What a night the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards were! Like with the Super Bowl in 2012 we were tasked with setting up a system that could create instant content in reaction to live events for a massive brand – this time Beats by Dre.
We all knew that a ‘Miley Cyrus moment’ would happen and we needed to create a series of systems that would allow Beats to get maximum exposure on the night.
We designed the original Beats Pill character for a advert earlier this year, and our team in LA developed a series of spots to be used as teasers in the run up to the VMAs, introducing the new characters. Read more about that over here.
We were asked to create a real-time puppeteering system that would allow full live control of the Pill characters and to help with all aspects of social media dissemination. These instant clips and videos were voiced by comedians (Neal Brennan, Corey Holcomb and Tichina Arnold, all writing and riffing material on the spot in our NY office!) and pumped out over Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram and Vine.
Check out this Storify of all the content we created on the night
How we did it
We used the Unity game engine to create the puppet system. This allowed us, with use of Xbox controllers and microphones, to control all aspects of the character’s movement, as well as making them speak in real-time. We created each character’s animation tree in Maya in advance and there were actually over 600 variants per character, which meant a significant level of new pipeline creation to allow us to animate in Maya and export to Unity using the same rig.
For the actual night of the VMAs we were crammed into an office with the Beats social media team, the comedians, our puppetting machine and a Blackmagic capture set-up we produced all the content you cam see above. The comedians would write and record the live voice-over, and Framestore would puppet the characters for them via the Xbox controllers, then instantly upload it.
The last piece of this epic jigsaw, were the paparazzi. We’ve hired a few different types of freelancer for projects in my time, but this might be the weirdest yet! “They were on the red carpet at the actual awards show in Brooklyn, in an official capacity, so that we could get fairly instant images of celebs arriving. We were getting the images to Framestore within 10 seconds, allowing us to do stuff like this.
The other key part of the team on the night were our After Effects and Photoshop wizards. These guys had some serious pressure to turn around the captured content, in the correct format, and then upload directly to all the Beats accounts.