Mechanism Digital Designs Mystery and Truth for 2012
November 11, 2009

Mechanism Digital Designs Mystery and Truth for 2012

New York - To address the buzz and rumors surrounding December 21, 2012, Rebecca Ratliff of Peacock Productions produced a television special for Syfy that will air November 8, 2009 at 9 pm EST. The show  blends the indefinite with fact, so they partnered with animation studio, Mechanism Digital, to design a graphics package that accentuates the unknown while maintaining the integrity of the truth, says a representative.

Mechanism designed the show open keeping three things in mind. First and foremost, was the theme: a quest for answers and truth as the world enters a new era. Next were time and budget.

Art director Mark Palkoski and producer Ted Keenan worked closely with Peacock Productions to harness the appropriate 2D design elements, representative 3D icons and rich colors to match the mystifying mood of the show. The open sweeps viewers past symbolic structures that embody the secrets of the ancient world, including the great Mayan temples of Tikal and Chichen Itza, as well as the Egyptian Sphinx and Pyramids. Saturated reds, blues, and golds were chosen to envelope the images as a sculpted Mayan calendar sits emblazoned onto the sky, ever present throughout the sequence.

With only four days to complete the project, there was not enough time to build 3D models of every structure in the show’s open. Instead, the opening sequence was made using a 2.5-dimensional technique. Palkoski created textures of the structures in Photoshop and attached them to simple 3D planes in Autodesk Maya. This way, there is less geometry to contend with, making the files smaller, and more importantly, the camera remains free to move past the images in three dimensions. The only true 3D model is the  title which appears at the end of the opening sequence, and again in the lower thirds and bumpers during the show.

To maintain the camera’s freedom, the 3D landscape was built in Maya on a sphere as opposed to a large, flat plane. By building the graphical world on a sphere, there is no edge or “wall” to confine the visual elements to, enabling Mechanism’s artists to animate the camera in all directions without having to backtrack or fall off the edge of the plane.

Palkoski recalls, “For 2012 , the camera glides from the heavens to 'Egypt' through 'Central America' without having to stop or go through the same path twice. There is a continuous skyline and we can be so much more creative with blocking and movement. It’s also so much easier to make changes and play with alternative options.”

The finishing touches were done in Eyeon Fusion, including compositing the design elements, lighting effects and color correction. 2012 is a very stylized and dramatic piece compared to many information and news shows. The lighting and color effects were utilized for two purposes. First, they act as a blending tool to unify all the individual elements in the sequence. Also, they were used with careful intent as a way to draw attention to key symbols when appropriate.