Animating a Melbourne Icon

KeepCup is one of Cobalt’s most produced designs. This is particularly significant, as each KeepCup is a positive step away from a throwaway culture and towards global sustainability.

Over recent years, global movements and documentaries such as ABC’s War on Waste inspired us to reflect on what KeepCup meant to us. Our response was a thought-provoking, concise and engaging 3D animation which we produced ourselves as a positive contribution to the zeitgeist.

This case study is about this video; both its intent and its technical execution.  And while we’ve documented our work on KeepCup before, this case study offers a glimpse into our expertise in 3D product animation, branding and storytelling.

Cobalt’s previous KeepCup animations are focused on the product’s award-winning design and features. This time, we sought to convey an emotive story about the positive social and environmental impact KeepCup has made over the past decade – same habit; smaller footprint.

In order to prompt people to pause and consider the impact of habitual and wasteful consumption, we used symbolism, inference and well-chosen language to communicate our message succinctly. The subtleties and timing of the animation itself were also carefully considered to create strong visual interest and a lasting impression. Ultimately, we wanted the audience to think deeper about the life of a disposable coffee cup after it rolls into the bin.


  • Duration: 46 Seconds
  • 1920 x 1080 Full HD


  • Mass FX Physics
  • Displacement mapping
  • 3d Studio Max
  • V-Ray Advanced
  • After Effects
  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • SolidWorks


  • Andrew Fanning
  • Steve Martinuzzo
  • Jack Magree

Crafting The Look and Feel

After selecting key themes, words and messages, a storyboard was crafted to capture our vision. The first of two, distinct scenes was then modelled to mimic an inner-city street. For this, a rustic red brick backdrop was chosen as a subtle intimation of the cafés that surround our North Melbourne studio. From there, we developed textures and took measurements to set the scene for the animation to come.

To keep in line with the video’s realistic aesthetic, the featured tumbling cup animation had to be captivating, smooth and true-to-life. We achieved this through the use of 3DS Max’s Mass FX Physics Simulator. We ran a series of simulations, assigning different material combinations and settings, in order to find the best looking trajectories. Using these calculations as a base-line, we then manually tweaked key frames to interface with the camera path and work seamlessly with the timing, music and captioning.

The assets created for the second scene were derived from in-house engineered CAD. A 12oz KeepCup model was stripped down, edited and manipulated to develop both the compacted KeepCup monument and concave metal stamping tools. To achieve the crushed KeepCup’s look, we decided on a method of texture mapping known as displacement, instead of a complicated geometrically-modelled solution. Once the cup was stripped down to its outer visible surfaces, a custom texture was applied and scaled until accurate. Displacement mapping simulates geometric depth and self-shadowing, providing sufficient detail to the final outcome.

Finally, the compacted KeepCup fades away to depict a production KeepCup model in-place.

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