We often joke that most of our jobs consist of R&D and troubleshooting. This certainly is true for the project we just completed for Keiler & Company in Connecticut. They brought us stellar boards to work from and a well-formed vision of what they were looking for: drive a car on a crumpled paper map, smoothing the paper landscape as the story progresses.
The Paper Ball
Truly one of the most difficult challenges we’ve faced yet at the studio, the 3D paper ball that unfolds required the bulk of the project’s R&D. We also needed to be able to drive a physically accurate car around a paper cliff and into the ball as it starts to unfold into the paper world. After numerous methods and attempts in various 3D packages, we ended up running a dynamics simulation backwards that started as a flat piece of “paper” until we ended up with the surface topology that we wanted. We tweaked the simulation as it progressed with virtual “hands” and other forces to help influence the folding and create the ledge on the outside of the crumpled map.
We explored several approaches to animating the car, and in the end we opted to use a dynamic car rig based on the PG Car Rig create by Daniel Menapace. We modified the rig to work with a PS3 controller thanks to the Control 4D plugin provided by Kevin Barnum. This allowed us to actually drive the car in and around our scenes which was super fun as well as providing the realistic suspension dynamics we were after.