A huge commercial in every single sense and a clear showcase of technology to the service of a great idea. Probably this is one of the most radical commercials, not only in the idea but in the making as after Radiohead’s project I decided it was the perfect ground to put Massive technology in motion so after some tests the director moved on to shoot this project.
I look at this job as the highlight (so far) of my career because I believe we actually changed something, there was clearly a before and after due to a qualitative change in computer graphics technology in which believable crowds could be modelled, managed and rendered, something that till the was simply a bunch of simplifications that looked cheap and wrong.
At the time really I didn’t expect how many awards would get, how long would survive as the facto reference for crowds and sure enough I was not aware what we just did, now I see it clearly, we have changed cinematography forever, directors and directors of photography now are free again as they were in the times in which the production of films like Spartacus, Cleopatra and the like were possible.
To take you through the history of crowds after that golden period in which it was feasible to do it for real the whole problem was one of money, paying five thousand extras for two days was simply out of the table at some point, then with the advances of digital compositing we made possible those kind of projects only if the camera was static, motion control then took the lead to further improve the result but giving the opportunity to move the camera at the cost of huge setup times and lack of freedom so the options were three; no crowds, no camera move or no freedom to explore nothing but the preprogrammed camera moves.
Then massive software, as a result of a huge development effort at the hands of Stephen Regelous open the doors to realistic crowds that was used on the three famous trilogy Lord of the Rings, from which at some point at Siggraph I visited him and after a very nice chat got an alpha version to play around.
At this moment Lord of the Rings and the technology behind was already in the spotlight winning best effect and for Stephen an technology award from the Academy (an Oscar for actually doing something) but it was an internal development. To our surprise they allowed Massive Software to grow as a completely independent company and take control of the software while we were using it on a Radiohead promo in an experimental manner.
Then after that job and a lot of learnt lessons, many hours in front of the computer and the invaluable help of Jan Walter, an senior R&D artist helping me put together everything, from a RIB exporter to parsers to the actual shader writing we landed this job in which we were about to extend a crowd. Of course the job grew to a point in which we took over some shots and after a proof of concept shot the director, agency and client seemed happy to go ahead and push till there is no end to achieve this.
On the way we created a brand new agent with amazing capabilities, cloth variations, a sociable brain that took in account much more than just terrain and proximity of other agents but was indeed model through the observation of real events in London tube entrance which seems very similar to the project’s goal. All in all we didn’t realised at the moment we were just pioneering realistic crowds in realistic times for everyday projects and on the way liberating the crew, director, cinematographer of all our previous constraints.
Since then we have not looked back ever and for the last 6 years it has been an wonderful journey in which our agents do more and more, get even more clever and sociable and we manage to make better advertising.
Director: Frank Budgen Agency: TWBA London Production: Gorgeous Task: Lead Crowd Animator + Mocap Direction