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Making "Kick the Crooks Out of City Hall"

Motion like this is easy with our tools.

Kicking the crook out

Created, of course, with Falling Bodies.
View the video. (4MB)

This 15-second political spot was made with Softimage 3.8 and the Animats Falling Bodies 2 plug-in.


Five Guys model setThe character is a stock model from abscissa's "Five Guys" model set. Ours started as the white-haired guy in the black suit. This low-polygon-count stock model came in .DXF format, posed to populate architectural models. We cleaned up the model, reworked it into a neutral posture, gave it joints and more polygons near the joints, and created an articulated model. We used the bone structure of the Falling Bodies "Human-Shruggable" model, but decided not to have a clavicle joint to simplify the animation of the suit coat. We set conservative joint limits; the character can't raise his arms fully above his head. The Guy, as rendered
City Hall with limo (photo)The City Hall model is based loosely on San Francisco's city hall. We shot a few photos, concentrating on the doors and other architectural details, built a simple model of the lower front of City Hall, and textured the models with the photos. We've taken some liberties with the building; the broad plaza across which the guy gets kicked doesn't exist in reality.
City Hall, as rendered
Voting machine (photo)The voting machine in the "Vote Here" sequence is modelled on an old Shoup machine. Although they're no longer used, a nearby county still has a few in storage and allowed us to photograph one. Voting machine, as rendered



The character's arm movement is keyframed, right up until the big foot hits his butt. The "big foot" is rotated through 180 degrees by keyframe animation. Falling Bodies was run starting at this frame, just before contact, and all the character motion from then on was generated automatically, including the collision with the limo. This was the easiest part of the project. It only took about fifteen minutes to generate the stunt. We hid the character's jacket during Falling Bodies simulation, to keep it from being treated as a huge, rigid body part.
Keyframe before the kick
One frame later, Falling Bodies animating. Ouch! The kick really is a kick, and it has to hit in the right spot to get the right motion. We had to adjust the "big foot" a few times to make the stunt come out the way we wanted. Our first try kicked so hard the character was kicked airborne and across the street. We slowed down the "big foot" and tried again. Next time, the guy went right down on the pavement, because the foot hit above the belt. A bit of retargeting (carefully aiming foot at center of butt) produced the desired results. 
Frame just after the kick
Now we're on auto, with Falling Bodies doing the work. Flying over the steps he goes Flying through the air...
and into the side of the limo, face first. Don't try doing this with motion capture. On the audio track, the scream is abruptly cut off at this frame. Into the limo, face first
Kicked out of City Hall at last. Friction and damping eventually stop the motion, after a few bounces. All the hard animation work in this project was done automatically. And finally, on the ground.


Rendering and output

The project was rendered with mental ray, the Softimage raytracer, at 640 x 480 x 15fps. No unusual rendering features were used. In retrospect, we should have turned on motion blur. The project was assembled in Premiere 4.2, and output from an uncompressed .avi file to Betacam SP on an Avid Media 100 at videocat.

The Internet version was originally an .avi file compressed with the Intel Indeo 5.10 compressor. This fractal compressor does a good job with the grain in the stone and cement, which most compressors (including the one in the Media 100) don't handle well. We compressed down to 800Kb/sec, and probably could have compressed harder. Since Indeo is totally obsolete, in 2012 we transcoded the file to MP4, with some loss in quality.

Last updated June 1, 2001