Mainframe works like clockwork for Harrods
A colony of 3D ants combine forces to create the new Harrods clockwork logo
London-based creative production studio Mainframe is responsible for creating this new spot and print advertising to promote the opening of a new watch department at Harrods. After seeing the brief, the team at Mainframe were keen to get involved. “The client came to us with a fairly open concept for the spot,” says Mainframe’s art director Liam Chapple, “which was that a nest of ants work together to create the iconic Harrods logo using parts from watch movements. Having worked with the Harrods art director previously on smaller projects we were really excited to get the opportunity to work with a budget and timeline that gave us the flexibility to produce a piece of narrative work, and push both the scale and storytelling aspects of the work.”
Aside from the initial concept, Mainframe was responsible for creating the flow and narrative of the spot. “We started off by working out camera moves and set-ups, trying to create shots that would draw the viewer into the story and emphasise the macro scale of the scenes,” says Chapple. “We then created storyboards and an animatic, which we tweaked a little as we received a few amends from Harrods, mainly about timings and little details about the hero ant.”
The next stage was to take care of the rest of the 3D animation and composition process. “An important part of the R&D for our animators was studying the behaviour and movement of ants from nature video,” Chapple explains. “We were lucky to find some amazing reference footage from a BBC documentary, always at the forefront of the game! This was vital to the last two shots as reference for how they interact in the piles or ‘death spiral’, as it is known in ant circles.”
The studio predominantly uses Maya as standard but the fourth shot required more complicated dynamic simulations, which was taken care of with pFlow in 3ds Max. “It is a great tool for this type of sim as the dynamic solver is very fast and a lot simpler to set up than the (scripting-heavy) Maya equivalent,” says Chapple. “The rest of the ant flocking animation was done using nParticles, curve flow and instanced geometry with walk cycles in Maya. We rendered using V-Ray in Maya and used the Foundry’s Nuke to composite, then added Video Copilot optical flares for some finishing touches.”
For this particular project, it would appear that size does matter. “For us, the most impressive technical aspect of this project was all about the scale of the piece,” Chapple says. “We wanted to start off super close-up and tiny, so that we set the scene as macro, then pull out and reveal the enormity of the swarm, thousands of ants, all working together. This was achieved using a V-Ray proxy/Maya particle combo.
“The proxies in V-Ray allow a huge number of objects to be in a scene, whilst only displaying a fraction of the faces actually present. This makes moving around the viewport and generally working with the scene bearable, without which it would be chug central. Our workflow was to create a generic walk-cycle then attach this instanced V-Ray proxy to the particle system and tweak the movement so that the pace of the ant matched the leg movement. We used the same technique for the cog logo, which was modelled then converted after animation and reimported into the scene as a proxy.”
Check out more work from Mainframe on its website
See more work from Liam Chapple via vimeo
Check out the best 3D movies of 2012 on our sister site Creative Bloq.
on Monday, November 21st, 2011 at 2:28 pm under Commercial, Showcase.
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Tags: Harrods ant commercial, Harrods commercial, Mainframe