BBC Two: Branding with Character

June 20, 2016


How Cinema 4D, Cineware and Adobe After Effects enabled Vincent London to create its humorous BBC Two idents quickly and efficiently




By Steve Jarratt

Continuing its long relationship with BBC Marketing, Vincent London was called upon to design some new idents promoting BBC Two and its new season of programming. The spots featured the annual nature series Autumnwatch and Springwatch, plus a generic channel ident featuring the celebrity cook Nigella Lawson and the figure '2' channel mascot.


The first spot features the Autumnwatch hosts bird spotting on the coast, unaware of the huge flock of birds behind them forming a giant '2'. The sequence was made using Insydium's X-Particles plugin and employed xpEmitters in conjunction with xpGenerators to replace each particle with an object – in this case a low-poly bird with wings that flap in an animated loop. "We used various xpAttractors and xpCover modifiers to form the '2' followed by various xpTurbulence modifiers to disperse the birds," explains creative director John Hill.


For the final wide-angle scene, the team had to create the background from scratch since the original, ungraded footage showed the presenters mid-range in the center of the frame. "We needed to reposition the presenters far right of the frame and create a much wider shot, establishing them on the edge of the cliff so our CG birds could fly into frame on the left," says Hill. To accomplish this they created some '2.5D' elements – the presenters, grass planes, cliff face, sea, fields and bushes – and layered them together in After Effects.


The flocking birds were lit using an HDRI of the sky and an infinite light tracked to the sun's position. Shadow, Lighting, GI and Motion Vector passes were then rendered out (the Motion Vector pass enables the addition of motion blur in post using RealSmart Motion Blur Pro). The flocking birds were then composited into the wide-angle background plate, and the whole sequence was graded.


The second ident for Springwatch is a more complex sequence, showing a '2'-shaped butterfly emerging from its cocoon, flapping around and then landing on a branch. The butterfly was fully rigged, enabling the legs, body, and antennae to be animated, while the wings were just planes, textured and clipped using an alpha channel. "It was way quicker to use textures on simple planes with deformers than fully modeled wings with their own hair," says Hill. "It took a fair amount of time to Photoshop a good wing texture, but we're pretty sure it was a more efficient approach for what we needed."


The body of the butterfly had Cinema 4D Hair applied, which was brushed and sculpted into place. This was used to hide the joint between the thorax and the wings, where the hair was simply painted on as a texture map.


As the butterfly exits its cocoon, Deformers were used to unfold and unravel the wings. "Ideally we would have made a more complex rig for the wings so they would fold better, but we didn't have the time, unfortunately," admits Hill.


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