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Our presentation for the Milwaukee Tool 2019 EMEA conference combined 2D/3D animation, film editing and motion graphics. We sat down with Nicholas, one of the animators, to talk about the process of making the fictional Thunder Trials brand.



How did you go about laying out the visual language?

Loads of research into horse racing in general as well as horse racing arcade games. We initially wanted to create a stylised look which would replicate that of a horse game with plastic horses instead of realistic ones. We decided on the entire race to be contained within a glass dome to minimise background population, and used a casino/games room background image. We were given the names of over 40 horses and had to create variations of these using different colour horse textures and jockey suit and hat colours. All of this data was kept in a spreadsheet showing which jockey was paired to each horse, with a unique number as well as the result of that specific jockey in one of the four races. To keep each horse clear from one another, race paths were set up so each horse always followed its race line without crossing the other horses.


How was the fictional Thunder Trials brand created?

A general look was created to use on the raceday for leaderboards, advertisement boards, race programmes and horse saddles. These artworks were illustrated and animated to follow each race, and the order in which the horses completed each race. I modelled the track from a top-down image I found online while referencing random assets that would usually be found on a track.



Did it change much along the way?

We initially planned on going for a plastic toy-style for the horses and jockeys, and having the entire race contained within a glass case. We eventually ended up going for more of a realistic style as the movement of the horses seemed very organic and fluid. We were able to achieve better results with shorter render times when changing to the more realistic look.


What were your influences?

Everything had to work, make sense, be there for a reason and accurately represent a betting horse race. We put together a simple concept but polished animation to give the conference-goers an enjoyable experience. A huge amount of influence came from Milwaukee’s brand to make sure there was continuation between the horses and the brand.



What were the most challenging aspects?

Working out the animation script to make sure all horses would be able to use the same animation instead of animating every horse for every race. Getting my head around all the details of creating different variations in colours, race results, camera angles, horse movements and horse numbers to make sure every race seemed different. File management on the final renders for the four races, opening gates, overview wide shot and winning horses. Having thousands of rendered images to manage and compile into five separate videos to be shown on the unique presentation setup.


What were the most fun aspects?

Producing something so unique – content-wise and format-wise, being able to work on something not too serious, having the freedom to create the entire environment, and having full creative license. We were able to use our faces as textures on the jockeys in each race and decide who would get to win. Seeing the end product across five massive screens was so satisfying.



See our case study


Salamandra.uk is an animation and design agency with studios in Eton and St Andrews. We’re experts at creating visual stories that convey complex messages, offering powerful productions on any platform.