3D Takes Center Court For Nike
October 19, 2012

3D Takes Center Court For Nike

Motion graphics artist Barton Damer worked closely with art directors at Nike to produce CG work for the dazzling campaign image at the center of the global launch of the limited-edition Air Force 1.
The Hero One is part of a series of shoes Nike has introduced monthly in 2012 to mark the 30-year anniversary of the Air Force 1.  

For previous releases, a backdrop of a brightly lit gym was used and updated to match the theme of each shoe. But for the Hero One, the theme was more celebratory, so Nike requested a dark gym to show off the shoe’s gold tones against a shower of confetti. Having only a photo of the bright gym to work with, Damer knew he would have to start from scratch and re-create the gym in 3D, using computer graphics to get the right look.

With one week to complete the project, Damer modeled the gym in Maxon’s Cinema 4D and spent a considerable time on lighting. “They wanted a lot of volumetric lighting cutting through the confetti, so we went back and forth on that to get it right,” he explains. Getting the confetti itself just right was also a challenge. Damer started by creating a very thin cylinder, which he textured with a gold, glittery texture he got from a photograph, before adding reflective materials in Cinema 4D. He also tweaked the thickness of the confetti itself because “at one point, it looked like big coins,” he recalls. 

Damer tried a couple of different options to get the confetti to fall in a realistic way. He started out using Cinema 4D’s built-in dynamics, but decided to switch to a MoGraph cloner object and a random effector after the Nike team began pointing out specific areas of the confetti they liked or wanted to change. “The randomness of dynamics worked great in some ways,” Damer explains. “But then when specific areas of the confetti needed to be revised, dynamics seemed a bit too complicated, so I switched to simply using a Random Effector on my cloned objects.” 

A MoGraph cloner object allowed him to add or subtract confetti from specific sections. It also gave Damer the opportunity to create an interesting effect on the gym floor. “I drew a spline in the shape of the outline of the shoe on the floor, and then cloned along the spline so there’s a thicker line of confetti on the floor in the shape of the shoe. 

Damer makes it a practice not to “overthink” things. So when it came time to re-create the gym’s basketball hoop, he came up with a way to do it without modeling it from scratch. Using a photograph of a basketball hoop, he placed a 2D texture on a plain inside Cinema 4D, creating the illusion of 3D. “It’s kind of like a crude form of matte painting, but it worked,” he says.

Adobe’s Photoshop was used for compositing, as well as adding some additional confetti in the foreground. “Interestingly, final compositing was very minimal for this because it was almost ready when it came straight out of Cinema,” says Damer. “It was a fun project.”

Meleah Maynard is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor.