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How Water Droplets Were Brought to Life for a Gatorade Commercial

Filming 3D-shapes made out of water required building a "rain rig" with more than 2,000 nozzles.

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Sometimes using computer graphics is taking the easy way out.

To promote a new Gatorade water product, filmmakers created the first-ever liquid human by animating it in mid-air—all without resorting to CGI. The water droplet athlete was generated with a customized “rain-rig” that used a set of 2,048 nozzles to turn on and off at two milliseconds to create the effect.

The customized “rain rig” used to create the effect. (Unit 9 via Vimeo)

The technology needed to generate the real-world liquid human didn’t exist, so the production team at Unit 9 had to make it themselves, DPReview reports. Over the span of ten weeks, the infrastructure was conceived and built. The final product was a system that required a half-ton of water to generate the surreal effect.

For a realistic feel, Unit 9 film athletes running, jumping, and kickboxing in motion capture. The data from the motion sensors was used to program the “rain rig,” telling the nozzles when to open and close.

The effect was created in-camera, filmmakers used motion capture to program the “rain rig.” (Unit 9 via Vimeo)

The entire system was synchronized to communicate within microseconds. Each time a flash went off, the water was dropped at the precise moment needed to “freeze” the water droplets in mid-air. The “frozen” droplets were then stitched together into a seamless video clip.

This behind-the-scenes video from Unit 9 gives a full explanation.

Read full story at DPReview.com