In parallel to this, we pre-vised the animations for all shots. These 3D pre-vis co-ordinates were then sent to an electronics company called KMEL in Vancouver, who's bespoke software then interpreted this data.
Filmed in Vancouver at multiple city locations including a public swimming pool, local supermarket, a vintage barber shop, hotel and the famous Museum of Anthropology designed by Canadian architect Arthur Erickson, motion capture environments were created on all sets, in which computers controlled each of the hero characters individually, all flying perfectly in formation, in and around the various set up's throughout the commercial. This unique technological and client work flow solution, was an important practical solution to the brief and with our lead 3D CG artist Mike Chapman and a large team of CG artists, we were able to augment a lot of in camera shots and indeed develop others entirely in CG.
What we end up with in 'Swarm' is a world first. The spot takes existing quadrotor or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) technology out of its typical engineering environment and flies them in real locations. The result is a playful story of quads exploring the city at night, set to a Jonathan Goldstein composed original musical track.
Many of the complex quadrotor formations featured in the film had never been done before. The bespoke quadrotors created for 'Swarm' took design cues from Lexus cars, including the iconic spindle grille, LED headlights and LFA exhaust. The ambition was to bring warmth and personality to an existing colder technology, and the design brief was to balance both high-tech circuitry and aerodynamics with character animation.
Producer Chris Batten stated, "after the weeks of careful pre-production planning, concept work and pre-vis animations, when we first saw an offline we knew immediately we were into something amazing. To see that some of these shots were captured entirely in camera was incredible. We were just thrilled with this final ground breaking, technically innovative spot".
Jorge Montiel, Head of Animation explains, "Even though most of the shots had been done with real quads in motion, the animation team had to work on animating all the quads, for every shot before hand. The reason behind this was to add personality and character to these little quadrotors which was something Sam had wanted from the very beginning of the project. Their movements were choreographed in 3D and then transferred by Kmel. It has been a huge challenge bringing these little guys to life. The huge amount of technical detail was crucial to be able to animate these devices properly without having crashes or strange behaviors. Distance, acceleration, speed and the physics behind the helices were the main parameters we had to keep in mind whilst animating them. The way the quadrotors move is very agile but they also have a lot of limitations, which caused a higher level of difficulty when trying to make them expressive."