The Michael Smith Computer Animation Website has updated to a frames format. If you do not see buttons to my Animations, 3D images, VW Transformer video, and other art work at the top and side of this page, click here.
Thanks for visiting -Mike Smith, Computer Artist
Due to popular demand and the massive amounts of email, I've decided to create this web page devoted entirely to the VW transformer clip to hopefully answer your questions and show you how it was made. The clip started as an idea for a short movie me, Thuan Do and Carl Coss (or as I loving like to refer to us, Team 52) we came up with back in about September 2000. We weren't sure if we had the skills to pull off some of the shots we wanted for the film so we came up with the idea of doing a test video first...
For even more info you can also check out the interview I did for the bot collector website here...
HA....I had to get one more transformer in before Michael Bay's Transformer movie came out and changed everything. Here was my latest attempt at a Live Action Transformer that I posted a month or two before Transformers hit the big screen.
(I still need to get around to changing the buttons at the top of this webpage so you can go directly to the Trans Z page.)
Okay okay....it's now 4 years and multiple Transformer films later. I guess it's about time I admit it...I'm the one who did the "Secret Transformer Test Animation" and posted it online. It's from the Transformer animated short film my buddies and I were working on back in 2002. For more info on it check my "secret" webpage (I wrote a little blurb about it at the end of my Trans Z webpage) about it here....
First we needed a vehicle, luckily Rainbow already had a model of a new VW beetle built by Stan Fuka in Lightwave. I took the model from Lightwave and exported into 3D Studio Max. I then proceeded to cut the VW model up into the pieces that would become the robot parts.
Now we had the empty hull of the VW mesh andwe needed to fill it in with the robot pieces, for this we used Max. I modeled the feet, legs and body while Thuan Do modeled the arms and head of the robot. Now we had the complete robot/VW mesh.
Now it was time to try to actually make things move. To do this I used Max's Character Studio, I basically linked the robots pieces to the character studio biped. The robot had piston cylinders on his arms and legs so I used look-at animation controllers on them to make them slide in and out of each other. Now I had a robot that could be animated to walk around, but it couldn't transform into a car.
Now I'd like to say I took the time to add link constraints to the pieces and changed what they linked to as it transformed, but I found it easier to just have another mesh in the shot that could change from a car to a robot but not walk around. So the VW car to where it stands up as a robot is one mesh, then in one frame it disappears and the other mesh appearsand that mesh walks around (they are in the same exact position when the switch takes place so you can't see the switch).
Okay so now I've got my animation done, what's next? Well, while I've been animating, Thuan Do has been painting the robot pieces and I textured the car parts. I also lit the VW transformer with some help from Carl Coss. Now we had this cool transformer model and animation, it was time to put him in an environment. Using Carl Coss's Canon's GL-1 Digital Camera we went outside into Rainbow's parking lot and filmed some footage of blue balls on the ground and red dots on a fence (with me walking back and forth on the sidewalk just to prove it was live footage).
Once we finished with my "brilliant" acting performance, we went back inside and into 3D StudioMax to track the footage using Max's camera tracking feature. After a few tries, our measurements outside were less then exact, Thuan Do got a good track and the VW transformer looked like it was locked in the scene.
The clip was then rendered in Max and looked quite good, but what would really make it cool was if the VW transformer kicked up some dust as he changed. To do this I used a 2d particle program called Illusions to add some dust to the already rendered scene.
Of course no 3d animation would be complete without a lens flare, I used Adobe After Effects to put one in and adjust the look of the final video.
That gave us the final clip you have seen. It was not totally finished, I was going to go do a bunch of things to the clip (clean up the animation, paint out the blue balls on the ground, etc.) but since it was a test, we decided my time was better spent working on stuff for the short film. Two years later, we still hadn't finished the film and had almost given up on ever doing it when I made a website. I decided what the heck and threw the test clip on the my site.
The reaction has been unbelievable....
I included a "teaser" picture of our short made by Carl Coss (I've been emailing this to everyone) along with some 1024x768 desktop images of the VW transformer (click the small pictures to view the larger image, then "right click" "save as" to save to your hard drive or "right click" "set as background" to make image your desktop).
(cool transformer stuff done by other people)
As a way to celebrate 2005 (the year Optimus Prime dies) and since the Transformer fans still come to my website with a thirst for more transformer stuff, I thought I'd help them out by posting all the cool live action transformer stuff I've seen since I posted the VW. Now I had nothing to do with any of these other clips, but I'd like to think I inspired them in some little way (don't know if I really did or not).
