jokes James. The voiceover concludes with, “Be the king of your castle. Win $100,000 300 times a day playing Keno!”

Artifact has collaborated with BBDO Atlanta on the Georgia Lottery campaign for the past several years. Among the previous five spots, Kevin has been seen flying a fighter jet, and dueling with evil villains in a spy drama.

“The agency is really good about involving us during their pre-production process to ensure everything goes smoothly on set,” explains Artifact creative director Ryan Tuttle. “This is huge for us. By allowing open communication with the production team, director and DP we’re able to figure out exactly what we want to do on set so that we don’t waste time and, more importantly, achieve the best creative assets we can.”

Tuttle reports that VFX have always been crucial to making Kevin’s fire-breathing a reality “since it’s what usually gets him and James out of trouble, or saves the day. “Rather than rely on 3D simulation to create the fire, we partnered with the production company’s pyro team and created the effect practically,” he continues. “This approach has given us by far the most believable results ever since we began working on this campaign.”

The opening scene required extensive matte painted landscapes, as well as painstaking crowd duplication for the army. Perhaps the biggest challenge that Artifact overcame was the project’s fast turnaround of less than two weeks.

“This spot really does show how we can achieve the highest level of VFX and finishing services for our clients,” reports Tuttle. “It also demonstrates that we’re able to be part of a bigger team and work with the agency as well as other partners, from editorial, to color to sound. We also provided design and animation of the end-tags for these spots.”

For all the VFX comps, Artifact called on Flame. Design and animation was all handled in the Adobe Creative Suite, specifically After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator. According to the Artifact team, a very important piece of technology was a hard drive. Because of the quick turnaround time, they had to move quickly, especially for Scene One. They were able to work with a DIT on set and get all of the plates shot from the first scene and begin working almost immediately.

 


Sarofsky adds VFX/finishing artist Cory Davis, designer Dan Tiffany

Chicago-based Sarofsky, a design-heavy production company, has added creative VFX and finishing artist Cory Davis and designer Dan Tiffany to its staff. A Chicago-based freelance VFX artists for many years, Davis’ Sarofsky resume includes work on the title sequences for the Marvel’s Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange, as well as the main titles for TNT’s Animal Kingdom and a variety of Super Bowl ads. He is a BFA graduate of Ohio University and pursued advanced studies at The Illinois Institute of Art.

“Cory has been working with us for years now as our go-to finishing artist… and I really mean artist, because he is beyond a masterful technician,” says ECD Erin Sarofsky. “He is also a creative force with a distinct point of view.”

Tiffany has been freelancing for Sarofsky and other creative industry firms in Chicago since 2015. A BFA graduate of the Illinois Institute of Art, Tiffany began his career as an intern for creative agency Leviathan before landing a staff position with Daily Planet in 2011. Since going freelance, he has worked on high-profile commercial, broadcast and theatrical projects for Comcast, Leo Burnett and mcgarrybowen, to name but a few. He was also an integral part of Sarofsky’s design team behind the main titles for both Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange.

Main Title Caption (L-R) Cory Davis and Dan Tiffany.


AMD’s Radeon Pro WX series graphics cards shipping this month

AMD is getting ready to ship the Radeon Pro WX Series of graphics cards, the company’s new workstation graphics solutions targeting creatives pros. The Radeon Pro WX Series are AMD’s answer to the rise of realtime game engines in professional settings, the emergence of virtual reality, the popularity of new low-overhead APIs (such as DirectX 12 and Vulkan) and the rise of open-source tools and applications.

The Radeon Pro WX Series takes advantage of the Polaris architecture-based GPUs featuring fourth-generation Graphics Core Next (GCN) technology and engineered on the 14nm FinFET process. The cards have future-proof monitor support, are able to run a 5K HDR display via DisplayPort 1.4, include state-of-the-art multimedia IP with support for HEVC encoding and decoding and TrueAudio Next for VR, and feature cool and quiet operation with an emphasis on energy efficiency. Each retail Radeon Pro WX graphics card comes with 24/7, VIP customer support, a three-year limited warranty and now features a free, optional seven-year extended limited warranty upon product and customer registration.

Available November 10 for $799, the Radeon Pro WX 7100 graphics card offers 5.7 TFLOPS of single precision floating point performance in a single slot, and is designed for professional VR content creators. Equipped with 8GB GDDR5 memory and 36 compute units (2304 Stream Processors) the Radeon Pro WX 7100 is targeting high-quality visualization workloads.

Also available on November 10, for $399, the Radeon Pro WX 4100 graphics cards targets CAD professionals. The Pro WX 4100 breaks the 2 TFLOPS single precision compute performance barrier. With 4GB of GDDR5 memory and 16 compute units (1024 stream processors), users can drive four 4K monitors or a single 5K monitor at 60Hz, a feature which competing low-profile CAD focused cards in its class can’t touch.radeon

Available November 18 for $499, the Radeon Pro WX 5100 graphics card (pictured right) offers 3.9 TFLOPS of single precision compute performance while using just 75 watts of power. The Radeon Pro WX 5100 graphics card features 8GB of GDDR5 memory and 28 compute units (1792 stream processors) suited for high-resolution realtime visualization for industries such as automotive and architecture.

