When Reebok wanted CG renderings of visuals and animations for their FW20 line, they reached out to Black Math, asking the design studio to come up with creative ways to connect the shoemaker’s heritage look with today’s styles.
We talked with Black Math Executive Producer Evan Fellers about how they approached the retro campaign, particularly the workflow challenges they had to overcome and how Cinema 4D helped them stretch boundaries of commercial work in new and exciting ways.
Tell us about Black Math and the type of projects you usually take on?
Black Math: We are a design studio consisting of amazingly magical and talented beings. We solve complex messaging and communication challenges with intent and awesomeness. Our studio specializes in storytelling through animation and film, augmented reality and the design and fabrication of tactile objects.
What was the concepting phase like for this project?
Black Math: We closed our eyes and dove back onto the living room floors of our youth—for those of us who grew up in the 80s—and simply looked around. Vibes from carpets, textures, wood paneling, acrylic-laden stickers and early game consoles all influenced our initial design passes on visuals and sound. It was a blast to pull a bunch of reference and sketch ideas in 2D and early 3D.
How did you use Cinema 4D to help you blend 2D and 3D?
Black Math: We used Cinema 4D as our central hub for assembling all assets and textures, as well as for executing final animation. We had a lot of assets hitting our C4D comps from different places—raw CAD from the client, a photogrammetry model we created from physical samples, 2D art and animation to be mapped onto geo and other random 3D assets thrown into the mix.
Cinema’s ability to chew through all those things holistically, and our experience with the tools from hundreds of past jobs, were clutch in executing this on time without sacrificing our creative North Star.
What was the most challenging aspect of the whole sequence?
Black Math: Honing in on era-specific looks without overdoing it or being too scattered took some time. There was continual refinement and culling of ideas. The fact it wasn’t an actual shoot was wonderful because we weren’t limited to the laws of physics like we are when we produce practical work with real cameras and sets. The challenges with this project came in the form of unifying a ton of different physical and digital assets in a cohesively executed way.
We had multiple 3D artists taking reference photography and material/cloth swatches. They worked alongside designers sketching in 2D and photogrammetry artists compiling base geo-forms, which served as the foundation for everything. We actually did end up using photography quite a bit, but only in the form of photogrammetry.
What was it like working with Reebok?
Black Math: We’ve done a few 3D projects with them in the past, ranging from fairly open-ended exploratory projects to more specific objectives, like recreating specific shoe components. This was the first project with Reebok where we were charged with creating photo-realistic 3D models of an entire product line, as well as concepting and executing the entire creative storytelling about the products.
The creative team on the client-side was awesome. They really let us explore pretty freely, which was essential early on to lift everything off the ground, allowing our team to feel free to try things. I think that aspect of a client-creative relationship is important.
What did you find most interesting creatively and technically?
Black Math: We typically present most concepts as 2D before diving super hard into 3D. But, on this project, we designed a lot right in Cinema 4D. That helped everyone get on the same page quickly, and most of what we explored early on continued to be refined.
It was fascinating to see super-retro 70’s flavors alchemized with 3D animation and current-day production techniques. We are grateful for the collaboration and the opportunity to flow so freely with everything. It was definitely one of our favorite projects of the year.
What are you working on currently?
Black Math: We’re pouring ourselves into augmented reality these days. We have been cultivating our collective talents in that space for about five years now. It is super exciting developing new production and review techniques for something other than a flat screen.
Everything we’ve learned about design, animation, 3D, game and app development, music/sound and storytelling still applies, but it’s being woven together in new ways that are challenging and rewarding.