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Since March, the Algorithm Productions team has taken the opportunity to develop new virtual production and animation projects in lockdown. “There has been lots of excitement around virtual production in Unreal Engine with nDisplay and we’ve been working on demos to publish over the coming months,” Creative Director, Kev Freeney informed TPi. He referred to similar work in Notch with a view to augmenting livestreams – exploring what a stage can be when it doesn’t need physical infrastructure. “We’ve been talking loads about why somebody watches a streamed music event – what they expect from it, how to augment in a meaningful way rather than just splashing VFX everywhere for the sake of it,” he commented. “Simultaneously, we’re experimenting with in-browser multi-user event spaces with WebGL and exploring other aspects of WebGL and various javascript libraries to see how we can leverage some of our existing skills in a web environment.” One such lockdown project Freeney referred to is a recent collaboration on the music video for The Blizzards’ Pound the Pavement. “This was a response to us being in lockdown and not being able to shoot a more traditional live performance music video for the band,” he revealed. “It’s about people using technology to connect while in isolation. We wanted to show our audience that we can all still create beautiful and memorable moments by working together – even remotely.” The concept involves two digital avatars falling in love with each other online. “During lockdown, so many of us were using technology to communicate and feel connected with our friends and family around the world – we wanted to expand this and develop it into a contemporary digital duet. “The song is also about taking back control when you think you have lost it,” he underlined. “The lyrics project a message of hope, grit and determination to overcome the challenges we are all facing today.” The

project marked the collective’s first experience with a Noitom mocap suit. “It was really enjoyable,” Freeney quipped. “It’s a great tool to use; we really pushed how far we could go with it with a very small budget. As we only had one suit, we had to practice and rehearse all the dance moves with our Choreographer, Janna Kemperman, from both characters’ perspectives.” As the band was in isolation, Algorithm delivered a suit to each member of the band, controlling remotely from the Noitom App over TeamViewer and Zoom. “This was a healthy but rewarding challenge,” Freeney recalled. “We can’t wait to see what we can do with this kind of technology in a live event environment.” For the Blizzards music video, the MoCap data was remotely recorded using a Noitom suit. “We used the data to animate some models in C4D, attaching instruments where necessary, and exported as animated FBX files to bring into Notch,” Freeney added. “We also animated the camera locations in C4D and linked that data in Notch too.” Inside Notch, most of the video was achieved with a combination of mesh emitters and particle effectors. Freeney explained: “The big challenge there was keeping definition in the characters while retaining the ‘dots in a void’ particle look so we added a few more meshes with polygons clustered around muscle groups or important bones, so we could give particles in these areas slightly different behaviour.” A nervous system model was rigged and animated with the same data, to add further definition to the characters. “This was created by tracing over anatomical drawings with the spline pen tool in C4D and putting the spline through a sweep nurbs operation,” he continued. “Adding collision with a ground plane proved a very effective way to suggest the shape of the space without showing it explicitly.” Algorithm was initially founded in the BLOCK T studios in Smithfield. BLOCK T had been founded during the last great recession as a response 54

Profile for Mondiale Media

TPi October 2020 - #254