No Ghost's "Wimbledon - Under the skin"

No Ghost is a team of directors and creative technologists, driven by a passion for building cinematic experiences using the latest immersive technology. We caught up with the team to find out about one of their latest triumphs.

The All England Tennis Club pursues greatness for Wimbledon. Collecting and analysing millions of metrics and data points in partnership with IBM enables Wimbledon to strive for the ultimate sporting experience: for its players and for its fans. No Ghost was tasked with visualising this data collection.

Lawrence Bennett from No Ghost explains: “We wanted to give the viewer a real sense of the enormous breadth of information that is captured over the course of the Wimbledon Championships and display this in a visually striking way. We settled on the idea of a tennis player forming out of individual points of ‘data’ throughout the piece.”

The power of Motion Capture

Harnessing the power and natural fluidity of real motion in a tennis shot was extremely important to this project.

“We felt it vital to keep a true to life feel: as if the data had been captured at the tournament itself,” Lawrence told us. “We chose to use motion capture technology over traditional animation techniques for this reason.

The Mocap Studio use a state of the art Xsens tracking suit that allows the performer complete freedom of movement whilst being able to capture motion in any environment. The advantage of this was that it eliminated the need for a complex and expensive stage setup.”

However, No Ghost went much further than this. “We also captured kinectic depth data that we could layer over the motion capture to give us the option of using different combinations of a variety of techniques to convey the player’s movements. This flexibility enabled us to make tweaks and changes to our action sequences on the fly without any downtime, whilst keeping a conventional post pipeline through Motion Builder.

Finding the look

The focus of the project was to create a film that gave worldwide audiences a sense of the density and complexity of the data that is collected across the famous tournament.

“We mixed the detailed motion capture with extensive Houdini simulation and experimented with a wide variety of different looks,” explained Lawrence. “Creating the impression of random building data points whilst maintaining fluid movement of the player required an approach with multiple components, that could be combined in varying proportions to create a rich and tactile visual. We settled on layering multiple different simulations on top of one another which gave us the final look.”

After all of that hard work, the simple part: rendering. Lawrence told us that: “The final render for the project was done using RedShift with YellowDog’s cloud render technology. The combination of Redshift and YellowDog gave us the flexibility to keep tweaking the final look until very late in the day because we could be sure that we would be able to render it all in time. When we were up against the clock in final few days, it was reassuring knowing that when we sent our renders over, YellowDog could throw the kitchen sink at it to get it done in time.”

With the help of YellowDog Rendering, No Ghost were able to do more, create more, explore more, and unleash themselves from limited computer power.


Want to speed up Redshift Rendering?

If you liked reading this but still think YellowDog is too good to be true, have a read of why Darren Hyland at Brown Bag Films puts his confidence in YellowDog.

And if you’re a big Redshift fan, check out the interview with the amazing team at Blue Zoo.