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You get an idea for a great TV ad, you make a video of it and upload it to YouTube - and a major company sees it and snaps it up.
If you think this scenario sounds far-fetched, think again. It happened to CINEMA 4D user Will MacNeil.

Six months after posting his concept advert on YouTube, Will was ecstatic when out of the blue he received an email from Amnesty International. Was Will interested in adapting the ad for a television campaign? Will jumped at the chance. He had always wanted to push the ad in terms of quality and this was his opportunity to do it.

The idea for the advert had begun months earlier. Will, a motion graphics designer based in London, liked the idea of people being able to write their names into the air using their fingertips and their names having the power to change the world. The slogan would be, "I have a name".

The chance to create the YouTube ad came when Will had some time between jobs. He spent several days shooting his work colleagues with a DV camera, then set about match moving the shots and developing a workflow, using CINEMA 4D to create the signature effect.

Except for the music, Will produced the entire piece himself. It took about two weeks from the start of editing to putting it up on YouTube.

Straight away Will had some great responses to his video on YouTube. For example, the band "65 Days of Static", whose track "Don't Go Down to Sorrow" is featured in the ad, contacted Will to say how much they liked the piece. But most of all, Will enjoyed the comments of his peers in the CINEMA 4D forum at cgtalk.com.

The months passed. Just when Will thought the ad had run its course on YouTube, an email arrived from Amnesty International's Irish Section. John McGauley, operations director, and Colm O'Gorman, executive director, had seen the ad and wanted to know if Will would be interested in adapting it for Irish television.

Will agreed and arranged with Amnesty International to go to Dublin to shoot the ad over a few days. As with the original, Will would write, produce, direct and edit the ad. But this time Will would be assisted by his good friends, cameraman Richard Gillespie and compositor Richard Scarlett.

In just two days, the team filmed 28 people in and around Dublin using a handheld camera.

With the shooting in Dublin complete, Will headed back to London and settled on a cut. "That's when the fun started," says Will.

"For an effect that appears simple, the signature takes a lot of work. Each shot had to be tracked twice. First, as a match move, i.e. as a 3D track that created a scene with a keyframed camera that can then be opened in a 3D application like CINEMA 4D; second, as a 2D track following the actor's hand."

Will used PFTrack for match moving. Will took the solved camera from PFTrack into CINEMA 4D and started to build a scene around the tracked camera.

"It's essential that I find the right place in 3D space to put the signature," continues Will. "This may sound odd to anyone who hasn't done much 3D tracking. But it's quite tricky putting everything where it should be. Often I would track a shot and build the signature only to realize I'd made it ten times too large and fifty meters away from the actor."

To solve this, Will came up with the following workflow in CINEMA 4D:

"The original shot is loaded in as a background. I put a figure primitive roughly where I thought the person was standing relative to the camera and scaled it so that it matched the actor. Then just moving around the timeline told me if I was getting close. Next, I stuck a plane in front of the figure as a sort of wall where the signature will be written. I aligned a null to this plane, then moved it [along the] X and Y [axes] until it was lined up with the actor's finger, and keyframed it on each frame."

"CINEMA 4D's MoGraph module was a great help here. I used the Tracer object to follow the null. This created a spline that grew behind the null as it moved through the scene. Then I created a Sweep NURBS with a circle sweeping along the Tracer spline. This was rendered out as a simple shaded shape with an alpha channel. Then I made the Tracer spline editable so that I could adjust the Sweep NURBS for a second render pass. CINEMA 4D allowed me to scale the Sweep NURBS at different positions. This helped us create the thick and thin segments for the final ad and give the effect a more 'painted' look."

"This was rendered out with shading and both passes were taken into Shake to be composited over the background. The first pass, created from the Tracer NURBS, was used as matte for the other pass, constraining it so that it [was] revealed as the actor moved his or her hand. Compositor Richard Scarlett greatly improved the look of the signature trails. Finally the shot was stabilized to turn the hand-held camera move into something more like a Steadi-cam."

So why does Will use CINEMA 4D as his 3D tool of choice?

"I started using CINEMA 4D four years ago when I moved [to] motion graphics full time. I was comfortable with CINEMA 4D almost instantly. I like the app for many reasons, but most important for me is its speed."

"Most of my work is for documentaries which, by their nature, change constantly as they're edited. I have to work with these changes, often very quickly. CINEMA 4D's workflow is efficient, logical and fast. Unlike other apps that feel like many of their features are bolt-ons. Nearly everything in CINEMA 4D works in a similar way. This means I can pick up new skills and features quickly. I had to model the furry paw of a grizzly bear a few months ago. I had about two hours to do it. I had never seriously used the CINEMA 4D HAIR Module before that but I came up with a passable paw in time - granted it was under water."

"I use MoGraph [the CINEMA 4D module for motion graphics] on nearly everything. On a recent title sequence for a new Discovery Channel series, I had to create a swarm of Post-It© notes flying around and then forming shapes like globes, cars and houses. Normally this would probably be a particle job. But I'm much more comfortable with MoGraph, so I did it that way. I used splines as objects to clone the Post-Its©, then Inheritance Effectors to fly them around, and finally Spline Effectors to bring them [together] into shapes. I had ten different images to apply to the Post-Its© and then four different colors. Using the Multi-Shader I could create 40 unique Post-Its©. This kind of thing would have taken much longer and been more complex with particles."

With the Amnesty International ad complete, all that remained was the rollout of the ad during Autumn 2008 on several Irish TV channels and at the world premiere of the film "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas". The ad had made the memorable journey from YouTube video to a national TV ad. And not only that: "With the ad for Amnesty International, I have a small hope that something I made might help someone. And that's a big reward", says Will.

About Will MacNeil

Will MacNeil has been involved in television post-production for over 12 years. He worked as an editor on television in the US for several years before moving to London to work as an assistant editor on films. Eventually, Will moved into documentaries as an offline editor but he kept finding that it was his skills with graphics and effects that his clients were after. In 2004, Will got tired of trying to trying to make sense of other people's rushes and decided to move into motion graphics. His first extended 3D project, a series for Channel 4 called "Bricking It", won a technical achievement award for graphics. Will is currently finishing a new series for the Discovery Channel. 

More information


Credits (Amnesty International Ad)

Written and directed by
Will MacNeil

Richard Gillespie - www.richardgillespie.co.uk

Richard Scarlett - cg@blackhart.demon.co.uk

Asa Shoul
Framestore Digital Lab

Color Grading and Digital Negative
Asa Shoul
Framestore DIgital Lab

35mm Printing
Deluxe London

Simon Gershon

'Don't go down to sorrow'
65 Days of Static
Monotreme Records
(on iTunes)

Assistant Director
Richard Cosgrove

Production Manager
Eimear Kelly

Diarmuid Hughes

Assistant Producer
Dave Doherty

Produced on behalf of Amnesty International - Irish Section
Colm O'Gorman - Executive Director
John McGauley - Operations Director
  • ?
    Marine 2008.11.17 21:35
    대단하신 분이군요 ^^
  • ?
    박씨 2008.11.19 00:50
    장문의 압박......바빠서 읽다가 포기 했는데 ㅋㅋ



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