XYZ crafts green stings for Honda

Australian VFX and animation house XYZ Studio has just completed work on a bright little series of spots with a hand-crafted feel, announcing Honda's sponsorship of the televised 'environment updates'.

The spots were created by Tim Kentley, and feature a blend of 2D and 3D animation, photo-real and stop-motion. We caught up with Kentley to quiz him about the process of creating them.

DA: What was the brief for the project?
TK: The brief was to create spots that were about performance and sustainability – in terms of how that looked was very open. This was a great starting point as XYZ's core belief is that if the idea is original, then the depiction of that idea should be original too. We knew we had a series of evolutionary cars – from the Civic Hybrid to the FCX Hydrogen Clarity – to unearth some new looks from.

DA: What were your initial ideas?
TK: Our initial ideas were the ones that went all the way through to the end. Honda is about dreams – bringing into physicality our thoughts and feelings. We decided to keep the backgrounds white to create a virtual blank canvas into which the dreams could evolve. We didn't want to make fully built landscapes but keep an openness. For the other elements, we drew from the idea of new technologies (such as electric motors) bonded with existing technologies (the internal combustion engine) – we reflected that the animation should be hybrid too. Each spot mixes CG cars, hand illustration and stop motion elements to create a fresh and engaging look.

DA: Who or what were your influences in fixing the aesthetic of the piece?
TK: Um, that's not how XYZ rolls. We are hardwired to let the image come out of the idea – it's about being relevant to the brief, not what's cool or in or done. All those things are boring. The key is to develop a new visual language for each excution, to create a bubble in a saturated market, which people will want to enter into. The exciting thing about animation is that it's so varied and powerful, there is really no reason why you can't do just that. It all comes down to the mind aligned to the work.

DA: How did you go about creating the final piece?
TK: It was labour intensive – mixing photo real CG cars with 12 compositing passes on them, stop motion and illustration means multiple teams working in parallel together. The spots look beguilingly simple but there is a lot going on. Mixing frame rates and matching CG cameras with stop motion cameras – all good fun that gives a rewarding look in the end!

DA: What was the biggest challenge you faced, and how did you overcome this?
TK: Making the mountain for 'Assist' was technically challenging. We wanted an increadibly detailed mountain so we turned to VXF guru Patrick Felgueras who created the ice and mountains for Happy Feet. Displacements, (we are talking about tens of millions of polygons) CG cars and grass all working together isn't an easy setup to render – but we got there.

DA: What software did you use?
Maya, Illustrator, Combustion, Photoshop and a Canon 5D camera

To watch the spots, visit the XYZ Studios website.

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