Shell - Shapeshifter

Early character designs were completed several months in advance of the campaign’s release, with CG Art Directors creating distinct characters for the different stages of the ad. ‘Carl [director] had a strong opinion on what he wanted, but gave us a lot of scope to create original designs. The monster had to evolve throughout the ad and demonstrate the various threats to the performance of the engine’. The monster at the start of the ad was based on a shrimp-like primitive creature, before morphing to resemble a spider and finally a land-based mammal like a gorilla. ‘The concept character originally had more ambiguity to its form, but we made the conscious decision that it should take on more obvious forms. This gave the commercial more interest and the monster more identity’.

RoleLead Compositor
DirectorCarl Rinsch





A library of various mechanical parts was created by the modelling team. This asset library was then used to populate the animated geometry with all the various mechanical parts. It was important to be able to art direct the shape, size and placement of these mechanical parts, as well as how they move independently from each other. Using Houdini’s Bullet Solver the artists were able to manipulate the behaviour of the mechanical parts as though they were a particle system, using some custom forces to determine how ‘magnetised’ the pieces are to each other as well as setting thresholds for how far a piece can deviate from the rest of the group, until it falls off and becomes independent from the rest of the creature.

Using this set-up the team were able to manipulate a complex and flexible behavioural system within Houdini, which still adhered to real world conditions such as self collisions and gravity. It was then a matter of building more layers of complexity on top of what we now had; such as making the pieces emit dust and small debris whenever they collide with each other or with the environment.