Making "Kick the Crooks Out of City Hall"
Motion like this is easy with our tools.
Created, of course, with Falling
View the video. (4MB)
This 15-second political spot was made with Softimage 3.8
and the Animats Falling
Bodies 2 plug-in.
character is a stock model from abscissa's
"Five Guys" model set. Ours started as the white-haired
guy in the black suit. This low-polygon-count stock model
came in .DXF format, posed to populate architectural
models. We cleaned up the model, reworked it into a neutral
posture, gave it joints and more polygons near the joints,
and created an articulated model. We used the bone structure
of the Falling Bodies "Human-Shruggable"
model, but decided not to have a clavicle joint to simplify
the animation of the suit coat. We set conservative joint
limits; the character can't raise his arms fully above
City Hall model is based loosely on San Francisco's city
hall. We shot a few photos, concentrating on the doors
and other architectural details, built a simple model
of the lower front of City Hall, and textured the models
with the photos. We've taken some liberties with the building;
the broad plaza across which the guy gets kicked doesn't
exist in reality.
voting machine in the "Vote Here" sequence is modelled
on an old Shoup machine. Although they're no longer used,
a nearby county still has a few in storage and allowed
us to photograph one.
|The character's arm movement is keyframed, right up
until the big foot hits his butt. The "big foot" is rotated
through 180 degrees by keyframe animation. Falling
Bodies was run starting at this frame, just before
contact, and all the character motion from then on was
generated automatically, including the collision with
the limo. This was the easiest part of the project. It
only took about fifteen minutes to generate the stunt.
We hid the character's jacket during Falling Bodies
simulation, to keep it from being treated as a huge, rigid
|One frame later, Falling Bodies animating. Ouch! The
kick really is a kick, and it has to hit in the right
spot to get the right motion. We had to adjust the "big
foot" a few times to make the stunt come out the way we
wanted. Our first try kicked so hard the character was
kicked airborne and across the street. We slowed down
the "big foot" and tried again. Next time, the guy went
right down on the pavement, because the foot hit above
the belt. A bit of retargeting (carefully aiming foot
at center of butt) produced the desired results.
|Now we're on auto, with Falling Bodies
doing the work. Flying over the steps he goes
|and into the side of the limo, face first. Don't try
doing this with motion capture. On the audio track, the
scream is abruptly cut off at this frame.
|Kicked out of City Hall at last. Friction and damping
eventually stop the motion, after a few bounces. All the
hard animation work in this project was done automatically.
Rendering and output
The project was rendered with mental ray, the Softimage
raytracer, at 640 x 480 x 15fps. No unusual rendering features
were used. In retrospect, we should have turned on motion blur.
The project was assembled in Premiere 4.2, and output from an
uncompressed .avi file to Betacam SP on an Avid Media 100 at
The Internet version was originally an .avi file compressed with the
Indeo 5.10 compressor. This fractal compressor does a
good job with the grain in the stone and cement, which most
compressors (including the one in the Media 100) don't handle
well. We compressed down to 800Kb/sec, and probably could
have compressed harder. Since Indeo is totally obsolete, in 2012 we transcoded the file to MP4, with some loss in quality.