Mates Condoms brand delivers a thrilling and raunchy rollercoaster ride blending 3D animation and live-action models – thanks to animation work by Mainframe and direction by David Edwards.

While sex and advertising have always been along on the same ride, Mates Condoms brand needed to take the intimate representation of sex to the next level with its latest campaign.

Called Pleasureland, the 40-second spot sees a ride through a highly stylized multimedia world of hedonistic sexual pleasure. The result is an ad that shows a real couple experiencing a series of thrilling rides against an evocative, edgy animated backdrop.

Devised by London ad agency WARL, the campaign was directed by David Edwards at HANraHAN. All 3D design, animation, visual effects and compositing were provided by Mainframe following an initial approach by Edwards.

The brief was straightforward: to create an abstract ‘Pleasureland’ featuring a rollercoaster and bumper-car theme as a metaphor for a couples’ experience when using Mates condoms, with the commercial building pace to create a sense of climax.

“Mainframe is a company I have wanted to work with for a while because they do some really innovative and interesting work,” says Edwards.

“Mainframe has a wealth of talented designers and animators that I knew would help bring the project to life with an original and well-produced final product.”

And while the spot is all about the pleasure of sex, the team at Mainframe had to ensure that it was also suitable for terrestrial broadcast, according to Mainframe’s Lee Walker.

“Despite the late-night nature of the promo, due to its subject matter the Mates brand requirements meant we had to eliminate any sensitive areas from our scenes – however, the couple still needed to appear to be completely naked to authenticate their experience. We also had to make sure none of our objects within the scenes were too phallic or crudely suggestive,” he says.

The live-action performances were mixed with 3D animation and visual effects to create a fantasy pleasure world.

Mainframe designed, animated and composited the entire 3D sequence, from pre-production to final visual effects, in just seven weeks. Once they had received the brief, Mainfame illustrator and designer Giedre Domzaite interpreted the brief and the spot’s individual metaphor elements by creating concept drawings of scenes. The final drawings were mapped into the CG Pleasureland scenes, says Walker.

Mainframe’s major task was to create the 3D rollercoaster that the couple ride, with the 3D animation incorporating a unique visual style based on moodboard and colour references supplied by the director.

The animation was designed and built around HANraHAN’s live-action filming using Autodesk’s Maya and 3DS Max. The 3D elements were kept light to minimize render times – essential in such a short schedule.

All greenscreen compositing, tracking and online visual effects were also created and composited in-house at Mainframe.

Bump and grind

“The brief for the overall direction and feel of the animation was to be sympathetic to the action in the scene, so if the camera animated violently in the bump scenes, the objects mirrored the couple’s movement,” says Walker.

“We modelled and animated most of the elements in Maya. Some of the more organic elements were made with particle flow in 3DS Max. Since most of the organic elements had to be animated easily, we modelled the smaller parts separately fl at, and bound them to motion curves. We then shaped the bigger elements by combining the motion curves.

“This way we could build a number of quite complex shapes quickly,” he continues. “When the bigger elements were close enough to the 2D illustrations, our rigging team set up some nifty controls for the animators.”

Mainframe used both Maya and 3DS Max, citing 3DS Max’s event-based particle system as a key feature, married to Maya’s more general-purpose animation, rendering and open framework.

“This meant we could expand on the existing tools to solve any problems we encountered,” says Walker. “3DS Max’s particle flow is an incredibly open and creative way of creating effects.

"We’re not loyal to one program – we use whatever tool works best for the job and often, in this case, what could be used quickest.”

Around half of the 3D animation sequences required Mainframe to track the camera from the shoot, with the team turning to Syntheyes, and exporting the result to Maya and After Effects for compositing.

“This way, the compositing artists could start painting backgrounds and animating 2D elements while the 3D artists blocked out the scenes,” says Walker.

“Once the 3D scenes were blocked out, the 2D artists could use the 3D playblasts in their comps as reference. This way, the director got a pretty good idea of what was happening straight away.”

He continues: “Although it’s sometimes a bit slow, we found that After Effects is an incredibly versatile tool for both visual effects and motion graphics.”

The production wasn’t without its challenges: the construction of a believable CG world to the production deadline proved the biggest hurdle.

Here, Walker admits the benefits of having a clear animation production pipeline nailed down. He adds that the combination of streamlined 3D modelling and animation techniques, plus a pipeline that allowed for compositing and 3D animation to develop simultaneously, meant the project hit its deadline.

Mainframe’s head of 3D Arvid Niklasson reckons that the bumper cars scenes are one of the highlights. “The fact that the actress was actually pushed around in a real bumper car made her acting very real,” he says. “These scenes were also the first to be finished in the comp, so as soon as everyone saw these we were confident the piece was going to look great.”

Team effort

Walker says that using After Effects had an additional benefit to help the team meet its deadline. “Using After Effects for visual effects at Mainframe means that our motiongraphics artists can help out sometimes without compromising our 3D and comping pipeline.”

The models were filmed using hand-held cameras, adding to the natural movement of the piece.


Project: Pleasureland
Client: Mates Condoms/WARL
Studio: HANraHAN, Mainframe,
Software: Adobe After Effects, Autodesk 3DS Max, Autodesk Maya, Andersson Technologies Syntheyes