UVPhactory uses Hair to Create a Raging River for Bjork. The magicians at UVPhactory (UVPH) have turned hair into water, to be more precise – a raging river that rushes, roars, splashes, sprays, foams and cascades through a haunting Himalayan inspired landscape carrying Icelandic singer-songwriter Bjork on a journey of self discovery. The fiercely original, stereoscopic 3D, 7:36 music video for WanderLust, from her newest CD Volta (One Little Indian Records), was officially released April 1.
This massively ambitious music video was nine months in the making. In the first few months, Directors Isaiah Saxon and Sean Hellfritsch (a.k.a. Encyclopedia Pictura), represented by Ghost Robot (NY, NY), came up with a treatment and shot the live-action elements separately on green-screen.
UVPH, the New York-based design collective, then began the challenging task of designing and creating the computer-generated river that keeps the music video action flowing. 37 different water shots were created. The CG water is alive and interactive, with three-dimensional depth, and is a vital character in the video in which Bjork and the Pain-Body (the emotional baggage of the self), a live performer who materializes out of Bjork backpack, struggle for control as they make their way through a damp tundra under on the back of a giant wooly yak. They encounter the Rivergod (a digitally augmented live actor) who diverts the course of the waterway, bringing the wanderers to the edge of a waterfall where they plummet into the roiling vortex below and ultimately into his open hands.
WanderLust presented UVPH with a number of creative and technical challenges. Directors Saxon and Hellfritsch wanted the river to appear to be comprised of thousands of stylized blue water threads that swell and flow, and would be reminiscent of Japanese prints in which water is amplified and cartoonized.
‘We wanted the water to be hyper-real like the rest of the landscape and employed a combination of Softimage|XSI human hair simulating module, NextLimit.com Real Flow water simulator with Real Wave to generate the wave patterns, and a particle system with Michele Sandroni Metaballs plugin that generated splashes, to create, what to our knowledge, is an absolutely unique treatment,’ explained Damijan Saccio, UVPhactory principal/co-founder, who was the CG Supervisor on this project.
‘When we first began this project I knew that it was going to require some really serious R&D. We have a great relationship with Softimage and they sent Dilip Singh to our studio and he helped us learn how far we could push XSI human hair to behave the way we wanted it to. The engineers at SoftImage also helped us with some engineering fixes and coding which was immensely helpful,’ continued Saccio.
CGI Team Leader/Technical Director/R&D Lead Tsvetomir (Tim) Marinov was UVPH lead guy in the trenches. ‘Initially, it was difficult for us to get the motion on the hair but ultimately Real Wave helped to create the water motion?‚àö√ë¬¨‚àÇ and then we exported it back to XSI. XSI helped us extract edges from the mesh with really hi-resolution curves create curve groups to which we later applied the hair system. There were limitations due to the length of the hair as the river is very long. We created different sets of connecting hairs from the curves, generating rendering challenges, but ultimately we figured out a way to merge each piece of hair and solve that difficulty as well.’
UVPH composited their CG water shots with a mix of green-screen footage, a herd of digitally created yaks rendered from a single giant puppet, scale models, and digital matte paintings. However, it proved to be a very labor and time intensive project. There was only one full-size Yak puppet (with 2 performers inside and a third controlling its facial features) that was shot from a number of angles so that compositors at UVPH could digitally duplicate it to form a large herd in which the yaks are seen in many different positions. Only one small patch of the riverside was modeled, and it too had to be shot many times in many different positions.
‘It was very difficult to integrate the live-action yaks and our CG river and composite them with miniature landscapes because every single element was shot separately,’ stated Damijan Saccio. ‘Essentially we were constructing an environment piece by piece, yak by yak, one patch of riverbank at a time, and integrating the CG to make it look as though it is all moving together. We had to do a lot of hand 3D tracking. Every single scene needed its own individual loving care including individually tweaking the river and river edges. Our animators even drew lines that coincided with the ins and outs of the riverbank to make the water conform to the banks. It was certainly a labor of love.’
UVPH compositors worked in After Effects to provide rig removal and background removal for the numerous composites in essentially every scene.
