GMD Delivers Numbers For Telstra
Sydney, Australia-based visual effects and animation company GMD (Garner MacLennan Design) has completed its latest character animation project with the launch of a series of commercials for telecommunications company Telstra. Produced for the Singleton Ogilvy & Mather (SOM Sydney) agency and the Flying Fish production company, the 30-second spots show people in various situations interacting with animated numbers, the message being that Telstra can make numbers work for people, not against them. GMD's Tim Quarry (animation director) and Mike Wynd (head of 3D) were on location for the live-action shoot to assist with the filming to ensure the shots met the needs of their animation team. Foam models of the numbers were used as stand-in markers on set to guide camera angles and eyelines and allow the actors to interact more fully with the characters. The creative team wanted a comedy and performance director who would treat the numbers as real, and 'block' them as if they were live actors who were present on the set. This concept was developed further by working closely with a storyboard artist to create a board that mimicked a traditional live-action production. Back at GMD a team of ten animation artists were creating all twelve numeric characters and breathing life into them using Alias|Wavefront Maya software. A significant part of the production was the creation of each character's skeleton - the digital bones which dictated the way the 3D models moved, said Quarry. We spent a lot of time building robust skeletons and testing them so our animators were able to easily move the numbers around into whatever position they needed." In addition, the animators created a library of animations for the characters so they didnt have to start from scratch each time they wanted the numbers to interact. "Some scenes show up to 100 separate characters doing their own thing which involved a huge amount of work, so it was essential we got their skeletons right in the first place and had a library of moves to call on," Wynd explained. GMD also made use of new features in the Alias|Wavefront Maya software which assisted the production and look of the 3D number characters. "We used the new Subdivision Surfaces tools in the Maya Unlimited package to animate the skins of the characters in a very organic fashion," said Wynd. "Previously arms, legs, and tails etc. were completed separately then attached to the body and it was difficult to patch together the joins in a way that allowed full movement of the limbs. The new tools allowed us to extrude limbs from the body and treat the whole skin surface as one object. This meant the characters were stronger and could be moved freely without tearing any seams or joins." GMD's crew was also responsible for producing high resolution images for Telstra's associated print media and providing style guidelines for the Web campaign.