1994 Transformer Commercial
Okay, this one was actually made BEFORE I made the VW video, cripes it was made before Toy Story came out and made computer animation a household name, but I had not seen it until just recently. Looks like Hasbro was one of the pioneers of computer animation blended with live action. C'mon Hasbro, give me a call and let me do some commercials for you now!
Six months after I posted the VW this appeared on the web and TV. My friends and I were shocked, "Oh my word...we influenced a Nike ad...THAT'S SO COOL!!!" I'm not sure if anyone at Nike saw my stuff or not, but it seems like a huge coincidence. Oh well, the more cool Transformer stuff we get to see the better I say. And that leads me to....
Design Assembly's Mustang Sally Fembot
Design Assembly is the company that did the commercial for Nike and if you go to their website you'll find a couple cool female transformer videos. I love the parking lot one, it's so cool. He actually designed a working transformer model that looks female AND actual uses a lot of the car parts in the robot design, I gotta give them props for that.
John "Yanni" Syracopoulos's Starscream
Done for his school demo reel project a quite elaborate design for a new version of Starscream, I wonder where he works now after producing work like this?
Edit - I have since chatted with John and found out he landed a job with Big Bang Effects and Animation and has just finished working on a show for National Geographic called Dog Fight and before that worked on a show called Meteor the Monster Truck (look for it in November). So it looks like he is indeed working and having a great time.
P.S. Hope he doesn't mind that I shortened it to the cool parts to make it easier to download, you can watch the full ~40 Meg version of his demo reel at the...
Marcus "Reedomatic" Reed's Bumblebee
Another transformer done by a student for his school demo reel project. He used the new volkswagon bug like I did, but he actually used the original bumblebee transformation design.
P.S. Hope he doesn't mind that I shortened it to the cool parts to make it easier to download, you can watch the full ~8 Meg version of his Transformer Teaser Trailer here...
K, so this isn't a transformer, but it's dang cool.
Now in the interest of full disclosure, I was actually contacted by the Mini Cooper ad people about the possibility of working on a Mini transformer. I got really really excited and modeled a Mini, which you can see here. But they decided they didn't want a transformer and would rather have just a robot made from Mini parts, that was the last I ever heard from them. Maybe someday I'll go back and finish the MY Mini transformer (yeah right, just like I'll finish my Optimus video, what's it been...like 3 years now?)...
If you want to see some higher quality videos of the mini robot, you can find them here...
Article on Jose Perez (the guy who modeled the robot)
Jose Perez's Website (with more Mini Robot pics)
"BenniHaarna"s Breakdancing Soundwave
Soundwave is cool, the music is cool, the dancing is cool...I can just watch this over and over. I love the boom box speakers added to his cassette mode, although they make him look a little more like Blaster than Soundwave.
Julien Vanhoenacker's Double A Paper's Copier Transformer Commercial
Copier get's revenge for being abused by a woman because of a paper jam. I don't know, maybe I'm old fashioned, but it seems wrong for the copier to wack the girl in the head with the paper. The 15 sec version is more "PC". Even though it was a paid commercial, I think all the cg was done by one guy (wish I could get a deal like that!).
Lotto people sent me emails on this. The coolest live action transformers done to date, this one was done by The Embassy, a Vancouver visual effects house. Imagine how cool the Transformer Movie could be.
These guys actually contacted me about making a giant transforming naval ship, I was pretty sure it was too much work for me, so I had to pass on it. Looks like they got a company to do it for them. Either that or I'm joining the Singapore Navy cause they have the coolest secret weapon ever!
Eric Chu's Optimus Prime for Sale???
Concept artist Eric Chu gives us his version of Optimus. The cowboy makes it a little hard to watch, but dude, Optimus Prime....pretty sure. Wish I could attract the interest of Hasbro and Tom DeSanto.
P.S. Hope they don't mind that I shortened it to the cool part to make it easier to download, you can watch the ~40 Meg version or ~80 Meg full version at the...
Live Action Transformer Movie Preview
Okay, I know you've seen the content of this video like a million times now, but bear with me.
You have your popcorn, the lights go down and the film starts to roll. Then this preview comes on the screen. AMAZOR! Can't wait till this happens for real. A fan made trailer for the transformer movie by a talented video editor named Julian Francis Adderley. Check out his other works at....
Alex Mallinson's Citroen Dancing Transformer 2
Make sure you watch the original Citroen dancing transformer video above first, then watch this second commercial. A great spoof of the original Citroen ad done by Alex Mallinson in under two weeks. Makes me feel bad for not finishing my Optimus in about 3 years now.
