Inspirational company: Bot & Dolly – Art and technology intertwined
When looking at the film industry, no company has worked outside the box quite like Bot & Dolly have. Bot & Dolly was created by Jeff Linnell and Randy Stowell, as a spin off from their production company, Autofuss, in 2009. B&D utilise industrial robots as the film-making tool from the future. (Shea, 2017)
IRIS & Scout, two of the Robots at Bot & Dolly, pictured in the piece “Box” (2013) – (Yellowtrace, 2013)
The KUKA robotic arm is an instrument designed for the the production line – mainly car production – and is capable of a wide range of movement and carrying heavy loads. B&D recycled these retired robots and used them in new purposes, such as film production and installation art. (Shea, 2017)
Kuka robotic arms on the production line – before re-purposing –(Robotiq, 2016)
B&D created a platform to integrate their robotic systems into the film-making world. Known as BDMove, the software allows the camera rigs to be controlled using Autodesk Maya, a software widely used within the industry. This allows translation of animations to real life camera movements. (Shea, 2017) This is particularly exciting, as control interfaces no longer require designers to learn a whole new skill set in order to use the robots. (Staff, 2013)
Breaking into the film industry: Gravity
B&D’s most noteable work was on the 2013 film Gravity, where their robotic rigs were responsible for creating the groundbreaking dynamic lighting and camera effects.(Engelen, 2014)
“We built a system that could shoot a feature film, and actually shoot the majority of that film, so it had to be very malleable, very quick, and get into places you wouldn’t expect” – Jeff Linell, creator of Bot & Dolly (YouTube, 2017)
Traditionally, space scenes would be created by suspending actors on wires to make them appear weightless, supported by post-production methods. (Shea, 2017) Instead, B&D created a light box with environment projections. Both this and the camera rig could be moved, creating realistic lighting and motion.. The IRIS robotic camera rig could, for example, be made to move rapidly towards the actor, producing the effect of falling (Engelen, 2014)
(A.UD IDEAS Lecture Series 2013-2014: Bot and Dolly – Movement and Precision, 2014)
“Box” by Bot & Dolly, 2013. video source
: (Box, 2017)
“Box” is a film created by B&D in 2013, combining their robotic systems with projection mapping. (Engelen, 2014) The piece was inspired by the “principles of stage magic”. (Munkowitz, 2013) To make the camerawork feel much more natural, they motion-captured someone watching the performance, and translated it into a camera path for a bot to follow. (Creators, 2013)
Making of “Box”: https://vimeo.com/99880550
“The process for making the piece was quite involved, combining conventional graphic design and animation tools with robotics animation, projection mapping, automated cinematography and a grip of other technologies unique to the studio.” –Bradley G Munkowitz, Lead graphic designer for “Box” (Munkowitz, 2013)
B&D have not just created these robots for film, however. In 2012, they created an interactive installation for Google, named “Kinetisphere“, built using their Scout robot. Kinetisphere was a model of Google’s Nexus Q streaming device which could be controlled by viewers with Nexus gadgets. (Shea, 2017)
Video of Kinetisphere in action (Rodholm, 2012)
B&D was purchased by Google in 2013, along with several other robotics companies. (Google Acquisitions, n.d.) Some members have gone onto further projects such as the Lightform projection system. (Lightform, 2017)
How they are Inspirational
B&D is inspirational to me because they look at the way we can re-purpose objects that wouldn’t usually get a second thought outside of their everyday uses; and are a prime example of how taking a risk can lead to new heights.
Their film “Box” inspired my interest into new forms of film-making, even trying out projection mapping for myself.
They are successful because they arose as a spin-off from a small film company, gained popularity; leading to them climbing the ladder of company growth. They expanded from a small, humble production team to being the masterminds behind a major Hollywood blockbuster; proving their worth to not only the robotics industry, but to the film making industry.
Shea, C. (2017). The Robot Afterlife: An Exciting Story About the Post Factory Years. [online] Blog.robotiq.com. Available at: https://blog.robotiq.com/the-robot-afterlife-an-exciting-story-about-the-post-factory-years [Accessed 9 Oct. 2017].
Staff, R. (2013). Bot & Dolly Fuses 3D Animation and Industrial Automation – Robotics Business Review. [online] Robotics Business Review. Available at: https://www.roboticsbusinessreview.com/consumer/bot_dolly_fuses_3d_animation_and_industrial_automation/ [Accessed 10 Oct. 2017].
YouTube. (2017). Bot & Dolly’s Iris, World’s most advanced Robotic motion control camera system. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWJCxxKuTOw [Accessed 10 Oct. 2017].
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Engelen, J. (2014). Bot & Dolly – a small company with BIG Robots – Dedece Blog. [online] Dedece Blog. Available at: http://www.dedeceblog.com/2014/01/29/box-mapping-by-bot-dolly/ [Accessed 10 Oct. 2017].
A.UD IDEAS Lecture Series 2013-2014: Bot and Dolly – Movement and Precision. (2014). UCLA: UCLAArchitecture. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jm3ciZLia50
Munkowitz, B. (2013). Box Demo. [online] Gmunk.com. Available at: http://gmunk.com/BOX-DEMO [Accessed 9 Oct. 2017].
Box. (2013). Directed by T. Abdel-Gawad. San Francisco: Bot & Dolly. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lX6JcybgDFo
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Kinetisphere: An Interactive Installation for Google IO 2012. (2012). Directed by A. Rodholm. San Francisco: Bot & Dolly. Available at: https://vimeo.com/46239026
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Lightform. (2017). Lightform: Projection Mapping Evolved. [online] Available at: https://lightform.com/about/ [Accessed 11 Oct. 2017].
dedeceblog (2014). Gravity IRIS camera rig. [image] Available at: http://www.dedeceblog.com/2014/01/29/box-mapping-by-bot-dolly/ [Accessed 11 Oct. 2017].
Robotiq (2016). KUKA robotic arms. [image] Available at: https://blog.robotiq.com/the-robot-afterlife-an-exciting-story-about-the-post-factory-years [Accessed 19 Oct. 2017].
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Rodholm, A. (2012). Kinetisphere: An Interactive Installation for Google IO 2012. Available at: https://vimeo.com/46239026 [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].
Reyneri, P. (2013). Making of Box. [image] Available at: http://www.philreyneri.com/box/ [Accessed 28 Oct. 2017].