Friday, February 10, 2012
When we re-created Rome for Gladiator the pinnacle of our work
was undoubtedly The Colosseum. From the painstaking detail
within the architecture to populating it with ancient Romans, we
very much started a trend for large scale recreations of venues
that required populating with thousands of people.
We applied the same thinking and creativity to last year's multi
award winning 'Write the Future' (in fact it was last year's most
awarded commercial). Our technical prowess is unparalleled as
is our library, which includes a large range of international and
With over 11 years experience The Mill team can populate our
stadiums with fully realistic crowds including artificial
intelligence, meaning they can behave and celebrate as any creative
Our most recent addition of course is the London 2012 Olympic
Stadium, ready and waiting to be filled with an expectant
Here's a taste of our work...
For more information, please contact:
Rahel Makonnen email@example.com
Friday, February 03, 2012
Is it a bird..? Is it a plane..? Close…… it's the little
metallic bird we designed for Audi, whom we love! So, we asked the
team behind the Audi 'Hummingbird' spot a few questions
about how this project came about and most importantly, how they
made our little winged friend so likeable.
Q: What was the brief given to you by Audi?
A: They wanted us to design and create a
hummingbird made entirely out of car parts, as if he had actually
been designed by the Audi team itself. The new Audi A6 car is built
on very lightweight technology, so they wanted us to showcase all
of the car's qualities in this agile little bird.
(Rahel Makonnen - Executive Producer, 3D)
Q: What was the main challenge you faced in doing
A: Well, it's very tricky to take something that
exists in real life, but to have him made out of entirely different
textures and materials, while still acting and moving like the real
Q: What was the main thing you wanted to
A: We really wanted to develop the personality of
the hummingbird; this was the main tool we had to make our bird
believable. He had to be friendly, he had to be cheeky and playful,
he had to be elegant and at the same time he had to project all the
qualities of the Audi car.
(Jorge Montiel - Head of Animation)
Q: What was the main tool you used to achieve
A: The Audi car itself has very elegant and clean
lines, so the design had to be a simple one. This meant that the
bird's movement and body language were the main ways we could
express his character. As an animator, the most challenging part of
this process was working on the animatic, this is where we played
around with the timing and the story, and it's all about the story.
Then, in the final animation, this is where we were able perfect
the hummingbird's body expression. It was very time consuming but
it was that extra 5% where we worked on all the little details of
movement and the quality of our work that made the
Q: How important was the compositing work in the
A: We had a large amount of layers to composite
together in order to make the hummingbird and his world believable
and realistic. Not only the bird, background and sky but we also
added lost of atmospheric affects like dust and pollen and most
importantly light, achieving a daytime 'photo-real' look was
central to the hummingbird's
(Hugo Guerra - Joint Head of Nuke)
Q: How big a part did light play in this
A: Huge! We did a lot of research on the lighting; it was
one of the few 'real' elements we could use in this fully CG world.
Our approach was to take a lot of photos taken in bright sun light
and to use them as references for all the little subtle effects
that happen in normal photography; the small chromatic aberrations
of light, the distortion of the lens, and the small little glints
of the sun hitting the metal body of the bird. Also, we really
didn't want it to be a cold and unfeeling environment, so we added
a lot of warmth by introducing warm light effects and lens
(Tom Bussell - Head of 3D)
Q: Was everyone happy with the result?
A: It's an amazing piece of work to be a part of
and everyone was very happy! It was a joint project with BBH and
director Daniel Barber and we are always very excited to work with
both of them!
Audi 'Hummingbird' has just been nominated for 3 VES (Visual Effects Society) awards, the results of
which will be announced next Tuesday, February 7th... In the
meantime, you can click here to see him in action!
Thursday, December 08, 2011
We are committed to recognising and developing new talent here
at The Mill, so we couldn't have been more pleased when we heard
that our CG Generalist Andreas Thomsen received the 'Best Student
Project' award at this year's SIGGRAPH Asia, for his work on the
short film 'Last Fall'.
SIGGRAPH Asia 2011 celebrates the future and present talents of
animation industry, and this year's Computer Animation Festival
honoured the top three works through a Best of Show award, the Jury
award, and for the first time ever, the Best Student Project
The SIGGRAPH judges were particularly impressed by the film's
high standard of graphics and animation achieved on a limited
budget. "It has been very satisfying to see the level of talent in
the animation and VFX industry. Working with the jury to curate and
select the best was very challenging," said Computer Animation
Festival Chair, Eric Liu, who had the uneviable job of choosing a
winner from 558 entries from 21 countries.
Our talent team first met Andreas when he was at the Animation
Workshop (where he created the winning film) in Denmark earlier
this year. Shortly after, he came to The Mill's London studio
to do an internship and has now been working as part of our
award-winning CG team ever since.
The SIGGRAPH Asia Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics
and Interactive Technique runs from 12-15 December at the Hong Kong
Convention & Exhibition Centre.
Find out more here: http://www.siggraph.org/asia2011/
Monday, September 19, 2011
Rob Petrie is the Head of 3D at The Mill New
York. He began his career at The Mill London as a
runner, and after only five months the 3D department brought him
onboard full-time. In 2007 Rob made his move to The Mill NY where
he worked as Lead 3D Artist on an array of high-profile projects
including the OFFF 2010 Opening Titles, a 2011 Design
Gold Lion winner, AT&T's 'Birthday', an AICP honoree, and
Daft Punk's 'Derezzed', a promo for Disney's TRON: Legacy
We asked Rob a few questions about the future of VFX, and this
is what he had to say:
Q) Which CG visual effects do you feel had the most
impact in recent years?