Adrian Ortiz's Breakin' Nissan Transformer
A solo student project done by Adrian Ortiz for a class on making 30 second commercials. Man I never realized the Transformers were so into dancing. I can see it in the new transformers film now....Optimus to Megatron: "You got served...word"
Richard Valenzuela's Bumblebee Transform and Roll Out
A video done by Richard Valenzuela. Bumblebee's just hanging out. You can check out Richard's other animations here...
Michael Raphaelovich's Starscream visits San Fran
Done by Michael Raphaelovich a grad student for Visual Effects at the Academy of Art university in San Francisco. Unfortunately he emailed me this file directly and doesn't have a website that I know of. So the only place to see this video is here as far as I know.
You can watch a 15 meg quicktime version at...
I recommend renting the film Returner and watching the whole thing. I got to see it on the big screen when it was released in America a couple years ago. It's an international sci-fi film that has elements of The Matrix, Terminator, Predator, Transformers, ET, Independence Day, and other sci-fi movies all wrapped up into one fun popcorn munching film.
Not sure if it's legit or not but it's very cool looking. Although, Sideswipe went from being a Lamborghini Countach to a crappy Nissan/Ford looking thing, wtf. Not quite as good as the Citroen ad (which makes me doubt ILM had anything to do with it), but it still got me very excited about the upcoming Live Action Transformer film.
**Okay okay....it's now 4 years and multiple Transformer films later. I guess it's about time I admit it...I'm the one who did this animation and posted it online. It's from the Transformer animated short film my buddies and I were working on back in 2002. For more info on it check my "secret" webpage (I wrote a little blurb about it at the end of my Trans Z webpage) about it here....My Fan Film Footage.
Well, I can't read Chinese so I still don't know too much about this video, but apparently it was done by a company called Hywave in China Da Lian city and this Optimus clip was part of their showreel. It's been taken off of youtube so you can't see the whole thing but there's still a small clip left on Hywave's website. If anyone knows anything more about the animation let me know. I had just never seen it before and I thought it was pretty cool, so I added it.
Hywave's website (hope you can read Chinese)
Dancing Yugo Transformer
Ah yes, in case you can't get enough of transformers bustin a move, here's yet another spoof of the Citroen commercial. It's posted in the gallery of an art school in Belgrade, Serbia as a WIP (work in progress), but I'm not sure if it's some students work or not.
Juan "3DBlasphemy" Jose's Ultra Magnus
I'm sorry but I have trouble calling him Optimus when he isn't red, and Ultra Magnus was the white one (at least when he wasn't wearing all his extra armor). Anyhows, this is an amazing animation done by Juan Jose "3DBlasphemy" Palomo of Spain. I especially admire his texturing, lighting and rendering skills and I love his camera work. Amazing.
Citroen Skating C4 Transformer Commercial
Citroen is at it again. They got a different visual effects company, The Mill (I wonder why they didn't use The Embassy again) to do a new ad. Although I like the design of the robot a little better, this one doesn't seem have the "magic" of the first (I guess sequels never do). It's still very cool, but I don't see a bunch of "copycat" animations being made for this one. I guess we'll see.
A cool 3D short animation done by Brian that features Optimus Prime and a suprise guest appearance by my personal favorite 6 in 1 transformer (did that give it away?). Plus it's old school vs new school as Prowl (from G1) takes on Barricade (from the new Transformer film) in a high speed chase. I know who I was rooting for, and I was not dissappointed.
Lars Martinsens' Devastator!
I can't believe someone actually attempted this. My all time favorite transformer done lives! Such an amazing amount of work, the music gets kinda annoying real quick and it feels a little "Power Ranger/Voltron-y" but great fun nonetheless. Good Stuff.
Lars Martinsens Website (Hope you can read Norwegian)
View his Optimus Prime Video too (It looks like Optimus needs to visit the car wash though)
Coolio's Hummer Gobots
Geesh, I remember listening to rap music when they sang about how they had no money and were being held down by "the man". Now rappers make so much money that not only can they afford Hummers, but Hummers that change into giant battling robots.
Is that Bumblebee?
Well, I still can't find out anything about this video. If I had to guess, it looks professionally done and is maybe a part of some viral ad campaign to raise interest in the new transformers film. If anyone knows anymore about the clip I'd be happy to hear about it.
Is that Grimlock (and Scavenger)?
