In this entry for CIC CreaTech Ones to Watch 2021, the real time team at Blue Zoo Animation Studio are excited to present a VR puppeteering tool which has the potential to revolutionize the way animation is produced; in a way which could have a genuine impact on how children learn.
Blue Zoo is a multi-BAFTA winning production company that has grown to become one of the UK’s leading & largest animation studios. The studio's vision is to build an animation studio with heart, creating quality content that helps make the world a better place. Imaginative and limitless visuals through animation can help young children wrap their heads around abstract concepts. Combining the entertainment factor of animation with creative ways to communicate ideas results in hit TV shows such as BAFTA-winning Numberblocks on Cbeebies, Blue Zoo’s educational show which helps children learn tricky mathematical lessons like times tables and prime numbers in short 5-minute episodes with memorable songs and fun visuals. Numberblocks has garnered over 2 million subscribers on YouTube. The show has been so popular that the school curriculum has been brought forward to accommodate children’s improved understanding of maths.
It’s Blue Zoo’s mission to make impact-driven animation, having made shows such as Numberblocks. There is a huge demand for animated content on YouTube that can have a big impact on little learners. As parents were forced to educate their children at home last year, Numberblocks saw a huge rise in views on BBC iPlayer as well as tens of millions of views on YouTube. While the world has sped up in it’s demand for content on platforms like YouTube, animation production processes haven’t. Creating successful high quality digital-first IP is almost impossible as you need a huge amount of content to populate a YouTube channel. The biggest challenge of animation is the time and resources it takes to produce just a few seconds of content. Animators work to imbue character performance with creativity and charm, something which cannot be achieved without human control. Moreover, animators use complex programs to work which are not approachable to use. This means a lot of money is needed to launch a new brand on a streaming platform, which limits our ability to create new IP and have the impact we aspire for.
Inspired by the newest real time animation technology, the Co-Founder of Blue Zoo, Tom Box, and the Head of Real time at Blue Zoo, Phil Stewart, have developed a program to solve this problem.
During 2020, Blue Zoo built a prototype for non-linear digitally puppeteered animation. Technology has progressed where teams can now use VR and real-time tools for generating imagery. Puppeteering means the animation can be crafted through tracking an animator’s physical movement with motion-sensed controllers. An artist in a VR headset can work and manipulate a character before their very eyes. The animated clip created in VR can then be rendered to video and uploaded to YouTube or any other streaming platform.
The team at Blue Zoo sees this as game-changing technology, to allow the development of fast-turn around content as an educational tool, to have a positive impact on society through utilising a combination of cutting edge technology. By making the workflow faster and easier, this program could be used to streamline remote collaboration and help teams create more efficiently. In light of the last year, remote collaboration is more important than ever. Each puppeteer will have artistic control which will allow for the artist to create endearing and characterful content quickly without compromising on the quality viewers have come to expect from Blue Zoo. We are currently testing the prototype, and developing IP to trial it with, before using it in full production, as part of our studio's future growth strategy.
Being a CIC CreaTech Ones to Watch 2021 could raise awareness amongst distribution partners and creative collaborators which could help us realise our ambition to create a huge library of educational amination to stream online. This could give birth to a whole new type of animation for digital streaming platforms. This technology allows the real time team to supercharge the animation process but also maintain an engaging performance which can only be achieved by a human artist. With this groundbreaking technology, what can be expected today from animation can be doubled tomorrow.