How Corridor Digital Created a Viral Sensation
Corridor Digital began life in 2010 when a pair of aspiring filmmakers decided to jump headfirst into the world of YouTube. Nearly a decade later, with more than six million subscribers and one billion video views internationally, the eight-person team continually pumps out videos with a visual effects enhanced edge.
Boston Dynamics is infamous for engineering incredibly advanced robots – their dog-like and bipedal machines can traverse obstacles, open doors and act just like humans. Corridor Digital's version looks and acts just like the original, and that's thanks to elaborate visual effects and an actor wearing the Xsens motion capture suit.
Xsens MVN Animate made it easy for the small team of creators to explore motion capture for the first time and deliver a compelling, ultra-lifelike result-one so lifelike, in fact, that many people thought the video was terrifyingly real.
Motion capture was something completely new for Corridor Digital, however. Once they had the Xsens MVN suit in-house, they began dreaming up the possibilities.
"We got our hands on the suit, and you don't really know what you can do until you have a tool that can do a bunch of amazing new things," says VFX artist Wren Weichman. "We started brainstorming all of the different things we could do with it."
Corridor Digital started experimenting with motion capture by doing a short video about the Transformers franchise, turning each member of the team into Optimus Prime. They soon felt ready to embark on something much more ambitious with the Boston Dynamics parody. "You experience this weird sort of sorrow for the robot," says Weichman about the original Boston Dynamics videos. "What if we elevated that concept of making you feel sorry for a robot?"
"We can do this. We have the technology," director Clinton Jones adds, about their mentality going into the project. "We have the suit, and we have the skillset to make the idea come to life."
Making mocap magic
Despite no prior experience using motion capture technology for their videos, the Corridor Digital crew quickly got up and running to film Clint in the role of the abused and aggrieved robot. The team only spent about half a day filming, and were quickly able to get the capture data they needed to bring the 3D model to life.
"The suit was surprisingly easy to use... We were able to basically just drop the 3D data into our program, drop in the 3D model, and within five minutes have everything linked up. Suddenly you have this fully articulated, moving robot," says Weichman.
"It's quite magical," Jones affirms.
All told, the project took about three weeks to bring to life, with the largest load of work by far coming in compositing. They wanted to film Clint in each scene to maintain realistic interactions with the human engineers, but painting him out of the footage proved to be the biggest hurdle. It was Corridor Digital's most ambitious project to date, and the results showed that it was worth all of the extra hassle to nail the tiny details in post.
When the video hit the web, it was an immediate viral sensation. "The reaction was pretty crazy," says Weichman. "We spent an entire week after the release of that video just surfing on the buzz of it. Every day, something cool happened as a result of it."
Seeing is believing
The video, labeled with a "Bosstown Dynamics" watermark, quickly racked up millions of views via the official Corridor Digital YouTube channel.
It rapidly spread elsewhere, as other people on social media sites ripped the video, removed the credits, and shared it out to even wider audiences. That's almost always a bad thing-but this time around, it started to create an unexpected buzz around the video, as many viewers believed that it was real.
"People are scrolling on Twitter, and they just see this video without any context," says Weichman. "Right off the bat, they assume it's real, because there's no one else out there making high-end visual effects."
It's a credit to Corridor Digital's talent and Xsens' MVN motion capture technology that the video looks absolutely legitimate. Corridor Digital can't wait to dream up their next viral sensation and bring motion capture into the pipeline indefinitely-and maybe take the Boston Dynamics concept to the next level with a deeper, darker sequel.
"The Xsens suit really blew our minds, because suddenly it felt like there were all these new possibilities that we could explore," says Weichman. "For a creative person, that's like the best drug: realizing all of these new things that you can do. You start thinking about them when you're laying in bed at night and then you can't sleep."
Videos by Corridor Digital, provided by Grammatik Agency.