Kia – Reviews and Recommendations

  • Task: Lead FX TD

In this KIA commercial, released in January 2013, I was the lead FX TD responsible for creating an art installation inspired animating wall of keyboard keys. The keys had to push out of and into the wall on rods and block out shapes reflecting the feedback and reviews of KIA customers. The director wanted the keys to have a man made, slightly haphazardly placed feel to them and so we built in features like the ability for a key to not push out from the wall the full amount and to push out at a slightly skewed angle.

The project was a perfect job for Houdini as it enabled me to take full advantage of Houdini’s powerful procedural workflow to build a modular system that was adaptable and scalable. I built a fully controllable “room” digital asset which had multiple preset room shapes as well as being able to use custom input geometry. This room was used to generate a set of points that were fed into a render time procedural which loaded a set of keyboard key geometry files.

The point data manipulation was done in Houdini and was exported out to Maya using the “.pdc” file format where it was lit and rendered. Using custom per particle attributes we were able to control things like what key texture was used on a per point basis as well as colour information and whether a key was a single key or a double or triple spaced key such as a “shift” or “backspace”.

Using python in Houdini I was able to control the distribution of single, double and triple spaced keys as well as override specific point attributes on a per point id basis giving complete control over custom key distributions and placement on the wall. This was used to great effect in the opening shot where the director wanted the camera to pull back from a close up on a “qwerty” keyboard layout and have the “K-I-A” keys be the first keys to be pressed.