To create the heart itself, the team used Maya, mental ray, Flame, ZBrush and MotionBuilder. Achieving the right lighting to ensure that the heart looked absolutely realistic required state-of-the-art lighting.

Shine a light

“We used edgy techniques like ICT’s light stage, which is normally in the realm of high-profile, high-budget feature films,” Tannenberger says. “We integrated their results into our pipeline in the same way we included Image Metrics’ lip-tracking into our animation.”

“HDRI allowed us to match the lighting exactly in animation,” adds Tan. “To make the heart look wet and bloody we broke the shading into two layers: sub-surface scattering and then the bloody part. Both required internal R&D. we had to come up with texture structures to control the effect of how the light scatters on the tissues. For the sheen and bloody wetness we wrote our own shaders and combined them in Maya.”

Then there was the problem of creating the blood spatters that drip liberally from the heart as it staggers around the diner. “We did a stress simulation on the heart’s geometry,” explains Tannenberger.

“Using Python DSOs, which are pre-compiled extensions to the scripting language used in Real Flow, we fed Real Flow with our proprietary data sets, to simulate where the heart would bleed.”

Achieving realistic results was a tall order – and the ever-present constraints of time and budget made it more so.

“In general, music video budgets have been shrinking, and this project was no exception,” says Tannenberger. “Being tasked with 45 seconds of ultra-naturalistic CG plus secondary animation for liquids and vegetables really stretched our resources.

“But we were so crazy about Chris’ concept and vision that we embraced the project.”

Cutting edge

To make the heart interact convincingly with the promo’s live-action elements, the team created CG elements that sat unobtrusively in the set. Olcun Tan says: “The broccoli is CG; we also created some CG peas. The knife that the heart grabs and uses on itself is also completely CG so all the interaction is seamless.”

The Gradient FX team tests the motion-capture equipment in advance of the body shoot.

Singer Cee-lo sings for the motion-capture cameras.

The ZBrush model of the heart.


Project: Who’s Gonna Save My Soul
Client: Atlantic Records
Studio: Gradient FX,
Software: Autodesk Flame, Autodesk Maya, Autodesk MotionBuilder, mental ray, Motion Builder, Pixelogic ZBrush