Suspect Takes on Back-To-Back 3d Stereoscopic VFX Projects
August 11, 2010

Suspect Takes on Back-To-Back 3d Stereoscopic VFX Projects

As 3D enters the fast track to dominant media format and studios race to establish their credentials in that realm, SUSPECT recently put the finishing touches on two major projects that do just that. Working in collaboration with Elastic People Director Carlos Perez via El Cartel/Sony Records, SUSPECT's team rallied to show off the studio's advanced stereoscopic 3D VFX capabilities in the latest video - and first 3D project - for Latin Grammy Award-winning recording artist Daddy Yankee. Following directly on the heels of the music video SUSPECT then focused their unique stereoscopic abilities on a comedic :30 spot featuring super star LA Dodger's outfielder Andre Ethier.
"One of the things that make SUSPECT unique is that we're able to leverage the sensibilities of a specialized design boutique with the high-end power of a full-blown post facility," noted SUSPECT executive producer Rob Appelblatt. "We really brought all of our forces to bear on these two projects, positioning ourselves in a whole new way by utilizing every tool in our kit across the stereoscopic discipline, from conceptual design to set extensions to combining live action and CG to precise retouching. Producers and directors constantly tell us that, rather than having to run around completing projects piecemeal, they're looking for a shop that can help them through the whole 3D post process, and they know they can come to SUSPECT for exactly that."

For the Daddy Yankee project SUSPECT leaned heavily on their design team - led by CD/lead designer Hoon Chong - to create dynamic concepts and designs that maintained the sophisticated, sleek, and clean vibe of Daddy Yankee's latest album. Perez, who has worked with Daddy Yankee for years and knew exactly how far they wanted to push this project creatively, didn't hesitate to go with SUSPECT after seeing their pitch.

"Aside from the full-service aspect, we won this job on the strength of our design capabilities," noted Appelblatt. "Hoon intrinsically understood Daddy Yankee's desired aesthetic." The video, Descontrol, is set in a funky black-and-white geometric world ideally suited for the dynamic 3D format. Throughout the video, a shower of triangles, spheres, and other shapes bursts toward the viewer from clean and spare backdrops. Meanwhile, Daddy Yankee performs as an array of dancers, funky robots, and a mysterious woman burst from the screen in settings ranging from the surface of the moon to minimalist white environments.

Perez shot the 3:38 video in stereoscopic 3D with SUSPECT supervising the shoot and collaborating constantly with the director to ensure the film would maximize the 3D effect. Stereoscopic film supervision required a whole new skill set including placing people in appropriate locations, gauging the correct distance between the camera and objects, and gathering data sets for the specialized lens conversions. "You don't just place everything in front of the camera like you normally would, and just turn it on 3D and everything's cool," noted SUSPECT lead VFV Artist/VFX supervisor Tim Crean. "You really have to put some forethought into every shot."

Using the raw RED Camera files from the stereoscopic shoot, SUSPECT reassembled them in Flame and combined the live-action footage with CG environments and objects, a technically challenging undertaking requiring the entire SUSPECT crew to closely collaborate on nearly every detail. 3D post is far less flexible than 2D, with layers and intersecting spaces needing to closely coordinate with the live action elements and talent.

"The real challenge with stereoscopic is creating an enjoyable experience," continued Crean, "which comes from a feeling of depth and avoiding eye strain for the viewer. The shot has to be well balanced and cut against a similar shot so the eye doesn't have to re-resolve on another depth really quickly. All of this takes not only technical capabilities, but careful coordination and patience." Fortunately, SUSPECT had the advantage of a powerful new stereoscopic toolset and pipeline in Autodesk's flagship VFX application, Flame 2011. "We had been collaborating closely with Montreal to develop the toolset when the project came in, so we rolled right into production on it." said Crean. "It was definitely a bit crazy, but I can attest to the fact there is absolutely no other system that could have handled the workload in the schedule we had." There were over 70 VFX shots, color balancing and grading, data conform and finishing in just over 3 weeks, not to mention many long, director attended sessions. "Carlos was very involved in the project. Flame handled it like a champ." added Crean.

As the finishing touches were taking place on Daddy Yankee, other members of the SUSPECT team began work on the spot for Wieden + Kennedy. Directed by David Shane of O Positive productions, the humorous :30 which accompanied the unveiling of the new 3D sports channel, features anchor Stan Verret proudly showing off the network's expensive, new 3D camera system to Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier. As Verret parades in front of the high tech camera boasting about its capabilities, he inadvertently strikes it with a baseball bat, smashing the lens to pieces. The spot finishes with both peering directly into the broken lens, trying to gauge just how much trouble they are in.

"Unlike the music video, the stereoscopic VFX in this project were meant to play a supporting role," said lead artist John Geehreng. "But that didn't make it any less challenging!" SUSPECT was tasked with creating the "smashed lens" shot that closes the spot. After lengthy planning with David and the Wieden creatives about where the broken lens would exist in 3D space, SUSPECT began an exhaustive exploratory process to make broken glass that looked as photoreal as possible. "Not only did it need to look real, but it had to refract and reflect the light from the environment and talent as they moved in front of it," noted SUSPECT ECD Tim Crean. "We even bent a few shards out from camera in 3D space to subtly enhance the depth of the shot." Additionally SUSPECT animated and composited a camera graticule or field chart over the 3D camera POV shots to give it a more authentic, technical feel. "In the 2 POV scenes prior to the big smash, we even composited the bat over the graticule as it came out towards the viewer in 3D" says Geehreng. "It looks really cool."

"We have incredible creative synergy in this studio, but we took the teamwork concept to an entirely new level with these projects," states Crean. "This work really shows the world that SUSPECT is an imaginative and resourceful post studio ready for the challenging and exciting world of 3D VFX. We set the bar very high for ourselves and proved what we can do, setting us up for many similar projects in the future."

Artist: Daddy Yankee
Song Title: Descontrol

Record Label: El Cartel/Sony Records
Prod Co: Elastic People
Director: Carlos Perez
DP: Andres Sanchez
Executive Producer: Felipe Nino
Editor: Leo Arango

Post/Effects Co: SUSPECT
Lead VFX Artist/VFX Supervisor: Tim Crean
Creative Director/Lead Designer: Hoon Chong
Executive Producer: Rob Appelblatt
Senior Producer: Tsiliana Jolson
VFX Flame Artist/Compositor(s): John Geehreng, Elsa Tu, Mark Wilhelm
Matte Cutter(s): Steve Koenig, Amanda Amalfi, Susanne Scharping, Elsa Tu
CG Technical Director: John Wade Payne
3d Camera Tracking: John Geehreng
3d Artist(s): Steve Burger, Andrew Cohen, Carmine Laietta
3d Rigging: Rick Vicens
3d Particles: Christian Day, Cedrick Gousse
Designer/Animator(s): Frank Lee, Marco Ruesta, Damien Cho, Raul Garzon, Chris West

Shoot Location: Brooklyn

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