How I made: The Purple Screensaver

I don't really like screensavers. Especially mandatory screensavers, when every employee is expected to have the same picture on their 'workstation' display, often enforced for nebulous reasons of security but quite often in a covert (or overt) effort to crush any spark of individuality still extant in a worker drone and replace it with company-approved banality.

Happily, I don't work for a company like that.

But if I did the mandated screensaver would probably be our company logo. Recently re-branded by my good friends in the design team our new logo is bold and clean and while I could think of worse images to be on my screen when I come back from lunch, as I said I still don’t really like company screensavers. I suppose this was on my mind when I tried to make one that looks like it is a normal static jpeg – something that IT would have remotely installed on your machine to stop you having a picture of your kids or a Bugatti there – until it suddenly explodes.

Here's how it works. The good thing about 3D programs, once you have got over the million little hurdles made by all the annoying things about 3D programs, is that you are in control of the physics in the little world you create. When you start up a fresh scene in your program, in my case C4D, you are presented with a Tron-like grid, stretching away to all horizons into infinity. There is a simulation of real-world physics here: things are affected by gravity, light bounces around to illuminate your world, there is air, there is liquid, even fire. But the handy thing is you can turn these things on and off at your will. If a light is casting an annoying shadow, you can simply turn the shadow off while keeping the light. If something is too bright you can invert the light so it only casts a shadow. This kind of control over light is something a real-life photographer would pull an eyeball out to achieve, and it doesn’t stop there. If your art director is concerned the gizmo you have spent so long animating is spinning too fast or falling out of shot you can increase the friction on its surface or make it immune to gravity's pull. In short, you are a god, and if your real life is very sad you can laugh maniacally as you spin things in your world into chaos and make all the elements dance to your celestial whim.

The screensaver works on such an otherworldly and deliberate conceit, namely shining coloured lights through glass objects but only showing the refractions they produce, nothing else. You know the little lambent play of light you get when you shine a light through a wine glass? Here's a picture showing what I mean.

The refraction artifacts you get are called caustics, and that is what makes the colours in the screensaver. Essentially I made a version of the logo in glass and another in front of it in white. The background is a big dark square, like a photographer's flag. It is set to only pick up the caustics of the image, and also to wibble about gently like it's caught in the breeze. The exploding part of the image is made by pushing a giant deformer object through the logo: the logo wants to stay together but is shoved violently apart like a cloud when a 747 makes an unexpected entrance.

I changed the colours and added the glitches in After Effects - originally it was purple but that seemed a bit obvious.

I should mention that I am still very much a learner - be wary of anyone who says they are an expert in 3D, unless they work for Industrial Light and Magic - and I would have been very stuck with this and every other project I have ever worked on if it hadn’t been for the C4D community, in particular this time C4DCafe and helloLuxx.

If anyone at Purple would like to use the screensaver then let me know, and if you work for another company and would really like to show them who's boss by having another agency's logo as your screensaver then drop me a line too, you crazy devil.

For more information about digital asset creation or for further information please contact

Richard Larden

Richard has worked for Purple for nearly 8 years, starting off in the production team with an exceptional eye for detail as our proofreader. Now Rich works in the digital artwork and production helping to create innovative and creative digital assets for our clients.

*Image credit: Jabuka96 on Deviant Art