Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Mill 3D Artist Andre DeSouza was working on a short film and
needed a motion control rig. Dropping a big chunk of change on the
gear wasn't an appealing option, so Andre went the DIY route and
used his own recipe for a rig. At about the same time, The Mill
needed to do a test with motion control, and Andre's colleague,
Mill L.A. Head of CG Robert Sethi, saw an opportunity. "Andre
happened to have built his own rig, and very cost efficiently,"
says Sethi. "It's also practical, and can be controlled directly
from Maya, Houdini and Joystick. It can do both pan and tilt
repeatable motion. We gave it a shot and were pleasantly surprised
with the results."
Like any inventor, Andre saw room for improvement with his
motion control rig. In development now, Andre's Motion Control Rig
2.0. "In a few weeks, we'll have a new version with a dolly so it
will have another axel," Andre enthuses. "The rig will have 12 bit
encoding on motors. It's getting more precise. The possibilities
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/
Monday, April 18, 2011
As the nation gears up for the wedding of the year, T-Mobile has
created a spoof video viral featuring the royal couple making the
ultimate wedding entrance. In what is one of our most
entertaining collaborations to date, we helped director Chris
Palmer and Saatchi & Saatchi bring the hilarious film to
A host of look-a-likes play the assembled dignitaries which
include the Queen, Prince Phillip and the Archbishop of Canterbury
as well as the happy couple themselves of course. Then, to
the strains of the East 17 classic 'House of Love', the wedding
party makes its entrance!
Highlights of 'The T-Mobile
Royal Wedding' include Prince Charles and Camilla's
rump-shaking moves and Prince William's flying leap over Prince
Harry. The two minute film even ends on a slightly altered royal
version of the T-Mobile tagline - 'One's life is for sharing.'
Since it launched on YouTube on Friday, the video has already
notched up over 4.5 million views… and counting! Enjoy.
Friday, April 15, 2011
It seems Trent Reznor's How to Destroy Angels cast a spell
over D&AD judges, who honored the artists' promo for 'The
Space in Between' with a D&AD nom for Special Effects in a
Music Video. Always intriguing Rupert Sanders directed, The Mill
L.A. crafted VFX and Reznor's wife Mariqueen Maandig stars as,
fittingly, the dark queen. Think Black as befits the ingénue's fate
and our favorite color Pencil...
Take a look....
Friday, April 15, 2011
Hey there, thought you might want to know that both engineer
extraordinaire Adam Coles and myself are joining in with BBH's
'Sweat for Japan' challenge. All the BBH offices around the world
are running/cycling for 24 hours, starting at 12 Midday GMT (7pm
Singapore). Adam is doing a double shift starting tomorrow morning
at 9:30 our time and i'm doing a double at 3:30pm our time Friday
You can follow all the offices here at this link
Wish us luck!
Friday, April 15, 2011
Hi, this is James Bamford, senior colourist here at The Mill.
This is my first monthly installment of a small blog containing
some of the best commercials that I think deserve to be noted
purely for their grade. So welcome to my first ever blog!
I'm going to start with two Mill jobs for this blog and over the
coming months I'll be looking at reviewing a Mill project and one
other that really catches my eye.
If you think you have seen one that I should mention here then
by all means leave a comment or contact me on email@example.com.
First up is a really nice spot graded by Adam Scott, Axe 'Even Angels
Will Fall', directed by Rupert Sanders from MJZ for BBH, this
is a masterly crafted ad from start to finish.
You could say the grade is quite filmic and has a certain dusty
quality. The shadows have a tint of green which is offset nicely by
a golden highlight.
All the post for this ad was done flat, by this I mean without a
grade so as to retain all the information for the flame artist to
exploit, then once the extensive work was done it was sent to
grade. This process is rather unusual for commercial work, it's
usually the workflow for features but these days we have been using
this technique as it eliminates the need for second passes (a
different grade to give detail in certain areas if the grade has
clipped, i.e. the shadows).
Also, Flame provided mattes for certain areas in particular the
Halos, as once the grade was applied the highlight on them would be
too strong, so by using the mattes they could be easily
Overall a very nicely graded ad!
Next up is great spot for Stella Artois
'Crying Jean' by Mick Vincent. Directed by Ringan Ledwidge from
Rattling Stick for Mother, the spot was created for the Super Bowl
This grade immediately puts you into the scene, smoky, moody
somewhere you are immediately interested in. Admittedly it could be
any era but I think you definitely get a retro feeling. Perhaps
nudging on 1970's, everything is knocked back and not too saturated
and yet it has strong warmth to it, you get a feeling that it's a
forbidden place, with the rays of light catching different moments.
The idea of the commercial is about a guy singing to the beer and
the grade was directed so that you could only notice this very
subtly. Usually on beer commercials you get an overly lit pint of
beer, and you can see that Mick was careful not to highlight the
beer too much.
This one is not about lots of special effects work but purely
about the look, and it looks great.
See you next month with two more commercials under the
* If you'd like to see James' work, you can view his showreel
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
We are delighted to see that our Mill TV team have received two
nominations for this year's BAFTA Craft Awards in the Visual
Effects category for their outstanding work on both the BBC's Merlin and Doctor Who!
In a shortlist of only four programmes - which also includes
Sky1's 'Terry Pratchett's Going Postal' and BBC Two's 'Wonders of
the Solar System' - this is a marvellous achievement of which we
are all really proud.
We're keeping our fingers crossed for when the winners are
announced at a star-studded event on Sunday 8th May.
Congratulations to all those nominated and to see the full
shortlist for the 2011 BAFTA Craft Awards, visit:
PS: If you are as excited as us about the new series of
Doctor Who coming soon to BBC One, check out the latest cast
interviews, pics and trailers online now!
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
With our commercial production team as busy as ever, we are
pleased to welcome Rachael Trillo and Carl Phillips who join our
ever-expanding London studio as VFX producers.
New Zealander Rachael comes to The Mill from Digital Post in
Auckland. Hugely experienced, she has worked at a number of NZ's
leading post and VFX houses including Oktobor and Sauce FX.
Carl joins us from Screen Scene, Dublin, having also worked at
Unit, JackBox and Splice in London. He will be working with the
Mill Studio team, who specialise in motion graphics and design.
Friday, April 08, 2011
Brilliant example of 3D Projection Mapping (with a real car) for
Hyundai, one of the best examples we've seen.
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
Our very own 3D scheduler Ben Burdock, teamed up with some
friends last weekend to take part in Sci-fi London's latest
challenge to create a five minute film to fit their mysterious
brief. Here he reveals how they did it....
For our latest short film we decided to enter the
Sci-Fi London 48-hour film challenge. Our task was to write,
shoot, edit, grade and complete visual effects on a film within a
48 hour time period, with just a £500 budget. To add to the
pressure, entrants are given a title, prop and line of dialogue to
shake things up and make sure nothing has been prepared in
We spent Saturday writing the script, planning the shoot and
making final adjustments to the location that we used. We filmed
for 12-straight hours on Sunday, utilising the RED camera to really
bring out the seemingly simple location we had chosen, which had
been transformed by our fantastic production design team. 500
coffees later we were ready to commence post!
Our amazingly talented crew rose to the challenge and the result
was No Escape, a film we are all truly proud of. The crew
included director Will McGregor plus The Mill's Dom Burgess (2D),
Stu Turnbull (3D), Tom Slinger (concept), Harry Wormald (matte
painting), Maxime Chaix (2D) and Emily Greeley (DIT).
We hope we've shown what can be done when a group of mates band
together to make a film over the weekend!