Top Spot of the Week: ENGINE Creative, Framestore Bring Kiyan Prince Back To Virtual Life For Anti-Knife Crime Campaign


Robert Goldrich
Tuesday, May. 18, 2021


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Kiyan Prince, the schoolboy football prodigy who was stabbed and killed at the age of 15 while trying to stop another child being bullied, is being brought back to virtual life on the 15th anniversary of his death in a ground-breaking anti-knife crime campaign.

Kiyan will make news today (5/18) when he signs for his former club, Queens Park Rangers. He will be given the squad number “30” to reflect the age he would be today. Kiyan will also be introduced as a playable character in the world’s biggest video game, EA SPORTS™ FIFA 21. In addition, Match Attax will issue a Kiyan Prince playing card and major brands, including Adidas, will sponsor him.

The campaign, called “Long Live the Prince,” is created by ENGINE Creative on an entirely pro-bono basis.  All proceeds raised go directly to Kiyan Prince Foundation, the charity run by Kiyan’s father, Dr Mark Prince OBE.

Dr. Prince explained, “I want my son to be remembered not for the tragedy of his death but for the triumph of his achievements. Through this campaign, the world finally gets to glimpse Kiyan’s incredible potential fulfilled. And hopefully we can inspire other kids to be the best version of themselves too.”

To create a virtual likeness of Kiyan as the 30-year-old he would be today, ENGINE Creative partnered with Framestore, the Academy award-winning creative studio behind Avengers: End Game and Bladerunner 2049, which also . 

With input from the Prince family and help from Professor Hassan Ugail at the University of Bradford, cutting edge aging-projection software was used to create a scientifically accurate image of how Kiyan would look today. This image was then developed by Framestore and renowned photoreal artist Chris Scalf to create the likenesses of the Kiyan seen in the campaign. Framestore brought the likeness to life in film through AI technology, partnering with ELC.

“We’ve created many humans, digi doubles and superheroes in the past, but Kiyan was on a different level. Creating Kiyan as the 30-year-old man he would have been today, was a sensitive and delicate process and we took our responsibility seriously,” said Karl Woolley, project lead for Framestore. “Making sure we did Kiyan and his family justice by realizing him as he would have been today, was the biggest challenge of this project and quite possibly, of all my projects to date.”

As the end sequence for the promo film wasn’t concepted until after the planning for Kiyan’s likeness had been completed, the creative team was left with no time to go down the traditional and more laborious digi double route. Alongside this there were no source images of Kiyan at 30 to train the Deep Fake on either.

To pull off the promo’s end sequence Framestore creative technologist Johannes Saam partnered with Sydney-based Matt Hermans, founder of the creative company Electric Lens Co., to work on the promo video assets and began the challenging task of bringing life and movement to 30-year-old Kiyan. Using a mixture of cutting-edge development and some secret sauce, the team were able to incorporate Scalf’s stills into the process to create synthetic data which they were able to train the Deep Fake on.

“Deep Fakes are often seen as gimmicks, to service a trend, but when we heard about the project and the potential to use Deep Fake for good, we knew we had to find a solution, employing new neural rendering based techniques,” said Johannes Saam, Framestore’s creative technologist. 

Based on a first pass of the geometry and painted reference frames, a virtual dataset was assembled with an automated pipeline rendering 6,000 pictures as a base layer, which was then iteratively refined. 

“The first pass added facial animations to the training material. After that, the pipeline was fed a detailed lookdev pass with facial hair and additional texture detail to keep the machine in line with our 2D likeness,” said Saam. “Based on this dataset, we used a pre-trained neural network and the Kiyan specific images to focus the deep fake network on translating the human facial performance into a digital representation of Kiyan.” 

This network replaced the entire head frame by frame and was then composited over the photography, as well as removal of sponsor logos from the shirt using Nuke’s brand new CopyCat node.

Via the Kiyan Prince Foundation charity, Dr Mark Prince OBE who’s been tirelessly campaigning to prevent knife-crime since his son’s tragic death. Drawing on his own background as a world-title challenging boxer and the death of Kiyan, Mark Prince works with at-risk children, instilling a positive mindset in order to lead them away from knife crime and towards achieving their full potential. 

Money raised by the campaign will help the foundation to take its message to schools nationwide and set up a permanent base for the charity’s activities. Mark’s ceaseless dedication earned him an OBE in 2019, and in the same year Queens Park Rangers renamed its west London stadium in honor of his work. 

Billy Faithfull, chief creative officer at ENGINE, said, “This isn’t a story about death, it’s a story about life. An ambitious, hardworking, talented boy and the man he could have become. The kind of man he can inspire boys to be. The younger and more marginalized an audience are, the harder they are to reach, so our starting point was to think about how to connect Kiyan’s powerful story with kids who are virtually immune to traditional knife-crime advertising. Getting to them through gaming, influence networks and sponsorship felt like a unique and effective medium to speak to them and help The Kiyan Prince Foundation continue its vital work.” 


Client Kiyan Prince Foundation Agency ENGINE Creative, London Billy Faithfull, chief creative officer; David Dearlove, Richard Nott, Orlando Warner, creative directors; David Dearlove, Richard Nott, creatives; Katie Farmer, executive producer; Seb Roskell, producer; Leo Birch, content strategist.  Production Company ENGINE Film David Dearlove, director; Debbie Impett, producer; Jakub Pieta, assistant producer; Jamie Thodesen, motion graphics designer; Oliver Schofield, Steve Montgomery, DPs. Editorial ENGINE Film Sam Hopkins, editor. VFX/Post Framestore, London Mike McGee, chief creative officer; Karl Wooley, global real-time director; Johannes Saam, creative technologist; Markus Schmidt, global head of creaturs; David Lochhead, sr. designer; Chris Scalf, artist. (Toolbox: Initial likeness: Photoshop, Zbrush, Maya [inc. XGen], Deep Fake: Blender, Houdini, Zbrush, Nuke [inc. new CopyCat node]) AI Electric Lens Co., Sydney Matt Hermans, CG supervisor. Postproduction Nineteen Twenty, London Kai Van Beers, colorist; Robert Lilley, 2D lead; Paul Branch, sr. producer; Claire Cullen, producer; Robyn Borrageiro, assistant producer. Sound Design & Music String and Tins Joe Wilkinson, Jim Stewart; Laura-Leigh Smith, audio producer.

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