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Mr Bean Live: How An Animated Classic Tackled Facebook Live

The hapless hero Mr Bean has made us laugh for 27 years. Following the successful live action comedy series in 2001, Mr Bean launched a classic animated series and is currently the largest TV entertainment brand on Facebook with over 70 million fans. Recently, the team behind Mr Bean at Endemol Shine Group, worked with Adobe and the Adobe Character Animator CC (Beta) team to enable for the first time the animated Mr Bean to have ever interacted live with his fans.

Animation challenge accepted
Animation technology has come a long way from hand drawn sketches. New technologies, like Adobe Character Animator, are making it possible to animate faster than ever before, but that certainly doesn’t mean animation is an easy task.

The animated Mr Bean is quirky, but highly detailed. He isn’t famous for long-winded conversation. Instead, he is known for his over-exaggerated body movements and facial expressions. With this is mind, the Mr Bean designers knew they had a challenging task ahead of them. They needed to keep the quality of the animation as faithful to the Mr Bean character as possible but also animate Mr Bean on the fly, without a script, with millions of fans watching live. With these design challenges, the team turned to a game of charades to interact with the audience.

Illustrator CC was used to create the various hand shapes used in the charades game.

Creating simple but powerful animation
The first step to prepare Mr Bean for his livestream was to simplify the animation. The amount of detailed elements for the basic Mr Bean rig (think 1553 mouth shapes, 777 hand shapes, and 96 head shapes) was reduced to a more manageable number that could be brought together into a single Adobe Illustrator document. In the end, the completed character had 22 different hand shapes and 18 mouth shapes, including a stuck-out tongue and gritted teeth.

Mr Bean still needed synchronized hand and arm motions. By using animation cycles, his arms could animate independently or together with a mix of keyboard triggers and mouse movements and with a further stroke of the keys, his hands can animate simultaneously. Of course, Mr Bean’s trademark elbow patches make the 2D character more dimensional.

For a game of charades, Mr Bean’s varied hand gestures should appear as clearly as possible. Yet with a huge head and tiny hands, the challenge was to make the different gestures readable. The key for the design team was to fine-tune the timing so that each motion was slow enough for the audience to read, but quick enough to keep energy high and the fans engaged.

Enabling live reactions
Giving Mr Bean the ability to react live to fans’ comments depended heavily on his facial expressions. After animating a facial movement, Adobe Character Animator’s controls allowed the designers to attach that movement to a keyboard trigger. That way, the animators could control Mr Bean’s expressions during the livestream with the press of a button.

For example, anyone familiar with Mr Bean knows his trademark ‘glare,’ ‘squint,’ and ‘huh?’ expressions. By manipulating the upper and lower eyelids separately, designers could create a wider variety of Mr Bean’s signature faces. These eyelid movements were assigned to keyboard triggers and, at the end of the process, the team had created 34 triggers for Mr Bean’s in-the-moment expressions and actions.

To guide fans through the game, designers used Adobe After Effects CC to add a series of symbols to each charade. Icons such as ‘2-words,’ ‘film,’ or ‘repeat’ displayed on screen will help viewers identify when Mr Bean is doing a new charade or repeating himself.

Broadcasting the stream
Endemol Shine Group and the Adobe Character Animator team partnered with NewTek and Telestream to integrate cross-platform, machine-to-machine video using NewTek’s innovative Network Device Interface technology (NDI). The new processes enabled a seamless handoff of the live animation signal into Wirecast, Telestream’s live broadcasting software, as a camera source, which could then composite it with any other sources, graphics, or titles, and encode and stream the feed to Facebook.

With Telestream Wirecast, you can live broadcast your characters via Facebook or YouTube Live.

“It’s exciting to empower creators with a whole new set of tools for live video production, made possible by Adobe, and bridged by NewTek’s NDI technology,” says Andrew Haley, Wirecast Evangelist, Telestream. “Animation processes that used to take days or weeks to produce can be done in the moment, on-the-fly, and streamed live on Facebook, YouTube, Periscope and nearly any other streaming destination. It’s truly awesome stuff.”

On the day of the livestream, a team of seven people gathered to make Mr Bean come to life. A director monitored the game of charades and determined how Mr Bean will respond to the audience. An animator worked together with the voice controller to manipulate Mr Bean’s movements and reactions. A Wirecast switcher controlled the broadcast stream, and a community management team responded to fans’ comments on Facebook. This was broadcasted to over sixteen thousand viewers live and to over one million via the video replay.

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Character Animator, Member Stories, Motion Graphics & Animation