Few events bring the talent, the turn-out and the drama quite like the MTV Video Music Awards. Framestore worked with Beats by Dre for the 2013 bash, tasked with building and executing a real-time content system to ensure the hyper-relevant brand could engage with the show’s massive live audience as the evening’s performances and speeches played out.
Prepped and Ready
Already well-accustomed to working with creative agency R/GA and the Beats by Dre brand, Framestore was primed and ready to push their creative limits on the VMA brief. The London team had designed the original Beats Pill character, which was duly picked up by the LA office to create a series of teaser spots for MTV’s big night, calling for further character development along the way. With this most comprehensive of backgrounds in place, Digital Creative Director Mike Woods was able to look to the tech solutions needed to bring the content to a new real-time level: ‘We all knew that a “Miley Cyrus moment” would happen’, said Woods of the approaching show. ‘We needed to create a series of systems that would allow Beats to get maximum exposure on the night’.
Making It Social
Framestore was tasked with creating a real-time puppeteering system that would allow full live control of the Pill characters, and to assist with all aspects of the ensuing social media dissemination. The instant clips and videos turned out by the content system were voiced by a host of comedians (Neal Brennan, Corey Holcomb and Tichina Arnold), who gathered at Framestore’s New York HQ to riff and write material for widespread use across Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram and Vine.
Framestore chose the Unity game engine to create the puppet system, which allowed use of Xbox controllers and microphones to control all aspects of the characters’ movements, as well as granting them real-time speech. Each character’s animation tree was built in Maya in advance; with over 600 variants per character, the project called for a significant level of new pipeline creation in order to animate in Maya and export to Unity whilst using the same rig.
On The Night
On VMAs night, the full team crammed into the office: Beats’ social media gurus, the comedians who would spark the content, Framestore’s puppeteering machine and a Blackmagic capture set-up, working in sync to propel instant uploads in line with the live talking points of the event. ‘The last piece of this epic jigsaw puzzle was the paparazzi’, said Woods. ‘I’ve hired a few different types of freelancer for projects in my time, but this may have been the weirdest yet! We hired our own paps to be on the red carpet at the actual awards show in Brooklyn, in an official capacity, so that we could get fairly instant images of celebs arriving. We were getting the images to Framestore within 10 seconds, allowing us to create content in this way. The other key part of the team on the night were our After Effects and Photoshop wizards. These guys had some serious pressure to turn around the captured content, in the correct format, to be uploaded directly to all of the Beats accounts’.