Framestore, the award-winning visual effects company, has created three noteworthy commercials for GE that feature a smartly conceived take on some of the top blockbuster science fiction movie franchises of all time, namely The Matrix, Back to the Future and Star Trek.
Began by its original five partners some two decades ago in London, Framestore now has offices in Los Angeles, Montreal and, most to the point here, New York. Working out of its Soho headquarters, the company teamed with uber-agency BBDO to create the commercials as part of GE’s Brilliant Machines campaign.
According to Framestore creatives, a major aspect of the commercials’ success was MAXON’s powerful yet approachable 3D animation software package CINEMA 4D. The app played a prominent role in creating visual effects for the spots, where it was used to model, animate and render its unique imagery.
I’ve commented about CINEMA 4D’s importance in the New York production scene in prior articles. Framestore’s high-profile spots help to illustrate the growing importance that C4D plays in creating visual effects driven, cinematic-quality projects here and elsewhere.
According to Marc Smith, Framestore New York senior design director, CINEMA 4D has become a regular part of the commercials department production, and used extensively for everything from style-frame creation, TV campaign production, brand idents, and feature-film title sequences.
With their attention to detail and faithfulness to the originals, these spots are fun to watch because they also offer a sophisticated take on three of the most iconic Hollywood fantasy films ever made.
The first spot, Agent Smith, focused on GE’s innovations in medical technology. It features Hugo Weaving, the original Agent Smith from The Matrix series. The commercial shows multiple instances of the actor popping up in each scene; it required the use of body doubles, head replacement and rotoscoping.
The second spot, The Future is Now, showcases GE Turbines. Featuring the voice of Michael J. Fox, the lead in the time-travel themed movie favorite Back to the Future, it began with the Framestore team shooting on set with the same DeLorean used in the movie. For post work, a detailed a CG version was created to match the original.
According to Marc Smith, Framestore relied on CINEMA 4D for the entire 10-second sequence where the camera travels through a turbine. Other tools, including After Effects and Maya, were also used in different sections of the spot.
The third spot in the campaign, the Star Trek themed Enterprise, focused on GE’s deep fuel safety technology. Give the production team credit for authenticity: Not only does the spot feature the real bridge from J.J. Abrams’ production of the classic science fiction property, but it also has two of original actors, John Cho (Sulu) and Joseph Gatt (Science Officer 0718).
In this spot, CINEMA 4D was, once again, a center of the production. The 3D app was used almost exclusively to create the interface designs on the hero graphics shots. I thought that these elements were remarkably well done. I was also struck with how well the Framestore crew handled integrating these designs with the live action elements. Check it out in the clip below.
Summing it up, Marc Smith presented Framestore’s use of the app straightforwardly. “CINEMA 4D represents an extremely valuable addition to the Framestore pipeline, providing us with an extremely nimble 3D toolset,” Smith said.
The takeaway: CINEMA 4D is a compelling product, useful for the most high-end of projects yet with a user-interface that still wins accolades for its low learning curve. Effects supervisors also like C4D since it offers powerful features such as projection mapping, sculpting, BodyPaint and dynamics simulation in one package.
CINEMA 4D has become a leader in the broadcast/motion graphics arena, certainly here in New York. We’ve even awarded the most recent version 15 as one of our “Best of 2013” products.
(Full disclosure: I often demo and represent CINEMA 4D at trade shows and other events.)