Guide to Happy

„A Guide to Happy“ – Winner of the category „Best Vizualisation“ in 2016

Instead of focussing on some promised pleasure in the great hereafter, most people in modern society are eager to lead happy lives in the here and now. And we have good news for all of you looking for the secret to happiness: start saving all that money you spend on advice books and just watch this year’s animago winner for “Best Visualization”! In their two-minute clip “A Guide to Happy”, Studio Panoply from London reveals the hidden truth behind the mystery of happiness.

One hint in advance: it has to do with a hormone called oxytocin. Unlike dopamine – or “the happiness hormone” as it is often referred to – oxytocin is known as the “birth hormone” and serves a purpose that goes beyond causing contractions in the delivery room. In “A Guide to Happy”, Panoply uses entertaining 3D animation to explain how to increase the oxytocin levels in your body.

In their own interest

The Panoply team belongs to a generation known for thinking “there’s always room for more”! In other words, they’re constantly looking for new ways to improve their own lives. Doing sports, eating well and getting enough sleep are an excellent basis for a good life, but the team wanted to take an even closer look at the feelings involved in happiness. Inspired by the work of cultural anthropologist Simon Sinek and armed with a fascination for biochemicals and neuroscience, the Panoply team put on their metaphorical lab coats and created a film that provides practical advice on how to get happy.

Team Panoply
Team Panoply

Tribute to the 1980s

The clip uses the look of a typical 1980s TV show and takes a fresh and quirky approach to an otherwise boring scientific subject. In the concept phase, the team looked for clever ways to showcase the idea behind the clip while simultaneously underlining its humour. They found an ideal solution in a combination of surreal elements and realistic environments. They also found that the story was best supported by a modest 3D presentation. In terms of the design, Panoply tried to keep things simple and consistent throughout the entire production process, while still focussing on achieving a rich and vibrant style. A stark contrast of shapes and colours functioned as the structure and visual metaphor of the film; additional subtlety and finesse helped to create a positive world.

Team size & tools

The core Panoply team consisted of three people who worked for roughly 6 months on the project. They also enjoyed the support of an audio studio for the sound design. Cinema 4D was used for the animatic, modelling, texturing, UV mapping and all animation stages. The simulations as well as some visuals were created using Houdini. The Houdini elements were exported as .ass or .abc files into Cinema 4D; unfortunately, this tool bridge was the source of most of the difficulties the team encountered during the project. Seeing as Arnold supported both software packages very well, the team decided to use that render engine. This way, in the case of a problem with file transfers from Houdini to Cinema 4D, the team could rebuild the shading and lighting in Houdini. Luckily, the export process using Arnold’s procedural objects and alembic files between both applications functioned very well.


The team wanted “A Guide to Happy” to motivate audiences to reflect on their own lives and ask some key questions: Are the things we thought made us happy until now truly the right means to stay happy? Or are there perhaps alternatives we might profit from even more? Either way, all of us at the animago team are delighted to have been able to contribute to even more moments of happiness for the Panoply team – with the trophy for “Best Visualization”.

(Mirja Fürst)

The two nominees in the category “Best Vizualisation” 2016 were:

BMW i3 Tech Animation

BMW i3 Technik-Animation

Studio: Effekt-Etage – Client: BMW Group – Country: Germany

Software: Cinema 4D, Octane, After Effects

Morgans Story

SGCH – Morgan’s Story

Studio: The Magnificent Itch – Client: SGCH – Director: Stefan Wernik – Producer: Guy Jamieson – Country: Australia

Software: Blender, Maya

The category “Best Visualization” is sponored by Quantum. More about this here.