Issue: Volume: 24 Issue: 4 (April 2001)

FX Troop

Musician Master P addresses his 'Soljas' in an animated music video

By Karen Moltenbrey

Hip-hop artist Master P shows he's the master of his musical domain in a completely computer-generated video called "Soljas," in which the singer organizes his troops of roadies, whips them into shape, and prepares them for action-in this case, a Mardi Gras celebration.

Animators at Computer Animation Technology (CAT) in Dallas created the video's military-styled environments and characters, including a 3D replica of Master P. Using motion-capture technology, the team also produced realistic body and facial animation for the singer, as well as diverse motion for other characters in the video-from dancers to soldiers executing gun drills.

The focal point of the 3-minute video is the singer, who assumes the role of an army drillmaster/general. Also making a brief appearance in the animation are other rap artists from P's No Limit Records, such as Snoop Dogg, Mystikal, Silkk The Shocker, C-Murder, and more, who appear as fellow generals collaborating in a war room atmosphere. At Master P's request, the animators also brought back to life in digital form the singer's deceased brother, who appears alongside P on an iron balcony overlooking the festivities.
For the animated music video "Soljas," artists created a 3D model of the singer Master P, which included his diamond-studded gold teeth (left). To save valuable modeling and rendering time for other scenes, the artists devised creative workarounds, such a

When creating the detailed digital characters, the animators used photographs of the singers as a reference while modeling their faces in NewTek's LightWave running on Pentium PCs. For further authenticity, the artists replicated the singer's jewelry, including his unique gold and diamond Rolex watch, No Limit Records neck chain, and diamond ring. They also copied P's body art. "We photographed all the rappers' tattoos and mapped them onto the character models using Photoshop and LightWave," says CAT president Trent Di Gulio.

Aside from the "general" characters, the animators created platoons of parading soldiers sporting the same No Limit tattoo as the real Master P wears, and crowds of cheering fans. In one instance, the artists covered the faces of marching soldiers with gas masks to alleviate some of the modeling and rendering tasks.

For texturing the models, the artists used LightWave and, occasionally, Photoshop to apply surfaces from scanned photos. To replicate the gritty New Orleans look for the Mardi Gras scenes, the artists used photos of the Bourbon Street area taken by creative director Jim Minton. For the weaponry-Glock pistols, Uzis, machine guns, a tommy gun-the artists were provided with the actual hardware, so they could model and texture it as authentically as possible.
The video's dense Mardi Gras scenes are packed with more than 100 characters and numerous vehicles, including a stylized replica of the Master P's own Impala and Hummer, which were modeled from photographs using NewTek's LightWave.

The artists then used Dosch Design's DirtyUp plug-in to add the appropriate amount of wear and grime to the images, and Eyeon Software's Digital Fusion and other software for effects such as smoke. Digital Fusion was also used for compositing.

To augment the digital models, the CAT artists applied realistic motion-marching, dancing, exercising, and singing-produced during three full days of motion-capture shooting at the company's new animation facility/motion-capture studio.

The group performed both a full-body and a facial capture for Master P using an eight-camera Vicon 8 system from Vicon Motion Systems, enabling the animators to replicate the singer's exact body gestures and dancing, as well as lip synchronization. Once captured, the motion was targeted to the LightWave characters and props through Kaydara's FilmBox.

For the facial capture, the team placed more than 100 tiny sensors on the musician's face, to get the full articulation of Master P's eyes, brows, cheeks, nose, and facial muscles. His lip motion was then time-coded to a CD of the song and a voice-over by P.

CAT also captured the movements of professional dancers for the hip-hop dancers and of a drill expert who performed intricate rifle twirling that was then applied to some marching soldiers. In fact, nearly all of the animation in the video was motion captured. "We would never have been able to keyframe this amount of character animation in the time frame provided, nor would we have been able to achieve the level of reality in Master P's moves-his articulation, mannerisms, and style," says DiGulio. "In one scene, he sings, 'Where are all my roadies at...may you rest in peace,' and he tilts his head back and closes his eyes for a moment in an emotional gesture for those 'souljas' who have died. That just wouldn't have been possible without using motion capture."
Using photographs as references, animators brought back to life Master P's brother (left), whose digital model appears with the singer (right) in a Mardi Gras scene.

Unlike many musicians, who typically use 3D animation sparingly in their videos, Master P has embraced the medium. In fact, the musician is currently collaborating with CAT on a feature-length animated movie, also called Soljas, based on the music video.

LightWave, NewTek (
Vicon 8, Vicon Motion Systems (