Published on Wednesday, 28 August 2013


CINEMA 4D Animates Flying Lotus Music Video

‘Tiny Tortures’ is a music video for a track from musician Flying Lotus about a former baseball player struggling to ease the guilt he feels after a car accident, in which his girlfriend was killed and cost him an arm, by relying on prescription drugs. He hallucinates about the regeneration of his missing limb and ends by overdosing in response.

Dark & Magical

Motion graphics artist David Lewandowski directed, wrote the treatment for the video, which needed to look and feel both dark and magical and ‘Tiny Tortures’, and refining the look involved several motion and camera tests.


David said he worried at times that the subject matter was too harsh and uncompromising. For example, the video’s opening shots show the protagonist lying in the dark on his bed next to a cluttered nightstand. Suddenly, a swirl of small objects from spare change and guitar picks to baseballs and a smart phone begin floating over to him, coalescing into a composite, replacement arm.

Concept artist Ben Mauro created the design for the arm, and was part of a freelance team of artists that David pulled together for the project. Visual effects artist Dustin Bowser supervised most of the VFX. The team created many of the animations and visual effects for ‘Tiny Tortures’ using MAXON CINEMA 4D.


“I wanted to shoot this as dark as possible, under single-digit foot-candle lighting, and do effects over it, letting everything live in shadows,” David said. Using CINEMA 4D for animation and rigging, he designed and built a rig that could be used under extreme low light conditions. A practical arm nub made of silicone was used in many of the shots, scanned using Agisoft Photoscan so that a digital double could be swapped in for the CG arm shots.

LED Rigging

In order to do this accurately, David upgraded the arm rig with dimmable LED strips to improve the visibility without creating light pollution in the plate images. Other LEDs were used in parts of the room in the shadows to add parallax information for PFTrack, their tracking tool. Motion capture for the arm was fairly straightforward, and sometimes a prosthetic arm stump was used, for which the pixels could then be digitally squeezed to remove the spot where his real arm was concealed.


Character TD Bret Bays and the rigging TD Patrick Goski also devised rigging systems to make the arm appear to be growing together. Nevertheless, the CG arm rig was slow and difficult to work with. “It was a great rig but we had to model and buy so many assets for it and create the wires from scratch, that it became pretty cumbersome,” David explained.

Using the XRef object in CINEMA 4D, however, helped make the rig more manageable. The XRef object is used to load in objects from a saved scene without actually merging it into the current project. The position, scale and rotation of an object from the reference scene will be adopted in the new scene, but it can be animated, deformed by deformers, affected by generators and so on. The objects and scenes can be placed together in one master scene for rendering and animating.


Patrick Goski also created the magical shot of the coins floating out of a bowl on the dresser using sculpting tools in CINEMA 4D. The idea was to have the coins rise from the bowl, form a double helix shaped grouping and then move across the room toward Wood. David said, “Patrick did around 100 animations to get a double helix that still felt loose and abstract, and did the simulation with MoDynamics to really nail it.”

David Lewandowski worked as a graphics animator on ‘Oblivion’ and earlier on ‘TRON: Legacy’. See the making of video