Animating the future of transport
When this project came our way we were excited and nervous in equal measure. And it was quite a secretive one – so much so I’ve only been able to blog about it now despite much of the work happening last autumn. Coventry City Council approached us seeking a video explaining their futuristic vision of an integrated transport system (imagine a much fancier oyster card system, linked to your phone, linked to satellites, with smart journey planning taking in factors such as weather, traffic delays, carbon footprint etc., with wonderful opportunities for travel efficiency, driverless cars, journey re-routing..) – you get the picture. The challenge was to think of the best and most inspiring way to communicate that picture.
The proposal was – and bearing in mind that although many of these technologies are in development, they’re not widely available – to create a mixed animation and real-life video, showing a person carry out a typical days travel, utilising the key features of an integrated mobility system. Hmmm.. and so the head scratching began.
Once our brows were sufficiently furrowed and our beards suitably stroked, Spencer and I allotted on the plan of filming actors in a green screen studio, then layered onto a 3D environment with aligned camera angles and movements. This meant we needed to plan out each shot with complete precision so that it all came together smoothly in the edit. We needed a storyboard, and considering our own ‘sketchy’ draughtsmanship skills, we hired an illustrator.
Elena Ciolacu, a gradaute of the University, provided her skilful drawing to produce us a storyboard, from which we could then work out our shot list. Our hard-working animator Kabol Ma, got started on the main locations – constructing entire 3D environments which we could then move a virtual camera within freely. And we brought in two actors: Cameron Moon (who as it turned out works at the University), and Anne-marie Greene (on loan from our local community theatre – The Criterion), who bless them had quite a tough job working with an imaginary set. “Ok so a large train has just pulled up in front of you, and you need to step on board, and mind the gap – which isn’t there. Oh and careful you don’t walk through that window – which doesn’t exist”. With some dedication, and plenty a scratched head, we completed the filming smoothly, and then it was over to the lengthy post production job.
As Kabol set about integrating our cut-out footage into the animated environment, Spencer got to work on the various mobile app and interactive transport screens, and masking them in to create the impression of seamless interaction. Once we’d cut the first edit together we brought in Andy Stamper (a.k.a. TaskTwelve) to add the icing on the cake with a lively contemporary soundtrack. With a few more tweaks, and a bit of tightening up we arrived at our finished piece. Phew!
Ultimately what sums up the project, is the fantastic collaboration of talented individuals with all kinds of different specialisms, all delivered with passion, and all found here in Coventry. So sit back and enjoy: