To celebrate its 140th year, Heineken decided to run a competition to refresh its bottle design, entitled 'Your Future Bottle Remix Challenge'. The task of promoting the contest fell to Knock Knock Productions, a London-based video and motion graphics studio, whose big-brand clients include BMW, HSBC, Sony, Converse and Honda, to name just a few. For this particular project, Knock Knock's creative director Daniel Chaput turned to Alex Donne Johnson – aka Vector Meldrew.
"The goal was to create an engaging animation to excite the online design community about the prospect of being part of Heineken history," says Alex. "Vector Meldrew was hired as a director by the Knock Knock production studio based in Shoreditch."
Now, for readers outside the UK, we should explain that the name of Alex's company is derived from a British TV comedy show called 'One Foot In The Grave,' starring a character called Victor Meldrew – a perpetually surly character, for whom nothing ever seems to go right. Fortunately, Vector Meldrew (with an 'e') appears to be the complete opposite, with a growing portfolio and several awards under his belt.
Although he started out as a one-man operation, Alex is much more collaborative these days, pulling in other artists depending on the scale of his projects. For the 60-second Heineken promo, he joined forces with Sam Coldy, who provided illustrations, and James Doherty from Greeble.tv, as the team's Adobe After Effects guru.
Armed with the brief, Alex and his team set about planning the sequence. "There were a lot of storyboards and choreographing," he explains. "We even ditched some pretty solid ideas in order to refine things. The original concept involved over 100 transformations, but we decided to keep it to around four main sections."
Alex describes how the concepts for the different sections came about: "The first section is influenced by the artwork of one of the judges, design legend Joshua Davis. We loved his style of random generative graphics and use of repetition with geometric shapes. Everything else was inspired from various pieces of advertising history that we took from the Heineken Archives."
"One definite highlight was when Dan Chaput, the Creative Director of Knock Knock, beatboxed a brief to our sound designers to get his ideas across," says Alex.
With so many different styles being used, a range of Cinema 4D's tools were employed. "A lot of the more bold colourful styles rely on a hint of ambient occlusion to give it a subtle punch," explains Alex. "For the more shiny elements, we tried to avoid Global Illumination and instead used the HDRI packs from Greyscale Gorilla. We used Thinking Particles to create the 'fireflies' effect and a lot of MoGraph cloners."
"I'm addicted to MoGraph," he adds, "but lately I've been looking more into XPresso. It'd be great to expand the tools in both of those areas."
However, Alex does admit that a lot of the sequence's success came down to clever compositing and multi-pass renders. "There's a lot of camera movement that may look like one shot," he says, "but is really just blending between compositions in After Effects. The blend camera tool in R14 also helped a lot to achieve the more extreme movements."
After Effects was also used in conjunction with Trapcode Particular for some particle effects, and Video Copilot's Optical Flares. But, as Alex states, "After Effects was only used to enhance Cinema 4D renders; nothing in the film is pure After Effects."
The project took six weeks to complete, and was achieved using an eight-core Mac Pro plus a single render node. "The aim was to bring to life an otherwise inanimate object," declares Alex. "Cinema 4D helped us bring our abstract concepts to life."
Steve Jarratt is a long-time CG enthusiast and technology journalist based in the UK.
Alex Donne Johnson aka Vector Meldrew website:
Knock Knock website: