How do you make Ikea’s vegan meatballs? Studio Taktil explores in this satisfying CG animation
The advert for Ikea’s plant ball explodes its process in granular fragments while explaining its ingredients and production in microscopic detail.
- 30 July 2020
- Jenny Brewer
- Reading Time
- 3 minutes
Ikea sells around one billion meatballs a year and is among the top ten food retailers in the world, despite the fact that it’s a furniture shop. So when the retailer announced it would be introducing a meat-free alternative to its top-selling foodstuff in Summer 2020, the internet went nuts. To quench curiosity as to Huvudroll’s (the plant ball’s) make-up, Ikea then commissioned fellow Swedes, Stockholm-based 3D designers Studio Taktil, to make an advert detailing its ingredients and production process.
Taktil is a duo, Elias Klingén and Gustav Larsson, who has worked with Ikea previously on exhibition visuals for the company’s museum in Älmhult. That project came through another Swedish design studio Pjadad, which has a long history of Ikea collabs; so for the plant ball ad, Pjadad got back in touch. “This process film is one part of a much larger campaign Pjadad was working on for the global launch of Huvudroll,” Klingén explains to It’s Nice That. Taktil’s concept was to “visualise the plant ball process… focusing on showing the journey from ingredient to finished plant ball in an eye-catching way”.
The most important aim for the ad was to make people want to eat it, despite the ad being entirely CGI. “Working with food in CG is always a challenge. It often looks synthetic and unappetising,” says Klingén. “We had seen a couple of images from the actual production process of the plant ball. The ingredients in real life all end up being this brown paste basically, and we knew we had to make something more tasty looking than that.” The film instead shows peas floating in the air, crumbling in slow motion into a million pieces and glistening with beads of moisture when they’re rehydrated. Then, sentient clouds of powdered ingredients and globules of shiny oil spiral through the air to converge into a delicious-looking, sizzling ball at the end – a much more magical vision than reality.
The studio chose warm colour tones “to make it more inviting” as well as a painterly approach to lighting that drew from Rembrandt’s still lifes. “We started designing some more detailed environments but ended up just using soft lights and some light blocks to add detail in the shadows… to focus on the most important part, the ingredients.” Experimenting with the opening shot of the pea pod, the genesis of Huvudroll, Taktil designed the following shots based on this aesthetic, aiming to match the lighting and background so it looked like it was shot in the same ‘room’.
Once the concept was locked in, Taktil received a script from Pjadad and Ikea detailing the stages of the process behind the plant ball. Based on this, the duo worked up a storyboard but in 3D “which is a bit unusual since storyboards are usually drawn but in this case it felt the most natural,” says Klingén. This meant creating 3D animatics was a smooth next step, followed by the development, refinement and rendering of each shot in the story.
The pandemic hit in the middle of production, so the duo moved their “big clunky PCs home” to continue remotely. “A big struggle was having our PCs rendering at home. If you don’t know, the process of rendering 3D animations requires some serious hardware that produce a lot of heat and noise when used. I know this caused some sleepless nights (for Gustav at least).” Following on from this, retouching and colour grading was needed to make the cohesive and satisfying film you see before you. Taktil has also shared a making-of film to explain its creative process.