When you ask somebody their favourite character from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, they will most likely say either Groot the tree or Rocket the raccoon. However, it’s easy to overlook the complex process required when bringing these characters to life on the big screen.

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Laurie Brugger works as a rigger for a visual effects company called Framestore. This is a company who have won numerous awards for their work on Gravity, Harry Potter, The Dark Knight and The Golden Compass, just to name a few. Brugger’s role is to provide the physiological make-up of a character by adding joints and muscles digitally, enabling the animators to control them.

However, there is more to this process than simply sitting behind a screen.

The amount of work required depends on the scale of the project. During her talk at the recent TEDxEastEnd event, Brugger discussed just how much work went into creating both Groot and Rocket even before the animation itself could begin.

For both of these characters, it was important to understand their scientific backgrounds. In the case of Groot, the walking, talking tree that relies on his ability to grow roots very quickly, the Framestore team turned to horticultural science to understand the mechanisms needed when recreating this digitally.

In the case of Rocket, the designers analysed real-life raccoons to understand their markings, movements and mannerisms. The team also relied upon veterinary science for information on bone size and structure, which gave them an understanding of the raccoon’s skeletal make-up.

In the meantime, concept painters provided a number of visual ideas for how the characters could look. This inspires the digital designers to transform them into free-moving, animated portrayals.

CGI animation is an integral part of the creative industries. It is a process that requires a lot of work by a number of people to appear effortless on screen. As with many other creative processes, thorough research is vital to understanding the overall objective of the work. But all this hard work pays off by making the impossible a reality on screen.

If we in the advertising industry are to compete for people’s attention with these visual feasts, wouldn’t it be a good idea to take the same amount of care over our work as the team at Framestore do?

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