Israeli designer Yam Ben Adiva goes by the nickname Yambo and is known for his CGI aesthetic and innovative graphics. From his Tel Aviv-based studio, he and his dynamic team work frequently with clients from around the world, including Nike, Wix, Android, MTV and Google.

Recently, Yambo teamed up with Grammy-nominated director Gal Muggia to create an artful commercial or a new 32-story residential skyscraper in Ramat Gan.

Relying primarily on Cinema 4D and Houdini, Yambo Studio and Yaniv Gorali, who was in charge of the Houdini aspects of the project, spent an intense two months working on the 45-second spot.   

Yambo Studio used a combination of 3D tracking and trailing curve cross sections to match the actors movements as he transformed a lump of clay into the basic structure.

I asked Yambo to explain the making of the visually stunning spot. Here’s what he had to say:

First, tell me a bit about yourself and your work?

Yambo: I like to think of myself as a multidisciplinary designer, specializing in the digital domain with a big emphasis on 3D and CGI. I've been playing around with C4D for the last decade, and it's become a big part of my life. Four years ago I was still an employee at a Tel Aviv studio, and then I started freelancing and soon opened my own studio. Our goal has been to unify design, production and CGI direction under one roof.

I lead all of the projects; each one is supported by a dynamic team of artists that we bring on from around the world according to the project needs. It’s not uncommon for us to have a look development artist from Lithuania, 3D artists from Canada and compositors from the United States. For the Geffen project, we asked Canadian artist, Maxime Roz, to produce a high-quality HDRI image from the shots we got on location so we could relight the building in 3D. (Watch a making-of video here.) 

Two different models of the building were created during the making of the spot. Yambo Studio placed markers on the buildings for 3D tracking. (See how it was done here.)

How did you become a designer and 3D and VFX artist?

Yambo: I was really into sound design and electronic music as a child. I basically made electronic music all day long until I was about 18 and went into the Israeli Army. I planned to learn sound design when I got back, but I had a hard time finding inspiration and writing music I was satisfied with. A friend showed me After Effects, and I spent two years playing around with it and Cinema 4D. I realized that I really loved 3D, and decided to spend all my time on that. I spent long nights doing tons of tutorials, and I made my first show reel and started to work in the industry at different studios. I practiced for thousands of hours and went freelance and opened my own studio.

What do you like most about what you do?

Yambo: I think it's the balance between all the things I do that I enjoy. I love designing 3D style frame and I love animation sometimes. I also love my rule that, as a producer, I try to connect all the dots and make complex projects happen even though we are not a huge VFX production house. Nowadays, it's easy than ever to do complicated things on your own, and we’re doing stuff that was impossible a few years back. I love being a one-man show who gets to work with talented friends across the globe.

Houdini, along with custom tools, was used to achieve the director’s vision of the clay falling away to expose the new building.

Have you worked with Gal Muggia before?

Yambo: Yes, he contacted me about a year ago for another project, and I just finished working with him on a new music video for [Israeli indie-pop band] Lola Marsh. Gal is doing some of the best work out there these days, and when he called about the Geffen Towers project, we met with the production house and decided to dive into it. I did have some concerns at the beginning, since there were many technical challenges. But we were able to pull them off with Yaniv Gorali’s help. He’s a talented CG artist, and a good friend of mine.

All of the concrete is cut away to reveal the sleek building.

How did the director describe his vision for the project?

Yambo: Gal is pretty amazing in that he has a very clear vision of what he wants. This wasn’t an R and D-driven project. Gal knew exactly what he wanted. Early on, he did this animated storyboard with my good friend and Yoav Shtibelman, a really talented artist. You can easily see how it reflects the final product so well. For that Lola Marsh video I mentioned, Gal had a spreadsheet describing every visual you see on each second of the video. I don’t know any other director who works like that. At the same time, though, Gal gave me full creative freedom, and he was very open to our technical solutions and suggestions. It was a great collaboration.

Describe a bit about your process for this?

Yambo: Most of the work was divided between Yaniv and I. He is an experienced technical director generalist, who has worked mainly on television commercials, as well as films for Double Negative in London. He did most of the complex CG stuff in Houdini and I did the design, shading, lightning, rendering and some of the animation using Cinema 4D.

This shot challenging because it had to accurately depict one of the tower’s apartments. After doing many test shots to get the look and feel right, Yambo animated the scene in Cinema 4D.

Maxime Roz stitched the HDRI (High Dynamic Range Image) I took on location together, so we could recreate the scene properly in 3D. And we got the 3D model of the tower from a visualizations company we were working with and designed the interior in Cinema 4D and textured it in Octane. We did a look and feel presentation and an animatic presentation to the agency, and then we just worked on it step by step.

Houdini’s pyro tools were used to create fluffy clouds that top Geffen Towers as the building nears completion.

What are you working on now?

Yambo: Many things are going on all the time. We just worked with Antoni Tudisco on a big job for Nike that should be in stores across Europe soon. We’re also doing some commercials for the Israeli broadcast industry, intro animation for the new Android TV, and many more projects.


Agency: Parazaer
Director: Gal Muggia
Producer: Ariel Pridan
Executive Producer: Ran Harush & Michal Tal
Production Manager: Tziporen Hazum
Cinematographer: Liel Otnick
Art Direction: Rahely Levin
Editing: Dafi Farbman
3D & VFX: Yambo Studio & Yaniv Gorali
Post Production Producer: Rutie Keinan
Director Assistant: Malina Krapovitch
Location Manager: Eran Terbelasi
Lighting: Ofer Orbach
Grip: Moshe Shabat
Sound Recording: Isaschar Visna
Storyboard: Yoav Shtibelman
Compositing: Omri Grossman
Script: Parazar Team
Sound: Yosi Rabinovitch (Baseline)
VO: Ariel Pridan
Exterior and Interior animation shots: 3D Vision

Meleah Maynard is a writer and editor in Minneapolis, Minnesota.