MPC taps Maxon Cinema 4D, Adobe After Effects, The Foundry’s Nuke and Autodesk Flame to create graphics for a “Skyfall”-inspired spot for Sony.
Daniel Craig is agent 007 in a new spot that is part of Sony’s “Intelligence Gathered” campaign from Wieden+Kennedy Portland. In the 60-second spot, entitled “Mouse and Cat,” a mysterious woman uses multiple Sony devices to track 007 as he infiltrates a heavily-guarded control room.
W+K collaborated with RSA Films London and MPC Los Angeles to create the ad, which broke internationally October 26, and features Sony’s BRAVIA screens, VAIO laptops, Xperia Tablets and the Xperia T smartphone. Graphic content that appears on the many video screens throughout the spot was created using Maxon Cinema 4D, Adobe After Effects, The Foundry’s Nuke and Autodesk Flame by a small team of artists led by designer/director Bradley (GMUNK) Munkowitz.
Munkowitz , who is perhaps best known for leading a team of GFX artists who crafted more than 12 minutes of holographic content for Tron: Legacy, was brought onto the project by Wieden+Kennedy. Joining him was Emmy award-winning motion graphic designer and animator, Navarro Parker, whose credits include The Avengers, Iron Man and Transformers.
The two worked together at MPC in Los Angeles, and eventually brought on animator/designer Joseph Chan, who had worked with Munkowitz on Tron: Legacy. “I worked with Chanimal [Chan] before on Tron, and a couple of other projects, he’s an easy-going guy and a wonderful designer and illustrator,” Munkowitz recalls. “He animated all of the UI details, making sure to representing the computer with a dark, sinister vibe.”
Though this Super Bowl-level ad was complex and included “a lot of layers of people to please,” Munkowitz and his team enjoyed a great deal of creative freedom as they worked on it for nearly three months. Guided by concepts and general references from MPC’s creative director, Paul O’Shea, Munkowitz and Parker had the freedom to innovate and craft an array of concepts, which they pitched to him as they went.
“We knew what the bar was for this, and MPC wasn’t just going to hire two freelancers and let them run the job as creative directors, so we would always go through Paul,” Munkowitz recalls. “But once he saw the enthusiasm we brought to the project, he gave us a lot of freedom to just run with things.”
Parker, who describes himself as having “a passion for screens,” knows exactly what it takes to create the kind of graphic content seen in the Sony spot. Over the past five years he has worked on interfaces for more than ten films. In “Mouse and Cat,” the most striking example of Parker’s 3D work is the facial reconstruction. Guided by Munkowitz’s design sensibility, the reconstruction takes shape on screens in the control room as the high-tech equipment surrounding the mystery woman works to identify the intruder, Daniel Craig.
“A thermal snapshot appears and then construction starts on a face that slowly turns out to be Daniel Craig and you’re like, ‘Oh, shit! That’s James Bond,’” Parker says, explaining that he primarily relied on Cinema 4D for the facial reconstruction graphics, which gradually evolved from a low-poly mesh to a high-poly mesh and, eventually, skin.
Parker started with a 3D scan of Craig’s head, which was provided by MPC London, which was producing visual effects for the new James Bond film, Skyfall. Using PolyFX, he was able to control each polygon of the model using standard MoGraph effectors. “I built a ton of animated texture maps in After Effects and used the shader effector to control the timing and direction of how the polygons transformed,” he explains.
To create the sense of the data organically resolving itself into the head, Parker built a series of thin cubes in a cloner that was controlled by a plain effector with a linear falloff. “As the cubes approached the 3D head, they would grow to full size, and as they continued past the head, they would shrink to zero,” he explains.
“Then, I put that cloner and the 3D head model into a boolean object, so when the cubes raced past the head, the boolean would form a negative space of where the head would be.” He then exported the animation from C4D as an OBJ sequence and imported it into After Effect using the Plexus plug-in. Parker used Plexus to form the connected web of lines and nodes that animate across the head. All of these rendered layers were then given to Munkowitz who crafted the very dense and elaborate reconstruction imagery.
Early in the spot, the mystery woman uses her smart phone to pinpoint the location of the intruder. She watches the screen as a wide shot of the city quickly hones down to a red dot that is right outside the door to her building. Munkowitz wanted to do a point cloud representation of the city, but flying to London to take LIDAR scans of the Fishmonger’s Hall building featured in the ad wasn’t in the budget.
Instead, MPC’s 3D department modeled Fishmonger’s Hall and the surrounding London area helped them track and model other elements in the scene. Parker used Thinking Particle’s PMatterWaves node to project particles onto the surface geometry from various light sources, allowing him to control where the stationary particles were sprayed onto the city scene.
“I put a spotlights aiming at the front, side and top so I could get a volumetric representation of the city from each X, Y, and Z axis,” Parker explains. “Wherever the light didn't shine, no particles would be created, and this replicated the LIDAR look perfectly.”
The goal was to make the phone appear to be generating data from the geometry in real time, says Munkowitz. “Nav rendered out a bunch of assets for us to work with, and I, again, took it into After Effects and put it together,” Munkowitz explains. “That’s the nice thing about how we work together; he gives me all the raw assets I need to construct a compelling final image.”
These days, the duo is working together on the sci-fi thriller Oblivion starring Tom Cruise. “GMUNK and I have got a great rhythm going here,” Parker says. “It’s a great mix of film editors, composers, post viz artists and sound effects mixers all in the same space. If we want to show the director something, we just say, ‘Hey, Joe [Kosinski], look at this.”
Jennifer Wolfe is Director of News & Content at Animation World Network.