BEATS BY DRE The Pills take over the VMAs



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.

McLAREN Tooned 50

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After the success of last year’s series we’re working with McLaren again on another run of Tooned, this time for the F1 brand’s 50th anniversary.

We wrote the scripts, designed the characters, directed and animated the series, which is being shown on Sky Sports before each Grand Prix, as well as working as one long episode.

We also sourced the vocal talent, which includes Alexander Armstrong, the one and only Brian Cox (well, except this Brian Cox, not that one) and a host of F1 royalty, past and present.

Here’s what we’ve seen so far, plus the making of. Plenty more info over on the Framestore website too, and there’s a Storify of us taking the mascots to Goodwood here.

Making of

The Art of Tooned

NEW CINEMA Before the Flood

At the end of last year we told you about New Cinema, a collaboration with Eyebeam and The Creators Project that looks a new ways of presenting cinema. Here’s the latest experiment, which saw  us pool our knowledge of programming and CGI skills to turn probably the earliest form of storytelling, cave paintings, into an interactive experience.

The team — Eyebeam’s Nick-Fox Gieg and Ramsey Nasser, Google coders Alex Kauffmann and Boris Smus, plus our own David Mellor and Mike Woods — created this cinema-game mash-up called Before the Flood, which you can explore by walking around in front of a screen, created using the Unity game engine and floor-tracking software developed at Google. Take a look below or read more here.

AUDIBLE Digital Cube


We were approached to create an animation for this digital cube screen in Times Square directly by Audible. They wanted a 15 second animation that would illustrate a book genre using a smart phone’s headphone chords.  For this particular project, as you might guess, the theme was science fiction.

Framestore’s Design team in New York animated and directed the project. We looked for an opportunity to do something special with the merging corner to make it interesting for anybody looking up at that angle. We came up with the idea of creating a whole alien face made up of two halves that would join in the middle for a quick ‘blink’.  It was a bonus to see this piece in the middle of Times Square.

You can see it in action below, from hand-drawn design stage to the final working cube:

Creators Project – Future of Visual Storytelling


Our NY Digital team spent the weekend geeking ourselves into a frenzy with our good friends at Eyebeam & The Creators Project (Vice Magazine)

Stand by for the exhibition at the end of January in NYC, as it’ll be freaking amazing.

More info here :

The relationship between filmmaking and technological progress is one that’s been deeply intertwined since the beginning of cinema as we know it, so it’s only fitting that our present era of accelerated technological development should lead to some mind-blowing new forms of cinematic expression. The Creators Project teamed up with art and technology center Eyebeam, and world-renown visual effects company Framestore, to bring together hand-picked teams of filmmakers, creative coders, animators, designers, and sound designers to imagine what new tools, techniques, and forms of storytelling might emerge from this creative collision.

The New Cinema hackathon began as conversations and email exchanges between teams, which were assembled by Eyebeam and The Creators Project. The goal was to give teams time to come up with a narrative concept for their projects, as well as an opportunity to think about how they might achieve it, and what kind of tools and resources they might need towards that end. Preparation for the hackathon included a motion capture session with a Michael Jackson impersonator in Framestore’s London office, researching eye scanning and the analysis of irises, and several dives into Framestore’s vast archives of 3D models, animations, and footage.

The five teams that came together this weekend were tasked with only one objective: to imagine and prototype new and unusual forms of visual storytelling. Their approaches were varied both in content and in tone, but the projects were united by their fearless experimentation and enthusiasm for the ideas being explored.

We’ll be unveiling the projects in the coming weeks on the blog, as well as on the New Cinema and Eyebeamwebsites. A public presentation of the completed projects will be exhibited at Eyebeam from January 29th-February 3rd.

McLAREN ‘TOONED’ episode catch up – update 05/11/12

Update: The special features-packed DVD is now available to pre-order, along with loads of other Tooned goodies. Take a look over one the McLaren shop.

Hey lucky people.

Our department’s epic ‘Tooned’  series for McLaren is up to Episode Seven 10 now, so we thought we’d put them up here. Lots of you asking about DVD releases and other stuff, and whilst we don’t have the answers right now, make sure you stay tooned (sorry) to the blog.

Episode Seven

Episode Six

Episode Five

Episode Four

Episode Three

Episode Two

Episode One