-recruiting teams of artists
-setting up production pipelines
-storyboarding and previs
-directing VFX and miniature elements
-hands on 2d and 3d post
Click here to see the final commercial
Article in DV user
In February 2012 I got a call from Soho Editors asking for someone to supervise a commercial for Soho based Th1ng, (it is pronounced Thing One if you were curious), an animation, graphics and mixed media production company in Soho. The commercial they were putting together featured two giants of sport, NBA star Kevin Durant and from the NFL, Detroit Lions Quaterback Matt Stafford. The spots were to be created for Champs Sports, one of the largest sports retailers in the US, therefore the final result had to be spot on. Producer Hannah Cooper invited me in for a chat and two hours later I was on the job.
I was to work closely with director Justin Dickel, on animatics for preproduction for the two 15 second commercials, one focusing on basketball, the other on American football. Unfortunately, the usual approach with an array of synchronized cameras was immediately ruled out due to the cost implications. The idea of motion control was also no go.As anyone who has worked as a VFX supervisor this is always an issue you end up facing. Clients have seen some beautiful VFX work in the latest blockbuster and want something similar for their independent film, music video or commercial. The one thing very few of these people do however is to watch the titles of said blockbuster to the end to realise how many people, and therefore time and money, it took to create these effects. I do relish a challenge though and the gauntlet had been thrown down.
My first thought took me back to 2010. I had done some highspeed vfx shots when I was supervising on the CBBC series Spirit Warriors with actor Benedict Wong, now of “Prometheus” fame. I shared what I’d done in this project with Justin, along with other ideas I’d picked up doing a raft of different jobs, and Justin was only too happy to share some of his previous ideas with me. The thought was that the only way to do the Matrix style effect was to ask extras and actors to “freeze” while shooting, shoot it at 50 frames per second and for an extra “wow” effect to track the shots and add CG elements such as the basketball, the football, and the appearance that liquids had actually frozen in mid air. Another idea was to shoot some players high speed against green screen and add these as “cards” into the tracked plate. I was a bit worried however; there could have been a noticeable difference between these shots and the original plates. The original high speed material was to be shot later in L.A. so we had no way of knowing how these shots would work. Luckily Th1ng have a small studio on their premises and Hannah had had the foresight to hire a lowres high speed camera so we had an idea of what the shots would look like.
The trick we found was that if we got the subject to perform a slight rotational movement we were able to achieve the effect we were after. While we were working on these tests we also blocked out various angles in Maya and played around with various camera moves, which would enhance the original effect. The team then travelled to L.A. where it was decided that we would do an additional animatic based on photographs taken on location in the city, so we knew we would get the desired angles on the fast paced shooting day. <br />
The high speed footage was shot in a hectic one day shoot, the shots were then tracked, CG liquids and balls added, supports for the sportsmen painted out and the shots blended together in After Effects. The client had liked the seamless transitions Justin created in his previous work, so we added these in After Effects, rotoscoping out elements and zooming in and out of the high resolution plates. All in all it was one of the most difficult and yet most enjoyable projects I have worked on, and although I love the idea of showing Hollywood it does not need 50 VFX artists to produce a blockbuster piece of work there is a reason why I have so many grey hairs!