A) The films that I feel have made the biggest
impact are the ones that use FX to drive the story and leave a
lasting imprint in your mind. It's not so much the wow factor, but
FX that take us within the film itself. Some films that spring to
mind are Gladiator , Road to Perdition
 and Cloverfield . They are not trying to
create bigger and more fantastical FX, but let the narrative drive
what the FX should create -- a balance.
Q) On which sequences would you have liked to work?
A) Two sequences spring to mind: Blade
Runner's Spinners in the rain , and the ship leaving
orbit in The Last Star Fighter . I would like to
have worked on more traditional forms of FX, and I would like to
have been in the industry when computer animation was this new
medium and it lived alongside traditional techniques. I still love
the way a Lambert shader looks on a great model. If the
design is great, then the rest will follow.
Q) What upcoming technologies do you believe will be
A) I think processing power will be the key
driving force. GPU-accelerating rendering is something I can see
being used more and more.
Q) What sort of VFX can we expect to see moving
A) I see the holy grail of photo real humans
still being the goal of many studios and filmmakers.
Avatar  was that next step, and I'm sure films such
as The Hobbit  will raise the bar even higher.
Q) What technologies/methods do you feel may
fall by the wayside?
A) It's hard to say. Over the last 10 years I have not
really seen anything fall away but just be improved and become more
user friendly to adapt to the artists' needs. It would have been
hard to believe 10 years ago that programs such as Marind Mudbox
would become such an integrated part of production, so I guess
Photoshop is definitely the decline within our studio when it comes
Q) What technologies/methods need the most
A) I have to say it comes back to computing power. With
commercial companies, we need to try and keep up along side with
such facilities as Weta and ILM. The sheer amount of processing
power is colossal and with that you can keep pushing the bar
Q) What is the greatest hindrance to improving
A) Speaking within the realm of Visual FX in a commercial
environment, it has to be time constraints. Time on production has
gone down over the last 10 years so it's always a challenge to
produce high end visual FX with such short deadlines. This is where
new tools and developments in software are crucial to keep up with
these challenges. Render power has become more important than ever
to keep pushing the envelope and creating visually stunning pieces
Q) And finally, what has been your favorite
Mill job to date?
A) I think it has to be the Daft Punk promo for
'Derezzed.' Firstly, just because it was a Daft Punk video and
secondly, it was fun to revert back 25 years and create visuals
with the feel and techniques of a promo from the early 80's.
After all, who doesn't like the 80's?!
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
We are loving this short CG animation film directed by two of
our 3D artists, Guillaume Poitel and Alex Belbari, whilst they were
in their last year of studies at the ESMA School of Arts (Ecole
Supérieure des Métiers Artistiques), France.
Shot in both stereoscopic 3D and 2D, the hilarious film pays
tribute to mythical creatures such as centaurs, nymphs and Olympian
Gods. It has already scooped a clutch of awards and appeared
at a number of festivals including ANIMA and Stuttgart FMX.
Check it out below… and to learn more about the film, including
a special making of, visit the official website:
Thursday, May 26, 2011
One of the standout spots from this year's crop of Super Bowl
commercials was undoubtedly Volkswagen's Black
Beetle which trailed the forthcoming launch of the new
21st Century VW Beetle.
Alongside MJZ director Dante Ariola and agency Deutsch, The Mill
London's team of artists pulled out all the VFX stops to create the
realistic CG beetle and its insect friends.
Take a look at how they did it in this special Making Of
Want more? Then why not check out this extended video
which goes behind the scenes on the shoot and look out for
interviews with our Lead 3D artist Tom Bussell and Lead 2D artist
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Andy Nicholas, our Lead 3D artist explains in depth how he
helped AT&T bloom in their latest and very charming spot -
The commercial from BBDO New York featured landmarks and locations
all over the US being covered in orange flowers. The idea is that
the flowers act as a metaphor for the network coverage that
AT&T provides to its cell phone customers. Since creating
convincing vegetation in computer graphics can be a challenge it
was essential to research a variety of techniques and develop tools
in advance to make sure the shots were completed on time.
One tool was a vine-growing simulation created using ICE in Autodesk's XSI. ICE is a fast and flexible
environment which makes it easy to test a wide range of ideas very
quickly. For close ups, a hand animated rig was used in the
immediate foreground while the particle simulation was used for the
rest of the layout.
There were only a few shots in the commercial that required
seeing the vines and flowers grow together, but the growing
simulation was still used for many of the static shots (e.g.
Washington Street, Chicago) as it gave a natural coverage to the
buildings. Particle systems based on volume emission were used for
many of the wider shots and where the flowers and leaves needed to
When precise control was needed over the placement of vines,
they were hand drawn in 3D and snapped onto the underlying surface
of the building. That saved time and it helped to blend in some of
the particle generated elements.
The directors, Josh and Jonathan Baker from TWiN, had a clear
vision of exactly how far the vines and the flowers should grow on
each shot. It made life a lot easier during the layout process as
it minimised experimentation. Some of the shots were nudged or
swapped around in the edit to support the narrative as the work
progressed. Having this flexibility in the edit meant that the
buildings could help with the composition of the plants and make it
feel more natural.
The relative layout of the flowers and leaves was important.
Generally, the flowers were used to accentuate the lit areas of the
plate, while the leaves tended to be kept to the shade. Not only
did it make sense that a plant would grow that way, but it also
helped to get a better sense of depth and shape. It also meant that
the orange colours could be kept bright and it avoided the
potential for muddy browns. All of this can be seen to best effect
in the 'Randy's Donut' shot in the 60 second version.
Despite the success of these techniques, the opening shots of
the commercial go to prove that you can't beat an animator's sense
of timing and composition. Those shots work really well and the
level of control the animators have is way above what a simulation
could ever offer!
Now see all of this in action and take a look at the finished
PS: If you enjoyed this, you can also check out Andy's very own
blog for more of his insights: http://www.andynicholas.com/