Computer Graphics World

March 2011

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Broadcast n n n n making entrances, eating food, and so on. “Te list of shows didn’t really shrink much from what we started with,” says McKenna. “Tere were very few ‘Nos.’ ” Having actor Henry Winkler and actor/director Ron How- ard sign off “from day one, minute one,” on their Happy Days clips didn’t hurt the NFL’s cause, either. Other talent soon followed, though some with caveats. New Yorker Jerry Seinfeld would only agree if he was portrayed as a Giants fan, “which is what we wanted him to be anyway,” says Ben Smith, creative director at Te Mill-NY. Real Fans Te fictional location of the shows dictated which team those characters would root for: Cheers’ Norm is dressed in a Patriots jersey; the Sopranos crew is decked out in Jets gear; Te Dukes of Hazzard ’s General Lee sports a Falcon’s logo. Te group decided early on, though, that the characters, who span nearly and a shot would change, requiring new edito- rial, and with it, new effects. One Shot at a Time In the end, the commercial contains approxi- mately 40 altered clips, though the digital crew worked on far more than that, for some reason or another, didn’t make it into the final spot. How the team approached each clip, however, varied. “No two shots were the same,” says Smith. Some shots contained 2D elements filmed at Te Mill using the studio’s lighting and greenscreen setup, and then composited into the clip; others incorporated CG ele- ments. Tis mixed approach required the team to simply take a brute-force approach—what- ever the problems were in the shot, the artists had to deal with them in whatever method worked best for that clip. Sometimes the art- ists tried different solutions until one stuck. “A lot of the camera work contained nodal pans and tilts, so there wasn’t much 3D cam- unusual for VFX shots, where it’s usually one setup that is propagated through all the shots.” Te work also entailed a great deal of cloth simulation, since most of the revisions involved clothing. “It was a challenge because we were dealing with a moving camera and a moving person,” notes Smith. “Compositing 3D cloth next to live-action limbs, where a live-action hand meets a CG cuff—it had to track abso- lutely perfectly or there would be slipping.” For the cloth sim, the artists used Au- todesk Maya’s nCloth. Tey also employed Apple’s Final Cut, as well as a mishmash of Autodesk’s Maya, Mudbox, Softimage, and Flame; Science.D.Vision’s 3DEqualizer; Te Pixel Farm’s PFTrack; Te Foundry’s Nuke; Adobe’s After Effects; and FilmLight’s Base- light for color grading. According to Smith, the most difficult foot- age to work with was from 90210 because the quality was so poor. But then again, nearly ev- ery plate the group dealt with was a different 40 years of television, would wear modern styles rather than those more appropriate for their period. According to Smith, this made the gags more obvious to the audience, despite the fact that the change was otherwise seam- lessly integrated into the various shots. Typically, the agency would first secure rights to the imagery, and after the edit was finalized and locked, the post team would then begin its work revising the clips. However, when the client handed Te Mill this project, the group was already facing a late-running clock. So, Te Mill crew had little choice but to begin post work on some of the clips that had been ap- proved by the network, with the hope that the talent would sign off as well; if the rights were not granted, then the work was abandoned for another clip that fit into the edit. “For this project, the edit didn’t get locked for about six weeks,” McKenna notes. As a re- sult, there were times when the team would get about 90 percent finished with the effects, The Mill team re-dressed actors and sets from approximately 40 iconic TV shows in NFL gear for an NFL ad. The project required a tremendous amount of camera tracking, rotoscoping, and compositing, though each clip required a unique approach. era tracking to do,” says Smith. “Tat made tracking and comp’ing much easier.” Often, the group had to take out the camera move, clean up the frame, composite the new imag- ery, and then add the camera move back ion. Ten there were trickier shots that required CG, as with the Seinfeld clip of Jerry and New- man. “Even though the camera is just a pan, because their bodies are moving so much, we couldn’t get away with a 2D approach. It had to be a 3D solution,” explains Smith. “Tat involved tracking the camera, roto-animating both characters, and then building the jersey, hat, and jacket, and then lighting, rendering, and compositing as we normally would do. Tat’s a long process.” And just for a few sec- onds of a clip. Times 40 clips. “What we learned on one shot couldn’t be applied to another because it contained a whole other set of problems,” says McKenna. “Tat’s format and quality. To make matters worse, for most of the shows the group had to work from DVDs as opposed to higher-quality tapes due to the time crunch. Even though the path taken to get the fi- nal results took many twists and turns, in the end, Te Mill’s work on “Best Fans Ever” gen- erated a large number of fans as well—from audiences as well as the talent used in the clips. “I was sure we would end up with four shows [that would sign on]. Te project just seemed too am- bitious for the timeframe,” says McKenna. “But this just goes to show the power of the NFL. People love it.” n Karen Moltenbrey is chief editor of Computer Graphics World. Use your smart- phone to view video clips of the commercials discussed here. March 2011 31

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