October 1, 2013

Inside the 'Box': Behind the Scenes of Bot & Dolly's Magical Short Film

BTS Bot and Dolly BoxIn case you missed it, a few days ago we shared an incredible short film entitled Box, produced by design and engineering studio Bot & Dolly that must be seen to be believed. Using projection mapping, robots, and two 4x8 canvases, Bot & Dolly create an inspiring 3D landscape, all in-camera, all in real-time. And, as promised, the behind the scenes video has been released, giving us an inside look at the incredible digital "magic tricks." So, if you were dying to know just how Bot & Dolly did it, read on.

To create Box, Bot & Dolly used their state of the art robotic systems to move the camera, as well as the blank 4x8 canvases, while projecting 3D imaging created in Maya onto them in a process called projection mapping.

For those who haven't seen the short filmcheck it out below:

https://vimeo.com/75260457

The Creator's Project jumps behind the scenes of Box in order to talk to Design Director Bradleyy "GMUNK" Munkowitz and Design Technologist Tarik Abdel-Gawad about the process they employed in order to make such a groundbreaking film.

One of the aspects of this project that makes it so unique, is that Bot & Dolly used projection mapping on moving objects, something that has never been done before. Munkowitz explains that the film, though an exercise in the technical capabilities of mixing robotics and projection mapping, is really a story about magic and illusion. So, if you noticed those titles in the film, like "Transformation" and "Levitation," they were referring to the different principles of magic. Very clever!

bot and dolly bts

Bot & Dolly created software called BD Move, that allows animators to control robots with Maya, which is essentially the cornerstone technology behind Box. Abdel-Gawad starts with a flat render in CG, then projects it out onto the panels. The Creator's Project article explains how it works:

This program allows for the team to animate the functions of the robotic in 3D space. For the camera movement, instead of simply animating a path, they motion-captured the view of an actual person watching the performance and then applied this natural movement to a camera path.

Now, go behind the scenes of Bot & Dolly's Box, and find out how they used their own magic to make this incredible film.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4ajXJ3nj1Q

A big thanks to The Creator's Project for sending the BTS video our way!

Now that you've pulled back the curtain, what do you make of Box? Are these filmmaking techniques something you could see yourself implementing in your own films?

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12 Comments

I wonder if in the future we'll see live motion capture performances being rendered out in realtime, and projected into the set so the other actors can interact with a CG character just like any other actor.

October 1, 2013 at 6:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Aaron

That sounds remarkably close to what they did on "Gravity".

October 2, 2013 at 12:57AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Harry Pray IV

October 2, 2013 at 1:20AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Darren Wolff

I've been looking forward to see the behind the scenes on this one, thanks for sharing!

October 1, 2013 at 6:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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MoCap performances can be rendered in real time. It just depends on the quality of rendering than one wants or needs. Presumably, one can even render facial images in real time, though they sort of look a little creepy.
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PS. I am more interested in robotic camera arms. I think. It they can help shoot a live action scene in real time with "filmic" quality, it would be groundbreaking.

October 1, 2013 at 9:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

As these rigs evolve what I am looking forward to is a library of camera moves you could just click and use. One cool thing about these rigs is that they can take match moving data and replicate it in the real world. So you could shoot hand held, track the video, and these robots could then emulate that motion. Crazy stuff.

While these automotive robots are very impressive, I don't see why a smaller brush-less gimbal setup with 5+ axis of freedom couldn't do similar motions in the near future.

October 2, 2013 at 1:59PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dan

Exactly. Think of a set with 4-5 robotic arms controlled by a joystick in the central control room much like a cable cam during an NFL contest. Then you take half a dozen sample shots using the various lighting setups and then edit the rest in post with that French software. The Germans are already using the automated camera rooms in their news shows - all green screen too.
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As to handhelds like MōVI, I think they will need some sort of a mobile platform like a rubber track dolly, suspended cable or simply an operator on a Segway or a powered board. Otherwise, the weight of a full rig is a bit much to bear. of course, one can mix and match too, if for no other reason than for variety.

October 3, 2013 at 3:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

Cool project and really well done, technically as well as artistically. Fun to see the behind the scenes stuff too.

October 2, 2013 at 11:37AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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David

Only 7 comments on this! Shocking. Should have written Blackmagic in the title, it would have been contextually appropriate.

October 2, 2013 at 4:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Conan

Did I miss something or didn't they show the projection? Since it was done "in camera" there must have been a fourth robot (at least) to project the images. Sadly they left out that part.
I like what they did, but actually I don't like bold statements like "no one has ever done this before", "it will change filmmaking" - guys, that's just way over the top. IMHO.

October 3, 2013 at 12:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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JustOne

Has someone done this before?

Some things actually do change the filmmaking process. For instance, how many of us are using film to make films these days? I think it is appropriate to recognize innovation when it happens. I have been following bot'ndolly for a while now and their technology actually does present an entirely new world of film making possibilities. It just isn't available for mass market consumption yet like DSLRs.

October 4, 2013 at 1:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dan

I just found my cameraman - [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wE3fmFTtP9g]

October 5, 2013 at 12:29AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD