Hackett Animates High Adventure at the Maritime Museum

Feb 20, 2013 article by Digital Media World

Hackett Films has created a tomboy character, Lucy, to introduce Sydney Maritime Museum’s three lively summer exhibitions for families in a whirlwind new TVC.

 In the integrated display banner, print and animated TVC campaign, Lucy adventurously navigates through three distinct worlds - steering her own vessel in ‘Ships of the Sea’, discovering treasure in ‘Pirates’, and wielding a super soaker in ‘Wetworld’. Lucy is a daring, action girl designed to appeal to kids of all ages - with a special appeal for the girls.

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The character, painterly backgrounds and 3D props were all produced at a billboard print resolution, giving the Hackett team a kit of essential parts that they handed over to the agency Bloke who designed the numerous display banners and print ads. Lucy can be seen all over Sydney, from the airport to the back of buses and the action-packed commercial ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’, broadcasting on Channel 9, GO! and Gem.

When Bloke originally contacted Hackett Films, they went to a meeting at the Maritime Museum situated in Darling Harbour, quite a spectacular location. Scouting around the area itself inspired several shots in the TVC.

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Given their brief to create Lucy, an energetic tomboy with special appeal for girls, director James Hackett sketched up his initial ideas. “We ran with one direction and fine tuned her through out the modelling and texturing process. Her hair changed a bit - but the number of freckles was always defined by the initial written treatment!” he said. “We did the hero print shots first and delivered them semi-layered. To give the agency some latitude, we chose the highest resolution we could output.”

Due to the three different exhibitions rolled into the one spot, the team essentially had to create three ‘mini-commercials’ within only 30 seconds. In order to control and pace the animation with the story, they created an animatic, including rough sound, losing the sketches of Lucy in the rough edit quite early in the process. Once animation was underway in Maya they could use playblast as well. All the animation was done in Maya and After Effects, and modelling mostly in Blender.

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They also worked in some real transitions within the 30 seconds to take Lucy from one Museum adventure to the next. Their whirlwind look, developed by designer Jean Camden, adds excitement as well. “We found the faster they were, the better, although when they are too fast and they don't animate. The 3D character just edits between costumes but the background whoosh and character animation hides the cut,” explained James.

In the final segment presenting the Wet World exhibition, Lucy has to leap about dodging water jets and even performs a slow motion somersault, relying on the stretchy capabilities of the character rig. “To get the Matrix somersault moment to work we had to slow down the animation of all the 2D water effects, and that was a lot of work. In fact, it is actually a Tim Macmillan moment,” James reflected. “He invented the original time-slice technique in the ‘80s that was later adapted for ‘The Matrix’.

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The spot’s Darling Harbour environment is composed of matte paintings, including an aerial view, with an artistic style that are instantly recognisable as Sydney. The team used Google maps, the Mac map program and other photographic reference to achieve the aerial view, adding a subtle influence of Brett Whitley's famous Lavender Bay paintings. James said, “Most of the matte paintings were done in Photoshop on a 24-inch Cintiq display. Without this hardware and the skills of our designers Greg Hunsberger and Kim Lund, we couldn't have achieved the lovely painted backdrops.” 

Digistor account manager, Lachlan Robbins commented, "It’s rewarding to see the kinds of high quality, creative results that are being achieved on this technology. Hackett is ready to embrace new technology and software platforms to achieve their goals."

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