Life…and all that jazz
Nexus had a crew of around 25-35 people working on the spot for Honda Jazz for around 11 weeks. In an exclusive interview for Fired By Design, Nexus and Smith & Foulkes share the techniques that were used to create this beautifully animated journey.
Fired By Design: What software and technology did you use to make ‘This Unpredictable Life’?
Nexus / Smith & Foulkes: We work primarily using 3DS Max. However as this project required a vast amount of particle and simulation work, we needed to expand our particle capabilities, so after some research we settled on Max’s Particle flow system along with FumeFX to create our simulations and then Thinkbox software’s Krakotoa as our renderer. All the compositing was done by our friends at Time Based Arts using Flame.
Fired By Design: What special techniques did you use to create the clouds?
Nexus / Smith & Foulkes: The Clouds were our biggest worry from the outset; they’re very hard to create and even harder to light and render. We tried a lot of different routes early on, knowing that sometimes the best looking solution isn’t always the most practical, however we were all keen not to cut too many corners – this project had to look and feel epic. After trying a number of routes we decided to layout our clouds using polygons, allowing the directors to sign off the shape and position of the clouds. We then converted these meshes into particles, eating into the shapes using procedural noise textures and then lit and rendered them using Krakatoa’s voxel rendering system.
Fired By Design: How did you create the flock of babies?
Nexus / Smith & Foulkes: Again this was flagged early on in the project as a specific effect that we wanted to research. We tried various particle systems and scripts but in the back of our minds we knew that we’d want to direct the performance of the babies in detail, something that automated systems don’t allow for. So we settled on a hybrid approach. We animated a number of swimming / flying loops for the babies which were cached out. I then wrote some simple tools to allow the animators to animate, offset and vary these loops and position babies as required, this meant they could work with a fairly light scene but still have all the control and nuance they required.
Fired By Design: What was the hardest part of this project in CG terms?
Nexus / Smith & Foulkes: Obviously working with particles is slow, it’s a bit like working in the dark. It can be a little frustrating when we’re in the business of making great images and your interface is a series of mathematical numbers and sliders. We came up with a workflow for particle layout that allowed matte painters to define where the particles would be placed. We used renders of modular particle systems mapped onto planes, and then allowed the TDs to use their skills to simulate, light and render particles to replace each of those planes. Overall I think everyone did a fantastic job of remembering that we were creating abstract painting rather than dealing with pure science.
View the previous Honda Grrr spot by Smith & Foulkes and Nexus
Title: This Unpredictable Life
Length: 60”, (30” & 20” cutdowns)
Agency: Wieden and Kennedy London
Creative Directors: Sam Heath, Chris Groom
Agency Producer: James Guy
Production Company: Nexus
Directors: Smith & Foulkes
Nexus ECD: Chris O Reilly
Exec Producer: Julia Parfitt
Producer: Tracey Cooper
CG Supervisor: Ben Cowell
Production Manager: Jo Bierton
Compositing: Time Based Arts
Sound Design: Aaron Reynolds @ Wave
Music: Bruno Coulais
3D Animation: Michael Greenwood, Mark Davies, Eoin Coughlan, Keith Ribbon, Alberto Lara, Stuart Doig ,Reece Millidge, Antoine Bourruel, Welles Bussett
Concept Artist: Ronald Kurniwan,
Further Design: Blind Salida, Chris Martin
3D Modelling: Matt Clark, James Hardingham, Dan Crossland, Ben Merrick, Andrew Hickinbottom, Dara Cazamea
Matte Painting: Geoffroi Ridel, Florian Casper
Lighting and Rendering: Michael Greenwood, Mark Davies, Matt Clark, Jay Harwood, Jerome Haupert , Richard Moss,Wayne Kresil , Anthony Arnoux, Ben Blundell
VFX TDs: Ludovik Boden, Rodi Kaya, Michal Firkowski, Richard Moss, Mattias Muller, Hristo Velev
Rigging : Iker J de los Mozos
Pipeline TD: Mark Tsang
Studio Systems Support: Patrick Hearn
Render Support: Callum Welsh