The client came to us with a fairly open concept for this spot, a nest of ants work together to create the iconic Harrods logo using parts from watch movements.
Mainframe was responsible for creating the flow and narrative of the spot, concentrating on camera moves and set-ups, trying to create shots that would draw the viewer into the story and emphasise the macro scale of the scenes.
An important part of the R&D for our animators was studying the behaviour and movement of ants. We were lucky to find some amazing reference footage from a BBC documentary, (always at the forefront of the game!). This was vital as reference for the last two shots, how they interact in the piles or ‘death spiral’, as it is known in ant circles.
The studio predominantly uses Maya as standard but the ant pile shot required more complicated dynamic simulations, which was taken care of with pFlow in 3ds Max. The rest of the ant flocking animation was made using nParticles, curve flow and instanced geometry with walk cycles in Maya. We rendered using V-Ray in Maya and used the Foundry’s Nuke to composite, then added Video Copilot optical flares for some finishing touches.
We rendered using V-Ray in Maya and used the Foundry’s Nuke to composite, then added Video Copilot optical flares for some finishing touches.
The most demanding technical aspect of this project surrounded the scale of the piece. Starting in macro before pulling out and reveal the enormity of the swarm, thousands of ants, all working together. This was achieved using a V-Ray proxy/Maya particle combo.
The proxies in V-Ray allow a huge number of objects to be in a scene, whilst only displaying a fraction of the faces actually present. This makes moving around the viewport and generally working with the scene bearable, without which it would be chug central. Our workflow involved a generic walk-cycle instanced as a V-Ray proxy in the particle system with tweaks to the movement so the pace of the ant matched the cyclet. We used the same technique for the cogs in the logo, which was modelled then converted after animation and reimported into the scene as a proxy.