November 12th,

Constantly Aiming For The State-of-the-art


Constantly Aiming For The State-of-the-art

In order to realize collaboration with various domains, Dentsu Lab Tokyo occasinally hosts talk session where artists, technologists, data scientists, scholars, writers come together.
Taken from Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Caretta Fountain”, a fountain of turtle, this talk session is named “Kamekai” (which literally translates as the “Turtle Gathering”) and aimed to bring various thoughts and view points among the participants and create an interactive session that won’t become a mere lecture.

the Mill / ザ・ミル

We have invited Tom from the world renowned VFX company, The Mill. Tom commenced his professional career in the entertainment industry as an actor from an early age. After running his own film and television casting agency, Tom joined Film Construction, a successful International production company in 2008. After being actively engaged across all areas of the business Tom was promoted to the position of General Manager in 2009. During this time Tom raised Film Construction’s profile in the Asian market and built upon a world-class roster of directors who’s work has been awarded Internationally at Cannes, Adfest, AWARD and Axis. After 6 years with Film Construction, Tom joined world-renowned visual effects company, The Mill, in January 2014 as Executive Producer for Asia. Tom is now based between Singapore and China tasked with further expanding The Mill brand across the Asian market.

Hello my name is Thomas Gibson, and I’m the Executive Producer at The Mill, and I look after The Asia Market. The Mill reached its 25th year anniversary this year, and both founding partners, Patrick Joseph our CCO and Robin Shenfield our CEO remain very much involved in the business today. The Mill was established in 1990 by Pat and Robin, and today we have close to 900 employees across 4 state-of-the-art studios including London, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. We are best known and most famous for creating seamless visual effects for the advertising, gaming and music industries and have worked on many of the most memorable and awarded campaigns over the years. We are much more than a VFX studio though. We are innovators and creators who are constantly pushing the boundaries. Technology has always been at the core of The Mill. These days we also originate, direct, design and animate content through Mill+. We develop tangible real world experiences that resonate directly with consumers and we work across briefs of scale that others say can’t be done.

This afternoon I am going to share with you a selection of work starting with some big visual effects pieces, then through innovation and technology and some of the work we have been doing in the Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality spaces. Finally I will introduce you to Mill+ and capabilities as content creators and the brilliant work we have been producing under out Mill+ division.

Various projects from The Mill

Sony PlayStation | Greatness Awaits

Sony PlayStation: Greatness Awaits

Some of you may be familiar with this film. It’s a couple of years old now but is a very strong VFX number and a good example of The Mill’s VFX capabilities. Agency was BBH New York and directed by Rupert Sanders from MJZ. For me this piece has it all. A great performance, with this lovely one shot tracking camera movement the follows our hero throughout the film.

Honda | Ignition

Honda: Ignition

This is the latest installment in The Power of Dreams campaign. This was a collaboration between Wieden+Kennedy, director Aiofe McArdle from production company, Somesuch & Co and The Mill. The Honda Type R vehicle you see is a live action car, the NSX, F1 cars, aircraft and the Honda robot were all crafted in CGI.

Honda Civic Type R | The Other Side

Honda Civic Type R: The Other Side

This has been a successful piece of work this year. Many of you will know this film. The viewer becomes the editor, when they press the “R” key on their computers keyboard, switching seamlessly between the day and night storylines. We worked together with Wieden+Kennedy again here, and Stink Digital. Stink programed the “R” key. It’s a very clever, yet simple idea, and strong in terms of interactivity. I am proud that we were a part of this great project.

Behind The Scenes:

Click here for video

In terms of shooting, the film was shot twice for day and night. What people may not be aware of is that the Honda Type R car was crafted entirely in CGI as the vehicle was not yet available at the time of filming which is often the case. We used LED tracking markers, a methodology The Mill developed, to enable us to replace the bodywork that was shot with the Type R bodywork as demonstrated in the BTS video. CGI cars have become a solid alternative for obvious reasons such as models not being available at time of shooting, logistics and the cost of shipping cars to shoots. The Mill have become industry leaders at crafting vehicles in CGI that it’s near to impossible these days to tell a CGI car from a live action car.

Garage Magazine | Augmented Reality App

Garage Magazine: Augmented Reality App

I would like to share an Augmented Reality project we have recently completed. The project is an editorial piece for Garage Magazine. A high-end fashion magazine. An App was created which is downloadable from the App store. This project was produced out of Mill New York. We have completed two collaborations with Garage Magazine to date. The first Magazine issue contains a series of 3D animation renders for Beats Headphones. Each model has been 3D body scanned and modeled in 3D with animation simulation applied. The camera on your smartphone or device recognizes the models face using facial recognition through the App which then triggers the animation sequence where we see the model come to life off the magazine page.

Click here for video

The second magazine issue takes things a step further with more content packed into the follow up issue. What I feel is most exciting in this issue is the motion element that triggers when you scan over the lovely B&W still photographs of the models. This is really a game changer and the future of editorial in my opinion

Google ATAP Spotlight Stories- HELP

Google Spotlight Stories: HELP

Directed by Justin Lin, HELP is the first of its kind 360 degree immersive short film experience entirely designed for mobile. The project involved 81 artists from The Mill and took 13 months to complete. There was no camera rig available that could capture 360 at cinema quality so we went ahead to design one. Essentially the rig consists of 4 RED cameras with fisheye lenses that had to be precisely calibrated. We also developed a hardware/Software solution we call “Mill Stitch” Mill Stitch essentially allows us to stitch the plates together with mobile review on-set so Justin and the team could view the 360 world while filming. It’s certainly one of the biggest VR projects undertaken and has put us at the forefront of this new and exciting technology.

