Guinness The Cloud

  • Director: Peter Thwaites
  • Production Company: Gorgeous
  • Agency: AMV
  • Task: Joint Lead FX TD, Lighting, Rendering, Pipeleine

In summer 2012 I got the opportunity to work on this prestigious commercial for Guinness, in which a sentient cloud travels around a city on a journey filled with wonder and discovery. I was lucky enough to be part of an highly talented team of people who worked for almost three months to bring the cloud to life.

I was one of the two TDs responsible for creating the cloud system, which we developed in Houdini and packaged up using Houdini’s Digital asset tools. I was also responsible for some major pipeline decisions and the lighting and rendering of a number of shots. The job proved to be very technically challenging but at the same time, hugely rewarding.

We knew from early concept art and story boards that the cloud would have to interact with it’s environment and be able to show it’s personality by twisting and deforming. This presented a unique set of challenges and it was decided at an early stage that Houdini would be our tool of choice. No other piece of “off the shelf” software would give us the flexibility to sculpt and animate our volumes in the way we wanted.

We constructed a set of tools in Houdini to give us the ability to sculpt detailed polygonal cloud base shapes, turn them into a volume and apply multiple layers of noise to produce a photo-real cloud. We also added layers of simulated elements on top of the base cloud to provide more small details and further enhance realism of the cloud.

A great deal of work went into getting the shape of the cloud just right so that it always seemed to have a discernible direction of travel. A lot of work also went into bringing as much character and life to the cloud as possible. We gave the cloud model subtle facial features to make it feel more “human” and worked hard to convey the cloud’s expressions though clever animation.

Shot Breakdowns

Simulation R&D

A lot of work went into creating simulated smoke elements to enhance the look and feel of the cloud. It was very important to get the scale of these simulated elements just right so that the way they evolved was believable when blended with our hero cloud render. Above is an early test of smoke emitting from a sphere and being affected by a turbulence field at different noise frequencies.