Mothership director David Rosenbaum teamed with OgilvyWest to tell a simple story about a complex concept in a "Robotarm" for Cisco that broke during the NFC Championship broadcast on January 22. Despite a four-week timeline, the all-CG spot delivers film caliber computer animation that is entirely photo-real.
The commercial depicts a cheerfully aware group of self-sustaining automotive assembly robots as a metaphor for Cisco Intelligent Networks that can fix and diagnose themselves. Nine unique robots star in the spot, all designed to emulate the look of classic factory machinery enhanced with distinct characteristics. Synchronized to Gary Numan's "Cars," the robots drill, rivet, screw, weld and hand body parts off to one another. The set was entirely built in CG, based on reference photography from modern automotive plants.
Rosenbaum collaborated closely with OgilvyWest co-chief creative officers James Dawson-Hollis and Bill Wright to approach the spot as if it were a live action shoot. Instead of shooting with cameras on set, they worked alongside Digital Domain's previs team to frame up shots and work out compositions with rough animations.
"From the beginning we knew we wanted to use a factory metaphor to tell the story of complex computer systems that can diagnose and fix themselves," said Rosenbaum. "Together with the OgilvyWest team we took that idea to a new place-doing away with a traditional assembly line, creating robots with distinct personalities and bringing them closer together so they could interact. In the end I think we were able to humanize the technology and make it more understandable."
"The nature of the schedule forced us to work in an unorthodox way on this project," added VFX supervisor Aladino Debert, also a Mothership director. "Doing look development and modeling while simultaneously animating, lighting and compositing, relied heavily on the technical and artistic prowess of our seasoned team and ability to turn around photoreal rendering very quickly."