The concept for the animation was to express the increasing complexity of web content management systems by showing an initial, flowchart-like diagram of a WCM growing into a sprawling, intimidating structure.

Earliest animation storyboards

Earliest animation storyboards

While the first several seconds of 3D animation were done by hand, the majority of the build-out is governed by a custom script which automatically generates the structure and animates it. The script, written in Python, ‘grows’ series of blocks in six directions, and places nodes of blocks randomly along the structure. Though the first version grew the blocks in branches, this function was removed to allow for a more cohesive, solid structure.

Generative scripts with and without branching algorithm

Generative scripts with and without branching algorithm

The script can be altered to grow any number of blocks and place them at different rates so the structure’s growth speeds up or slows down as it gets larger. The final structure used in the video contains several thousand individual blocks.

All 3D animation was done in Blender, and the renders then composited in After Effects. The increasing glitches and damage to the video source as the structure develops was inspired by black-and-white CCTV footage and military UAV feeds.

Footage with layered lighting, noise, contrast and scanline effects

Footage with layered lighting, noise, contrast and scanline effects

While noise effects were used, some distortion was produced by encoding the video in the lowest quality levels available, and encoding those subsequent renders again in low quality to bring out digital artifacts. Only after you’ve spent days rendering crisp, clear HD footage with high motion-blur, depth-of-field and oversampling rates, can you appreciate the irony of then damaging the footage to make it look as grainy and digitally corrupt as possible.

To give an idea of the animation process, below is an image showing the different stages of production, from the in-program views of the objects to the final release frame.

The animation process from the wireframe view to the final, processed cut

Wireframe, solid view, the raw render from Blender and the final frame with noise and lighting effects applied.

You can find more information about the new WCM at NoDevelopersRequired.

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