Behind the scenes of the BBC's Rugby World Cup trailer

Award-winning animation studio Blue Zoo creates striking, low-poly 3D spot for the annual international rugby league tournament.

This weekend, the Rugby League World Cup 2013 kicks off in Cardiff, with England taking on Australia. To promote the international tournament for BBC Sport, award-winning animation studio Blue Zoo created this brilliant, stylised spot, featuring a number of oversized characters battling it out to get the cup.

Here, we talk to Blue Zoo animation director Dan Edgley about its production...

Q: How did you first become involved with the project?

"We previously created a trail for the BBC's coverage of the Rugby League Challenge Cup for Red Bee Media, which went down so well the asked us to create another, this time for the Rugby League World Cup 2013."

Q: Did you have a lot of artistic freedom with the brief?

"The original brief asked for 2D animation, for the quick turn-around needed, but we pitched the idea of creating 3D low-poly-style characters using some quick style frames to convey the concept, which the client loved and bought into."

Blue Zoo won the clients round with these brilliant 3D low-poly-style characters

Q: What was your design approach to the project?

"Because of the tight schedule - the project needed to be completed within four weeks - we opted for an achievable minimalistic style. We were keen to keep the designs very angular, broad and exaggerated so that despite their simple appearance they would still be bursting with character and fun to animate.

We were keen to keep the designs very angular, broad and exaggerated

"Not having budgets for aerial photo shoots, we used stock photography of British landscapes for the environment which we then re-built in 3D space so we could introduce cinematic camera moves."

Due to time constraints, the Blue Zoo team opted for a minimalistic style

Q: What was the inspiration behind the low-poly, stylised look?

"We took a lot of inspiration from the 1950s Solo Lipnik matchbox labels, which used simplified geometric shapes to produce striking characters with dynamic silhouettes.

"Another influence was the concept artwork Pixar created for The Incredibles - their simple triangular body shapes and jagged limbs formed sharp poses we were keen to build on in 3D."

The style of the spot was heavily inspired by these 1950s Solo Lipnik matchbok designs

Q: What 3D software did you use?

"We modelled & animated in Maya, rendered in Mental Ray and composited in After Effects."

Q: What was the most useful piece of software?

"From an animation perspective, Maya scripts such as tweenMachine, Auto Tangent and Anim Import/Export really helped speed up the workflow to meet the tight schedule.

"When it came to creating the environments, Maya’s inbuilt presets for things like paint effects grasses and ocean shader were invaluable. We had to complete over a shot a day (light, render & comp) so the speed of set up was crucial; Mental Ray’s physical sun and sky system helped us to light shots quickly and keep up with the schedule."

Maya's inbuilt presets were invalable for creating the spot's environments

Q: Did you use any new or notable techniques?

"The character rigs were built with switchable team kits from the start, so that when the semi-final has been played we can create a bespoke render of the animation featuring the two final teams. This will be played on air the next day, so they have a version specially tailored for the cup final."

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