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March 26th, 2018

Ever wanted to direct, perform and animate CG characters in real-time?

That's what Mill+ Creative Director Jeffrey Dates' brainchild allows you to do. Mill Mascot utilizes real-time rendering technology and a custom-built, CGI virtual production pipeline to create any character.

You can see this tech in action in KBS and The Mill's most recent campaign for Monster.com 'Vonster'.

We sat down with Jeffrey to learn more about the project and the capabilities of Mill Mascot

How did Mill Mascot come about?

I've been developing a system for some time that allows for the creation and animation of character-driven content in real-time. It was also important to me that the look maintained the quality standard that we're known for here at The Mill. It came about as I was developing narrative content that I wanted to animate, but lacked the time and resource. With Mill Mascot,  I'm able to test out story ideas quickly to generate content.

The system was prototyped and shown at an internal showcase 'Move Me' where we set up an interactive Karaoke puppet kiosk to great acclaim. Then, after a personalized demonstration, KBS were immediately interested in capitalizing on the opportunity to get in on the ground floor to create, direct and animate their furry Monster on the spot.

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What makes this unique?

What's new about all of this is that it's a character animation project (something that usually takes months to create) happening in real-time, which means the character is rendered at 42 milliseconds per frame while simulating over 2.7 million dynamic, self-shadowing hairs.

In traditional animation terms, it would be weeks before the director or client can see a CG character placed within the environment captured on the shoot. However, this workflow allows all parties to see the character live on-set, as well as animate and direct it. With the ability to interact live, content is created, and animated with client's feedback happening live as it occurs.

What we've done here is created a workflow that allows quick and efficient animation at an incredibly high quality. We've employed combinations of different hardware sensors, cameras, monitors, and GPUs used as the backbone of the workflow. The system is hardware agnostic, evolving and improving based on the latest tech, this allows us to address client needs and requests in record time as well as to upgrade and evolve as new hardware becomes available.

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What does the future hold for Mill Mascot?

This method of Virtual Production opens up huge possibilities in terms of character asset creation for agencies and brands. Want to create assets for social media in a timely response to world events? Mill Mascot will help you do it.

There are also possibilities within the realms of long-form episodic content and live performance and web streams. We're in the future of animation and virtual production. It's big, purple and furry.

Monster.com 'Vonster'