January 22, 2013

Speel Je Toekomst


Aegon Insurance company recently launched an online platform where visitors can find out how events and choices in their lives will impact the buildup of their pensions. Here's a short video by Aegon explaining the concept.



The platform environment was developed by Momkai, who asked my agent, Comic House, if they were willing to produce the character animation that was needed; the two main characters, a male and a female, there were three age groups; young, middle aged and senior. The idea was that the player would be appointed an avatar matching their own age group and would then experience, represented through character animation, how the build-up of their own pensions will look like. That meant that every bit of character animation had to be reproduced, exactly the same, five more times for the remaining age groups. All in all it meant that a staggering amount of animation had to be produced in a short time.

To meet this challenge we found a solution by building a character rig in which all six characters where compiled. That way we could just swap certain body parts to change the age and sex of the avatar, for example, a young man into an elderly female. Then instead of reanimating we would just render the animation out for the different sexes and age groups. Quit technical, and  frankly, not very important from an artistic point of view, but it does explain why the characters look the way they do. All the different parts had to fit and not look strange when switched to another age group so that the player would not notice this aspect of the animation.

I believe we succeeded in this; the game environment looks great and the characters seem well integrated. The platform as a whole looks very functional and quite stylish. Have a look on this presentation page by Momkai, where you can see what the website environment looks like and how it is used.

The game environment and background elements were designed by Momkai. The character animation was done by Michélé de Feudis , David de Rooij, Gerben Steenks, Arjan Wilschut and yours truly. I designed all the characters, build the rigs and worked on the storyboards. Comic House produced and provided the necessary facilities.

Here are some early presentation sketches for the characters. We kept the proportions of the different age groups quite close to each other, mostly to not overcomplicate the animation.




The eventual character line-up.
 

Some extra family members and a rough presentation sketch for various house pets that might appear in the life span of the avatars.



To give the client a rough idea of what the animation would look like, we made moving storyboards, quick, rough and dirty, but it did the job and helped the clients get an idea of what they were getting, visually and timing wise. Here are some that were made by me and Hans Buying.
 
You can see how the last two rough boards translated to animation here and here on Arjan's website. Finally here are two standalone pieces of animation that I made. This is how they were delivered to Momkai (except for the blue backdrop which I added for this weblog) who further integrated them into their website application.
All these animations where made with animated rigs using an inverse-kinemactic bone system, I know, more uninteresting technique, but I want to show what that looks like on my screen.
For someone like me, who comes from a tradition of hand drawn animation, this this just looks crazy! But I admit; when used to, it works quite well and for certain projects it definitely gets the job done right and on time, so welcome to the 21st century!

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