In addition, AMD recently introduced Radeon Pro Software Enterprise drivers, designed to combine AMD’s next-gen graphics with the specific needs of pro enterprise users. Radeon Pro Software Enterprise drivers offer predictable software release dates, with updates issued on the fourth Thursday of each calendar quarter, and feature prioritized support with AMD working with customers, ISVs and OEMs. The drivers are certified in numerous workstation applications covering the leading professional use cases.

AMD says it’s also committed to furthering open source software for content creators. Following news that later this year AMD plans to open source its physically-based rendering engine Radeon ProRender, the company recently announced that a future release of Maxon’s Cinema 4D application for 3D modeling, animation and rendering will support Radeon ProRender. Radeon ProRender plug-ins are available today for many popular 3D content creation apps, including Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya, and as beta plug-ins for Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks and Rhino. Radeon ProRender works across Windows, MacOS and Linux and supports AMD GPUs, CPUs and APUs as well as those of other vendors.


Super Hero music video gets Aardman Nathan Love treatment

The Aardman Nathan Love animation studio recently finished design and animation work on director Kris Merc’s music video for Super Hero, the leadoff single from Kool Keith’s new album Feature Magnetic that is a collaboration with MF Doom.

The video starts with a variety of hypnotic imagery, from eye charts to kaleidoscopic wheels, with Doom’s iconic, ever-rotating mask as its centerpiece.

“Being a huge fan of both Kool Keith and MF Doom for years, and knowing our studio had capacity to help Kris out, we couldn’t not get involved,” recalls Aardman Nathan Love (ANL) founder/executive creative director Joe Burrascano. “Kris was able to let his imagination run wild. ANL’s team of designers, 3D artists and technical directors gave him the support he needed to help shape his vision and make the final piece as strong and unique as possible.”

According to Merc, who’s helmed notable projects from music videos for hip-hop pioneers De La Soul to spots for HTC during his lengthy career, the Super Hero production afforded him the space to realize his vision of bending and manipulating pop aesthetics to create something altogether mysterious and otherworldly. “I wanted to capture something that felt like a visual pop travesty,” explains the director. “I wanted it to visually speak to the legacy of the artists, and Afrofuturism mixed with comic book concepts. I’m a fan of the unseen, and I was obsessed with the idea of using Doom’s mask and the iconography as a centralized point – as if time and space converged around these strange, sometimes magical tableaus and we were witnessing an ascension.”

To help develop his concepts, Merc worked closely with Aardman Nathan Love in several key stages of production from the idea and design stage to technical aspects like compositing and rendering. “Our specialty lies mainly in CG character animation work, which typically involves a lot of careful planning and development work up front,” adds ANL CG director Eric Cunha. “Kris has a very organic process, and is constantly finding inspiration for new and exciting ideas. The biggest challenge we faced was being able to respond to this constant flow of new ideas, and facilitate the growth of the piece. In the end, it was an exciting new challenge that pushed us to develop a new way of working that resulted in an amazing, visually fresh and creative piece of work.”

Zbrush was used to create some of the assets, and Autodesk Maya was Aardman Nathan Love’s main animation tool. Most of the rendering was done in Maxwell, aside of two or so shots that were done in Arnold.


The creative process behind The Human Rights Zoetrope

By Sophia Kyriacou

As an artist working in the broadcast industry of almost 20 years, I’ve designed everything from opening title sequences to program brands to content graphics. About three years into my career, I was asked to redesign a program entirely in 3D. The rest, as they say, is history.

Over two years ago I was working full-time at the BBC doing the same work as I am doing now, broadcast designer and 3D artist, but decided it was time to cut my time in half and allow myself to focus on my own creative ventures. I wanted to work with external and varied clients, both here in the UK and internationally. I also wanted to use my spare time for development work. In an industry where technology is constantly evolving it’s essential to keep ahead of the game.

One of those creative ventures was commissioned by Noon Visual Creatives — a London-based production and post company that serves several Arabic broadcasters in both the United Kingdom and worldwide — to create a television branding package for a program called Human Rights.

I had previously worked with Noon on a documentary about the ill-fated 1999 EgyptAir plane crash (which is still awaiting broadcast), so when I was approached again I was more than happy to create their Human Rights brand.

My Inspiration
I was very lucky in that my client essentially gave me free rein, which I find is a rarity these days. I have always been excited and inspired by the works of the creative illusionist M.C Escher. His work has always made me think and explore how you can hook your viewer by giving them something to unravel and interact with. His 1960 lithograph, called Ascending and Descending, was my initial starting point. There was something about the figures going round and round but getting nowhere.The Human Rights Zeotrope Titles

While Escher’s work kickstarted my creative process I also wanted to create something that was illusion-based, so I revisited Mark Gertler’s Merry-Go-Round. As a young art student I had his poster on my wall. Sometimes I would find myself staring at it for hours, looking at the people’s expressions and the movement Gertler had expressed in the figures with his onion-skin-style strokes. There was so much movement within the painting that it jumped out at me. I loved the contrasting colors of orange and blue, the composition was incredibly strong and animated.

