The Mill Take the Citroen Carbot to the Next Level

?‚àö√ë‚àö‚â§Ice Skater’s – is one of the most difficult UK motion capture sessions ever attempted. In technical terms the original Citroen ‘Dancing Carbot’ production was a seminal commercial in that it completely opened the box on the realistic possibilities of cgi and animation within a television commercial.

Its simple yet clever idea of a car transforming into a robot dancing like Justin Timberlake ultimately proved it to be one of the most popular commercials of the last few years. Therefore, being commissioned to do the follow-up was going to be a true challenge for anyone to take on but the team at The Mill could not resist jumping in!

The brief was to update the design of the carbot and extend its animation abilities. This time, rather than dancing, the challenge was to highlight the dynamics and the agility of the real car using a speed skating carbot and a frozen lake. The live action was filmed on a real frozen lake in Canada. Attended by the Mill’s Animation Supervisor Russell Tickner, the production team had the difficult task of shooting a commercial without their hero robot in attendance.

To help with this Olympic speed skater Nicky Gooch was on hand to skate though alternate takes so that in the off-line edit the editor was able to have true continuity within the cut. While on the minus 10 degree shoot (who said filming was glamorous?) Russell took multiple HDRI environment photographs to be used in the lighting, rendering and the virtual plate reconstruction later in the process.

For the animation the most important aspect was getting the realistic human movement ‘just right’ and for that the very latest motion capture setup was used. Traditionally it is thought to be impossible to film MoCap on ice due the reflectivity of the surface, and this combined with the extra large catchment necessary to film the speed skater, meant this became one of the most difficult UK motion capture sessions ever attempted.

All the elements were brought together by the Flame team, led by Barnsley, who subtly and painstakingly finessed all the shots to create the perfect integration of cg and live action. The final composite was then DCP’d by the original telecine team led by Paul Harrison to give the final picture real balance in colour levels and contrast.

Barnsley added, “For this project, it proved a great success to integrate, the Flame suite, in the CG department. This was of huge benefit as the design and the animation was allowed to develop. A certain amount of experimentation took place, and the team were able to quickly adapt the animation and composition, accordingly. Also the varied blend of music within the department and a tot of whiskey, on the stroke of midnight each day, helped lift the spirits as the days and nights drew longer”.

As a company The Mill is indebted to the original idea and it’s completion due to the very real opportunities it has creatively opened up to all in post production, we can only hope we’ve done it some justice and that people enjoy it as much if not more – and of course buy lots of Citroen C4s!

View the Spot here!




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