Audi e-tron 'Powerwalking'

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Framestore has created an army of dancing robots (choreographed by the award-winning Russell Maliphant) for this Noam Murro-directed ad for Audi by THJNK AG, which is being shown across Europe this autumn.

We started off by working with our pre-vis partners, The Third Floor, to block out the narrative with rough cameras angles and dance moves ahead of the plate shoot. As the performance was going to be created in post, the shoot involved capturing empty shots of the street, so the pre-vis gave an understanding of what was going to be there in the end.

This was followed by a mo-cap shoot at The Imaginarium, where we had seven dancers going through the choreographed dance sections. These were being captured and fed live into rough 3D models we had supplied so the director and the agency could see what it was going to look like. The robots were developed from 2D designs from Noam Murro's production designer, going from some toy-robot like designs to something slightly sleeker particularly the hero Audi bot.

"The Audi bot changed quite a lot," sais VFX Supervisor Simon French. "It started off really quite retro, very much based on real tin toys, and through various stages it's become something that represents the brand and looks more high tech and advanced than the rest of the robots."

How we made it

"As we built the models and rigs, we needed to interpret some of the mechanics of the designs that weren't visible in the initial designs. We went through the process of adding more flexibility and joints and slightly breaking the tin toy brief in order not to compromise the fluidity of the mo-cap, which the director particularly wanted to see coming through in the performance. There's complexity to it that is not immediately apparent. We had to approach it in a way that, if we had to double the number of robots over night, we could.

"A system was developed in Maya for handling crowd shots that would allow six basic robot types to be replicated and varied without having to painstakingly go back and forth through animation. "We could swap out individual components, such as alternative heads and limbs even when animation had been finalised. Even though most of the performance is from mo-cap, there are a few set pieces for which traditional animation was the only way to go," added Simon. 


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