Nexus and Analog create visual effects for Wieden + Kennedy's "Hands,” a two-minute CG animated short film directed by Smith & Foulkes for Honda.
LONDON -- Wieden + Kennedy's recent spot for Honda, "Hands,” has been a viral hit with well over three million views on YouTube in less than one week. Directed by Smith & Foulkes at Nexus, with visual effects provided by Analog, this two-minute film was a unique production challenge and one of the most intriguing briefs Nexus have ever been set.
A beguilingly simple idea, it quickly became apparent that it was a devilishly difficult thing to achieve. Hands are infinitely complex in their movement and not easy to plausibly replace in CG.
“We didn't want this to be stop-frame in feel. It needed to feel utterly magical and for the audience to be unsure how it was achieved,” said directors Smith & Foulkes. "We wanted to deliver Weiden & Kennedy's idea in its simplest and most direct form with no cuts and in close up – even though that was the most difficult thing to achieve."
A live-action animatic was minutely planned using simple wooden models and a video camera. The positions of hands at the beginning and end of each shot were worked out, as well as establishing an idea of what the transition from one vehicle to the next would be.
Once the live-action edit was completed, the stand-in models for the shoot were built and rigged. Each movement of the hand was going to be locked once it was in the edit, so it was extremely important for the rigging of the models to be accurate. To achieve the photo-real look of the short film, the shoot used real models all the way through in order to maintain a feeling of weight and provide realistic movement of the hands.
“We worked together with our friends at Analog to figure out each individual technical hurdle as each shot was a unique challenge, not made easier by the lack of cuts!” explains Nexus technical director Dave Walker.
"We knew from the outset that it was hugely important for the hands to physically hold, grip and inspect ‘something’ as it would immediately ground the spot in reality,” says Analog’s Mike Merron. “Our initial tests showed just how important it was to have articulated props.”
Working from references provided by Honda, Analog and Nexus used Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya to create each of the 25 photo-real models for the spot. Analog then took on the assembly of the multiple shots, removing props and completing tracking for all of the objects, then shading, lighting and rendering out the various elements. All of the FX animation, compositing and grading also took place at Analog, with Nexus providing the character animations and the subtle physical secondary movements of the objects.
The spectacular soundscape was created by Factory with music by Siren to give depth and context to the evolving scenes.
Jennifer Wolfe is Director of News & Content at Animation World Network.