I have always been fascinated by the mechanics of old hand-cranked metal toys, including zoetropes, and I have always loved how inanimate objects could come alive to tell you a story. It is very powerful. You have the control to be given the narrative or you can walk away from it — it’s about making a choice and being in control.

Once I had established I was going to build a 3D zoetrope, I explored the mechanics of building one. It was the perfect object to address the issue of human rights because without the trigger it would remain lifeless. I then starting digging into the declaration of Human Rights to put forward a proposal of what I thought would work within their program. I shortlisted 10 rights and culled that down to the final eight. Everything had to be considered. The positioning of the final eight had their own hierarchy and place.

At the base of the zoetrope are water pumps, signifying the right to clean water and sanitation. This is the most important element of the entire zoetrope, grounding the entire structure, as without water, there simply is no life, no existence. Above, a prisoner gestures for attention to the outside world, its environment completely contradicting, given hope by an energetic burst of comforting orange. The gavel references the rights for justice and are subliminally inspired by the hammers walking defiantly within the Pink Floyd video, Another Brick in the Wall. The gavel within the zoetrope becomes that monumental object of power, helped along by the dynamic camera with repetitions of itself staggered over time like echoes on a loop. Surrounding the gavel of justice is a dove flying free from a metal birdcage in a shape of the world. This was my reference to the wonderful book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou.

My client wanted to highlight the crisis of the Syrian refugees, so I decided to depict an exhausted child wearing a life jacket, suggesting he had travelled across the Mediterranean Sea, while a young girl at his side, oblivious, happily plays with a spinning top. I wanted to show the negativity being cancelled out by optimism.

To hammer home the feeling of isolation and emptiness that the lack of human rights brings forth, I placed the zoetrope into a cold and almost brutal environment: an empty warehouse. My theme of the positivity canceling out negativity once again is echoed as the sunlight penetrates through hitting the cold floor in an attempt to signify hope and reconnect with the outside world.

the-human-rights-zoetrope_gavel-shotEvery level of detail was broken up into sections. I created very simple one-second loops of animation that were subtle, but enough to tell the story. Once I had animated each section, it was a case of painstakingly pulling apart each object into a stop-frame animated existence so once they were placed in their position and spun, they would animate back into life again.

My Workflow
For ease and budget, I used Poser Pro, a character-based software to animate all the figures in isolation first. Using both the PoserFusion plug-in and the Alembic export, I was able to import each looping character into Maxon Cinema 4D where I froze and separated each 3D object one by one. Any looping objects that were not figure-based were all modelled and animated within Cinema 4D. Once the individual components were animated and positioned, I imported everything into a master 3D scene where I was able to focus on the lighting and camera shots.

For the zoetrope centrepiece, I built a simple lighting rig made up of the GSG Light Kit Pro, two soft boxes, that I had adapted and placed within a NULL and an area Omni light above. This allowed me to rotate the rig around according to my camera shot. Having a default position and brightness set-up was great and helped to get me out of trouble if I got a little too carried away with the settings, and the lighting didn’t change too dramatically on each camera shot. I also added a couple of Visible Area Spotlights out of the warehouse pointing inwards to give the environment a foggy distant feel.

I deliberately chose not to render using volumetric lighting because I didn’t want that specific look and did not want any light bursts hitting my zoetrope. The zoetrope was the star of the show and nothing else. Another lighting feature I tend to use within my work is the combination of the Physical Sky and the Sun. Both give a natural warm feel and I wanted sunlight to burst through the window; it was conceptually important and it added balance to the composition.

The most challenging part of the entire project was getting the lighting to work seamlessly throughout, as well as the composition within some of the camera shots. Some shots were very tight in frame, so I could not rely on the default rig and needed additional lighting to catch objects where the 3-point lights didn’t work so well. I had decided very early on, that rather than work from a single master file, as with the lighting, I had a default “get me out of trouble” master, saving each shot with its own independent settings as I went along to keep my workflow clean. Each scene file was around a gigabyte in size as none of the objects within the zoetrope were parametric anymore once they had been split, separated-out and converted to polygons.

My working machine was a 3.2GHz 8-core Mac Pro with 24GB of RAM, rendered out on a PC — custom-built 3X3 machine — with an Intel Core Processor i7 5960X with water cooling, 32GB RAM and clockable to 4.5GHz.

Since completion, The Human Rights Zoetrope titles have won several awards, including a Gold at the Muse Creative Awards in the Best Motion Graphics category, a Platinum Best of Show in the Art Direction category, and a Gold in the Best Graphic Design category at the Aurora Awards.

The Human Rights Zoetrope is also a Finalist at the New York Festivals 2017 in the Animation: Promotion/Open & IDs category. The winners will be announced at the NAB Show.

 

Sophia Kyriacou is a London-based broadcast designer and 3D artist.