User Focus - 12/04
Issue: Volume: 27 Issue: 12 (December 2004)

User Focus - 12/04

"It was important to the band to have a 24p HD master because the musicians are not only interested in the technology, but they also want to preserve their work for years to come," says editor/effects artist Ross Shain of Northern Lights Post. A universal mastering format, 24p is not interlaced so it results in a 1:1 relationship with the original film frames. This makes it ideal as a master file format, since it can be ported to other formats for future needs without image degradation.

Ch-Check It Out itself is a blast from the past, with an eclectic collection of nostalgic-style beats and rhythms. The video is a similar bizarre mix of hip-hop humor and visual non sequiturs that range from a parody of the Star Trek TV series to a chase through the Florida Everglades.

While some of the styles look dated, all the imagery was shot in the present. Nevertheless, the music video was shot in a number of formats, including 16mm, 24p, HD, and NTSC, all of which had to be converted to HD resolution.
For the video's Star Trek sequence, the artists used Avid's DS Nitris to mimic the low-tech look of the original TV series.

In addition to finishing the video in HD, Northern Lights Post also handled the visual effects and the compositing of numerous greenscreen shots.

For the Everglades scene, for example, the artists used an Avid DS.Nitris system to composite the 16mm footage of the band and the boat, which were filmed against greenscreen and composited with the background plates of the swamps, which were shot in the less-expensive 24p HD. The scene was augmented with animated water splashes, mist, and particles created in Wondertouch's ParticleIllusion.
—Karen Moltenbrey

Audiences can expect plenty of action when two of the NBA's best point guards go head-to-head on the court. But when their digital doubles play an intense game of one-on-one in a grungy industrial back-lot setting, the feats escalate from the superhuman to the totally outrageous.

That's what transpired when computer-generated versions of Steve Francis of the Houston Rockets and Baron David of the New Orleans Hornets faced off in an all-CG television commercial for Reebok. As the spot progresses, the twosome's above-the-rim duel becomes more extreme, with the stars trading stunning three-point shots and devastating slam dunks that eventually leave the basketball court in ruins.

Despite the unbelievable stunts, the spot, created entirely by Blur Studio, features photorealistic animation created with motion-captured data. In one scene, for instance, Davis ricochets the ball off an air duct and light stanchion before catching it and dropping it through the rim in a backward slam dunk. He then flips his body over the rim and lands gracefully atop the backboard. "It's pure fantasy," says Blur president Tim Miller, "but it's a fantasy that is inspired by the real talents and personalities of the players."

To create the CG athletes, Blur artists met Francis and Davis while they were on the road, and acquired high-res digital photos of their facial and body features that the artists used as a reference while modeling the characters in Discreet's 3ds max. The Blur team also used the photos to texture the models, which was done in Adobe's Photoshop.
Digital doubles of two NBA stars show off their athletic superpowers, and their footwear, in an all-CG Reebok TV spot.

Next, using a Vicon mocap system, the group acquired motion data from a performance by two players recommended by Davis who mimicked the moves of the two stars.

The artists then used Eyeon Software's Digital Fusion to composite the CG players into the scenes, which are brimming with detail. For instance, a number of close-up shots reveal the granularity in the asphalt surface of the court and the cracked and fading paint of the free-throw line. In addition, panoramas offer sweeping views of the gritty urban environment, complete with spray-painted scrawls created by a graffiti artist commissioned by the studio.