More hyper-realistic CGI, with innovative motion capture techniques
Barcelona-based Bad Lazy Robot (BLR) produces endlessly inventive CG work for its big corporate clients. Chevrolet, Absolut, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Hasbro have all enlisted the fast-rising design and animation house. BLR has even picked up some hardware, winning the Grand Prix and Visual Effects ‘Lions’ at the 2010 Cannes Lions Advertising Festival for The Gift, a sci-fi short produced for Phillips. But it is through a recent short film, a personal project unfettered by marketing messages and remote stakeholders, that BLR makes its greatest strides.
BLR just released a trailer for Keloid, a fully CG animated feature slated to begin production in early 2013. Briefly, it’s the story of humanity reaching a technological singularity, at which artificial intelligence has surpassed that of man, and the uncertainty and danger of the next moment. It’s well-trodden territory, but BLR’s approach, as evidenced by the trailer, is intense, unique, and a little terrifying. The trailer is more of a ‘proof of concept’ piece, as the company sought to stretch itself creatively and refine new workflows, such as motion capture, that would be used on the feature.
“We’re mostly known for our visual effects work in advertising, but every now and then we like
to experiment and do something on our own to showcase our skills and give free reign to our
potential,” says J.J. Palomo, Creative Director of BLR.
“One of our animators came up with the idea of a mechanical SWAT force rushing into a clandestine drug lab also operated by robots. The idea was appealing, but we knew the conceptual treatment would require extensive amounts of motion capture to bring the troop of six robot soldiers to life with synchronized military precision as they enter the abandoned warehouse that is the setting for much of the trailer.”
Prior to the Keloid trailer, BLR had never experimented with motion capture on a project. They turned to iPi Motion Capture software to provide the backbone of production. Add two Microsoft Kinects to iPi’s markerless system, and what you have is a fast, cost-effective way to animate characters.
“We set up in our office using Kinect cameras, and just loved the outcome,” says Palomo. “We
used iPi Motion Capture to animate the main robots, and because we wanted a more realistic
approach in the biped animation, coupled with our small staff, we could not afford to spend a
lot of time digitally animating robots into the scenes....We worked with 3D Studio Max in BVH format, and loaded the motion capture data onto our more complex rig system, where we could then we could touch up, clean and reanimate.”
Creativity for years to come
Palomo praises iPi’s role in their passion project, although he admits BLR’s is just scratching the surface of what’s possible with the technology. “Our understanding of iPi Motion Capture has only begun. Using it on Keloid (trailer) was a learning process, but now it’s a part our pipeline and we’re looking forward to future product enhancements that will facilitate a smooth workflow and impact our creativity for years to come.”
After viewing this trailer, the praise for iPi’s MoCap system is definitely justified. And I can’t wait for the next time Bad Lazy Robot decides to stretch itself.