Microsoft Power Pivotefficient character lip-sync and procedural effects

The Challenge

In 2010 Microsoft needed a series of animated shorts to help explain why PowerPivot for Excel was so revolutionary for both data processing and IT management. Working with the client, I helped direct and animate a trilogy of short films set in various office environments. Using characters illustrated by artist Ryan Ansel, I created matching 3D sets that were rendered as cel-shaded backgrounds. I also developed the animation and effects pipeline and completed all of the character animations and video editing. Working under a series of tight deadlines, I made sure to set up a system that was robust and would support easier animation workflows with fully automated effects.

The Solutions

With sets of illustrated phonemes for each character's key expressions, I used Papagayo as an efficient solution for all of the lip sync animation along with my own custom javascript utilities to translate the phoneme data into time remapping keyframes for After Effects. Additional controls were implemented in After Effects using cross-comp expressions, including sliders for facial changes, eye movements, and rudimentary character rigging features.

The results matched the intended paper cutout style, and were used in marketing materials well beyond just the videos I produced. All of the stop motion style effects were generated dynamically in After Effects using custom paper textures and a system of pre-comps that allowed for easy animation using a base model, with changes propagating across the entire project.

The Results

Microsoft was happy with the animations, and used them in online advertising along with implementing the designs into still images and banners.