Sydney, Australia - The principals of Spinifex Group, makers of cutting-edge experience media projects, are again collaborating with director Han Lixun, famous for the print-block segment of the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony, and Yvonne Ho, producer of the Beijing Olympic Games, in creating the cinematic multimedia feature attraction at the heart of Yan City, just opened in China's Chun Zhu Province.
This latest high-tech storytelling achievement, uniting the talents of Lixun with those of Spinifex Group creative director Richard Lindsay and his colleagues, builds upon their joint efforts during the historic Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. At the event, Spinifex was distinguished as one of the only non-Chinese production company involved.
"A state-of-the-art vision for the Water Show Spectacle provides a beginning to a whole new way of Chinese storytelling using new digital technologies," says Lixun.
The Yan City attraction features a re-creation of the ancient city, a museum, a world-class zoo, a philosophers' garden, and a theme park. Each night, thousands of visitors will simultaneously experience a spectacular, 45-minute water show, which features Spinifex's multimedia rendering of "The Past Meets the Future." The content begins on the 250-meter-wide wall of the museum, and then appears on a 100-meter-wide retractable scrim array, floating on a manmade lake. The content is choreographed to a wide variety of state-of-the-art show effects, including fireworks, water screens, laser and fog machines, and surround sound.
According to Lindsay, the first challenge for Spinifex was to concept the story and the storytelling techniques to artfully treat the ancient Chinese Spring/Autumn period. "Through our experiences on the Beijing Olympics, we proved we could romantically bring ancient storytelling to life using modern techniques," says Lindsay. "This is where we came to greatly appreciate director Lixun’s strengths in theatre, lighting, innovative sets, and mechanics. The brief he gave us for this project was to reflect on the ancient philosophies of Spring/Autumn with an abstract, spirited, and very romantic treatment. As we progressed, he looked to us to help express the nature and storytelling aspects of the show using large format projection across various, large-scale screens."
To address the need to cover a long period of history in sweeping fashion, Spinifex proposed a stylistic approach that allowed the visual storytelling to be both abstract and dramatic. Typical for the group's assignments, where the end-product is most often a one-of-a-kind immersive experience, the deliverables were custom tailored to suit the unique venue. The viewing experience of "The Past Meets the Future" involves the presentation moving across different media: The content first appears in 16:9 HD format, until the screen grows in width to a 7:1 ratio, displaying 7k images. Spinifex designed this project's cinematic content to expand and maximize the changing presentation media.
According to the Spinifex production leads, art director Jamie Tuffrey and motion director Matt Lock, the project represented a unique challenge in delivering to the clients' high expectations within a conservative budget. Live-action production involved a single day of production on green screen, where the source footage was then composited into the digital world, comprised of matte paintings, visual FX and limited 3D elements.
"We decided not to go into a full 3D world, but rather to create the scenes with clever use of 2D motion graphics and matt painting," says Lock. Working with director Yang Qingsheng, with whom Spinifex also collaborated on numerous projects, such as the Beijing Olympics, Shanghai World Expo and Hennessey, original footage was captured on the Red Digital Cinema camera at 4K, which allowed great latitude in the composite. China was chosen for the location due to director Yang's expertise in Chinese culture, and the ready availability of costumes and props.
To create the project's ambitious slate of original design elements and animated content, including swords, arrows and flags, Spinifex 3D lead Pepin Portingale and his fellow artists used Autodesk 3ds Max. Matt Lock handled the project's complex motion design, compositing and VFX challenges, finishing the HD content using Adobe After Effects as the predominant compositing platform.
"We are very thankful to Director Han and everyone involved for making us part of this amazing project," adds Lindsay. "We have deep respect for China and its people, and we feel very fortunate to have contributed to such a world-class show. We are very proud to know that, for every person who goes to Yan City now and in the future, 'The Past Meets the Future' will help them to fully experience its wonders."