Well, I still can't find out anything about this video either. It looks to me as if it was done by the same people who did the "Is that Bumblebee" video above. I'm really hoping that this is all part of some viral ad campaign to raise interest in the new transformers film and that we'll see a lot more of these before the film is released next year. If anyone knows anymore about the clip I'd be happy to hear about it.
Well apparently they've done a second version and taken out the transforming construction vehicle and focused more on Grimlock. Wonder who's doing these.
>>>>WARNING COARSE LANGUAGE WARNING<<<<
Still can't find out anything about these videos. If you know anything drop me a line. This one's hard to see, but I think we can conclude from this video that an insecticon invasion wouldn't be too much trouble.
Hamadi "Max-Ady" Hamdan's Optimus Prime...Rise
Cool little video of a futuristic "Mad Maxish" Optimus Prime transforming. He says it's part one of 3 parts, but the other 2 haven't been finished yet. If they're anywhere's near as cool as this I can't wait. Make sure you check out the wallpaper pictures available on his website. A cool and original take on the autobot leader.
Christopher Rebeiro's Sideswipe
Chistopher is an artist and a big Transformer fan from India. Chirstopher so admired the Binaltech/Altenators design for Sideswipe he decided it must be made in CG. As he says "It's a well balanced perfectly planned model. I'll 3d model this toy and give it life (animate it)". Then a few months later he sends me this.
VFXTalk's Transformer Trailer Contest
The VFXTalk runs a monthly visual effects contest each month and back in October/November 2006 they ran a contest that challenged people to make their own Transformers movie trailer. The picture above is from the winning entry. It was done by a group of 5 artist, not sure which of them did the Optimus transforming sequence, but I thought it was cool.
I was also a big fan of this cg transformer from Veivailija's entry into the contest. Not sure if you can still view all the entries at the VFXTalk website, but as far as cg transformers go I thought this one had style.
"Liflux's" Lampost Attack
People seem to like those alternator toy designs. Seeing more and more of those translated into CG. Anyways here's one that gets attacked by a lampost??? Okay then.
Juan "BlackBat" Garcia's New Car Alarm
>>>>WARNING COARSE LANGUAGE WARNING<<<<
Well it was a good try, and it makes me laugh. So I thought I'd include it. More impressive than trying to build a cg transformer, or track live footage, I can't believe they actually tried to include acting in their clip.
(didn't quite follow the computer animated live action robot concept but cool none the less)
Chevy transforms though the years - we start from a model-T looking chevy pickup and go through the decades to the current chevy pickup. Don't know who did this commercial yet.
Nissan transforms to different animals - (Downloads a 8 meg zip file that you have to unzip to a mov) So it can travel on different terrains of course. Amazing commercial by Mikros Image. You can watch a lower quality version on YouTube here.
For all you people that can read french, there's a making of interview here. (includes some hi-def quicktimes of the commercial)
There's also a making of video available here.
Fan-Made Dreamworks/Paramount Teaser Trailer - JesterJJZ's movie preview for the new Transformers film. Imagine going to a theater and having this appear on the big screen.
Saab made from jets - a jet transforms into a SUV. Amazing commercial by Digital Domain.
SciFi Channel commercial - truck transforms to pocket size.
Optimus has Prostate Cancer - if he can get it we all can, so get checked regularly.
Remote Controlled Toy Transformer - WR-07 is a real life transformer created by Nakamura-san of Himeji Soft Works in Japan. Apparently he's won lot's of awards and priszes at Robot competitions and you can see why. I so want to buy one of these.
Bacon and Eggs Citroen Spoof - you know your ad is good when it spawns copycat ads
Giant Penguin Citroen Spoof - this one disturbed me greatly for some reason
Mobil-Home - Kadeg "Malonet" Boucher's work posted on CGTalk, this French guys does incredible detail, that borders on insane. His stuff is a little "GoBoty" for my tastes, but it's incredible none the less.
Mantibus Prime - More of Kadeg "Malonet" Boucher's incredibly detailed work posted on CGTalk, this one's a WIP (work in progress) and has some animation passes. It's going to be amazing when it's done. You can check out a preview of the animation here.
Dodge Charger Transformer - Another WIP (work in progress) thread on CGTalk that I've been following. "Coaster" makes an unbelievably well detailed and textured Dodge Charger model, then decides to make it transform. Although it's unfinished it looks unbelievably cool, you can check out a preview of the animation here.
2005 San Diego Comic Convention Transformers Movie Promotional Trailer - Hasbro's promo video for the new Transformer film, see if you can spot my VW transformer who makes a surprise cameo appearance (I didn't even know it would be in it).
If anyone has links I haven't seen yet, gimme an email and I'll add them...