Coca Cola beatbox (ENG)

As part of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, Coca-Cola sponsored the Beatbox, one of the pavilions in the Olympic Park. This striking building, made from air-filled panels in Coca-Cola's iconic color scheme, provided a place where people could meet, grab a free Coke, and 'play' the building, interacting with sounds embedded throughout its structure.

At its heart lies the 'Aerial Dynamics' installation, conceived and created by Jason Bruges Studio (JBS). The room is festooned with 180 mechatronic 'bubble' lamps, each consisting of eight polypropylene blades that can be made to close or open on cue. Ordinarily these bubbles are closed and pulse red in time to the Olympic anthem, 'Anywhere In The World', by Katy B and Mark Ronson. However, sensors in the room detect when the aluminum Coke bottles are clinked together, causing the LEDs to turn to white and the blades to unfurl, creating a bubble of light.

Although largely mechanical, the behavior of the installation was designed and parameterized using MAXON CINEMA 4D R14. Adam Heslop, designer and visualizer at JBS, reveals how CINEMA 4D has become a key tool in its workflow: "CINEMA 4D is used in the vast majority of our projects," he says, "from pitch to press material, content for installations and directly controlling prototypes. As soon as there's an idea to visualize, CINEMA 4D is brought into the equation and is used in parallel with other design processes to develop concepts - it's very much used as a development tool."

One of CINEMA 4D's major appeals for the studio is its MoGraph toolset. A lot of the installations created by JBS feature the same object replicated over and over to create a living canvas. "The capability and flexibility of the MoGraph toolset lends itself very well to rapid and iterative visualization of these types of things," says Adam, "making it the tool of choice for the studio."

The 'Aerial Dynamics' piece required a complicated object with flexible blades that could close and open like a mechanical flower. Adam describes how he used a single surface object for each blade, with a Cloth NURBS object to add thickness. "I used joints and weighting to rig the blade," he adds, "but instead of using any more character tools I decided to use a bespoke XPresso setup of three greyscale gradients."


These gradients were used to control the Heading, Pitch and Bank (HPB) rotation of the joints, where 50% grey represents zero degrees, darker shades describing a negative value, and lighter shades for positive values. "The advantages of this was being able to vary the amount of control using more or fewer knots [in the gradient]," says Adam. "The blade also used a Jiggle deformer to add a little more realism."

Adam's main challenge was to use this CINEMA 4D model to create pre-visualization and renders for the client while also using the same data for controlling the physical installation. "The 3D model needed to be able to both send a range of triggers to the motors and simultaneously control the red and white LEDs on each node. In addition to this, the model needed to be flexible so controlled animations could be sent through the installation according to the concept."

The key to making the project work was to use Thinking Particles and XPresso, claims Adam. Specifically, "its ability to take objects out of the master timeline with TP and make complex groups which could allow for signaling to the motors operating at different speeds and for different durations. The XPresso user data interface made it possible to change and tweak very many aspects of an incredibly complex model."

Adam explains how the resulting Thinking Particles system employed several groups: There was a group set for active and inactive objects, groups for the various motor movements and lights, several groups for proximity trigger particles and so on. There were time controls for the trigger particles along with the spread and influence, and the trigger particles had their own sub-emission systems for more control. "I tried to make an interface which could cover all eventualities," he says.

The final installation wasn't directly controlled by CINEMA 4D but by a custom open framework application, which did the real-time monitoring and distribution. However, this system was frequently updated with new CINEMA 4D data throughout the refinement process. The application read the data from the CINEMA 4D simulations and was capable of distributing the results to the canvas whenever it received an interaction - the clinking Coke bottles - from below.

CINEMA 4D clearly proved its worth on this complex installation, and Adam highlights Thinking Particles as being a major contributor to its success. "The ability to load a particle with a base animation anywhere in the timeline was invaluable in getting this to work," he comments, "along with XPresso to create an interface where I could control all of the parameters from one window or the HUD."

"Generally, MoGraph and XPresso get me through the majority of projects", he adds, "Although Python is starting to open up some doors with connecting my visuals to real-world objects. I'm sure it's going to be featuring a lot more in the future."

By Steve Jarratt, a long-time CG enthusiast and technology journalist based in the UK.

All images © Jason Bruges Studio

Link to video presentation:

Jason Bruges Studio Ltd. Website: © Design Express 2011 privacy tel BE 015 71 96 00 tel NL 0182 756 660