When our partner, Firefly Drone Shows, began experimenting with drone formations, the Hobbes team saw a unique opportunity to apply motion design in an experiential, real world setting. Our challenge was to design choreography that could function in 3-D space using the principles that underlie our digital animations. In doing so, our team built a system to satisfy a multitude of difficult technical and design challenges.
To animate a fleet of individual drones, our team treated the drones as pixels, choreographing a show in 3-D design software and translating the data into a form readable by a drone fleet. Whereas pixels exist within the two-dimensional landscape of a screen, drones move through three dimensions and are bound by physical constraints. This required our team to account for variables such as top flight speed and maximum altitude, all while adhering to FAA rules. Our design system therefore needed to allow every drone’s path to be precisely choreographed from take off to landing in order to maintain compliance with regulations and to avoid collisions.
After developing a framework for handling the technical challenges, our team focused on enhancing the viewer experience. To create the capability to design drone shows that would take an audience’s breath away, we developed a visual language, established best practices for pacing, determined how to effectively use forced perspective, and more.
Through many iterations over more than a year, Hobbes’ work with Firefly evolved from a series of isolated formations into a single, cohesive experience that can capture the imagination of 10,000+ viewers at once, as with this audience at the 2019 World Scout Jamboree.
TEAM: Nick Forshee, Adam Zimmer, Benjamin Dresser