Mill+ is essentially our content division of the Mill. We have 24 highly talented directors in-house across the group originating, designing, animating and directing live action/VFX projects. Mill+ produces award-winning projects and is an incredibly important part of how we work.

Legoland | Awesome Awaits 2

Legoland: Awesome Awaits

This spot was directed by the talented Russell Tickner from our London Studio. Production and post-production handled by The Mill. The Live action was shot in South Africa over 6 days. The film is to promote the LEGOLAND theme park located in Malaysia.

National Geographic Channel | Killing Kennedy

National Geographic Channel: Killing Kennedy

This piece was about recreating the moment of Kennedy’s assassination in slow-motion. Rewinding back in time from the moment the first bullet left the rifle. This film is marketing and promotional campaign to promote National Geographic Channel’s feature length movie, “Killing Kennedy”. The promo was directed by Mill+ director Rama Allen, and stars Rob Lowe in the role of JFK.

Audi | Birth

Audi: Birth

Done in collaboration with BBH London, Audi Birth is another piece of work we are very proud of and have received wide recognition for. We were lucky enough to win a Gold Lion for visual effects at Cannes this year. Directed by our very own Mill+ director Andrew Proctor this fully CGI film was crafted in the short space of only 9 weeks. Everything is computer generated. It’s a dark and moody piece that is different and bold for an automotive piece of advertising.

The body of work I have shared with you demonstrates The Mill’s capabilities across many disciplines so I hope you have enjoyed what I have shared. In closing it is important to note that The Mill is not a finishing house, whilst we finish work to the most premium standard in the world, we like to be referred to as creative collaborators. The earlier we can get involved in the creative process the better. Some of the best work The Mill have done over the years in when we have had the opportunity be involved from the very beginning. It’s all about preparation in everything we do.

Q&A for The Mill

AudienceWith regarding the 360 VR contents, how would you want to expand this domain?
VR is a new area and The Mill are at the very forefront of this changing technology. It’s definitely a domain we are investing strongly in. In that sense, the Google ATAP project was a good example of what is possible in this new area of innovation. Next time I’m not sure we would do things exactly the same way having learnt and broken ground along the way we would apply this knowledge and experience and makes tweaks to the process next time around.
AudienceA lot of people are working on 360 and VR, but with that in mind, in what area do you think these kind of technologies will be utilized the best.
I think it all comes down to interesting storytelling. Instead of making merely an experience, good storytelling is key. VR is exploding across all sectors. Travel and tourism is a given as is gaming and e-commerce.
AudienceIn the past few years, I believe your domain has expanded greatly through the technology of VR and AR. How do you think it is going to be like in the next few years?
It’s difficult to predict the future and if anyone says that they can then they are pulling your leg. Technology is developing and changing at such a rapid rate. VR is no doubt going to play a big part. Facebook investing 2 Billion in Oculus is proof. Many companies have VR gear on the market now. Everyone wants a slice of this area. In the end though I believe you focus on what you are good at. If it is creating great content then create great content. It’s about pushing the boundaries and being the first to trying new things. Collaboration is key.
AudienceIt seems there is a distance between Tokyo and London.
Yes there is a difference in time zone, and I understand that the way we work is different here in Tokyo. However, I also think that this is adjustable. We are very committed to wanting to work in Japan and in the Asian market, so please do contact us. Los Angeles is convenient for proximity and time zone so working with Mill LA studio would make perfect sense.
AudienceWhat if I really want to get in touch?
Please reach out to myself, Thomas Gibson. I am based in the region, on the same time zone and a big part of my job is to be the bridge between our clients in Asia and our teams at The Mill in the West. Often people my not know who to speak to at The Mill as we are a big company so my role is to connect the right people and creative teams and get these conversations going
AudienceI think making CGI and design is an inseparable process, but how does it work during the pitching phase? When does The Mill join the project usually?
It depends, but the earlier the better. Ideally from conceptualization stage.. We have over 600 creative minds at The Mill so we are happy to help on pitches and often do for many of our clients globally. Audi’s “Birth” is a good example of that. We did an animation test around 2 years ago to help sell the idea across, the idea went away but came back strong when the client felt the time was right. Since The Mill was involved from the very beginning of the project, we had a strong grasp of the concept and helped to build the team as one. Audi Birth was a good example of true collaboration between agency and production company.
AudienceHow was the scenario for HELP was made? Did it change while the shooting carried one.
A project like this is all about planning and preparation. It was a 13 month exercise and given nothing like this had ever been done before The Mill had do design bespoke hardware and software including Mill Stitch and on-set tools to enable Justin Lin the director to have a window into this 360 world in real time. A 360 camera rig also had to be developed that captured the environment in 360 at cinema quality. It was a massive VFX challenge and the amount and variety of CG assets was truly enormous. The team had to develop tools and come up with solutions all along the way and problem solve as they filmed. So yes things definitely changed during the process.



Dentsu Lab Tokyo