As WanderLust was shot stereographically, every scene UVPH did in 3D had to be done twice. Everything was shot by 2 live-cameras and rendered with 2 CG cameras so we had to render the equivalent of a left eye and a right eye. And as there is a slight distance between the cameras, which gives things different perspectives, everything had to be composited twice. ‘The music video is shot in 3D with a special camera rig and to match this footage we recreated the rig in XSI with a stereoscopic shader which gave us the offset for the second camera. We created separate passes for the right and left eye thereby building the 3D stereoscopic effect,’ explained Tim Marinov.
Finally, three versions of the music video had to be assembled: a 2D version for television; a 3D anaglyph version for screening with blue and red glasses which give the illusion of 3D and can be distributed and shown online and on a DVD (Bj??rk label is making a deluxe DVD which has this version); and lastly, a stereoscopic experience in which one wears polarized glasses to view images projected in specialized theaters.
Originally to be shown on a variety of music channels, WanderLust has been screened at the Museum of Natural History (NY, NY), the FLUX Festival at the Hammer Gallery (LA, CA), Deitch Projects gallery (LIC, Queens), has just been accepted by the juried festival at SIGGRAPH, and has attracted interest from museums and galleries worldwide. The producers plan to screen the video theatrically in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. It will also be posted online for those who have their own anaglyph glasses and a televised version will be released in standard definition.
UVPH is a New York-based design and production company offering a complete range of creative services including conceptualization, live-action direction and production, editorial, 2D/3D animation, sound composition/design and final compositing for broadcast, commercial, film, music video and web clients. Additionally, UVPH has leapt full force into the longer format arena, directing and producing music videos and short films. Since the company formation in 2000, UVPH has attracted a diverse client base including Adobe, AT&T, BET, Bravo, California Academy of Sciences, Cinemax, Coca-Cola, Comedy Central, General Electric, HBO, IBM, IFC, Johnson and Johnson, Miramax, MTV, NBC, Scripps Networks, Sundance Channel, SCI FI Network, Showtime, Thomson Reuters, USA, VH1, VOOM HD Network, WE Network, and XEROX, among many others.
‘WanderLust’ Credit List:
Production Company: Ghost Robot (San Francisco, CA)
Directors: Encyclopedia Pictura (Isaiah Saxon and Sean Hellfritsch)
Executive Producer: Zach Mortensen
Producer: Mark De Pace
Label: One Little Indian
Commissioner: Paul McKee
Post Production Company: UVPHACTORY (Principals and Co-Founders: Scott Sindorf and Damijan Saccio, Creative Director: Alexandre Moors, Executive Producer: Brian Welsh)
CGI Supervisor: Damijan Saccio
CGI Team Leader/Technical Director/R&D Lead: Tsvetomir Marinov (Tim)
Lead CGI Artists: Susie Jang, San Charoenchai
CGI Artists: Daniel Uranowski, Nayoun Kim, Nicholas Fischer, Raj Soni, Jeff Baghai, Nick Martinelli,
(Special Thanks to Dilip Singh from Softimage for R&D assistance)
Compositing Supervisor: Matthew Lane-Smith
Compositors: Isaiah Saxon, Sean Hellfritsch, Melanie Abramov, Mike Burgoyne, Toon van den Broek, John Dorocki, John Earle, Eric Epstein, Rose Garschina, Gyunam Kim
Roto Artists: William Loyd, Moki Goyal, Seung Hyung Lee, Keith Yan, Scott Simmons, Cryssy Cheung, Amanda Amalfi
Render Ranglers: Tenzin Phuntsog, Mark De Pace
Sound Design: Fabio Fonda
Production Manager: Matthew Achterberg
Art Director: Isaiah Saxon
Practical Effects Supervisor/Associate Director: Daren Rabinovitch
Fabricaton Supervisor: Tirsch Hunter
Lead Puppet Artist: Vanessa Waring
Mold and Cast Supervisor: Erick Dunn
Mold Maker: Sabrina Lessard
Puppet Mechanics: John Weissberger
Costumers: Cat Warner, Lia Cinquegrano, Katie Casano, Susan Hasselbrook, Emily Boullear, Mikaela Holmes
Lead Landscaper: Judge Finklea
Landscaper: Chris Lawson
Lead Carpenter: James Bolenbaugh
Carpenters: Jamie Ven Eyck, Ryan Cheresnick
Matte Painter: Ram Bhat
Previsualization: Mike Plunkett
Fabricators: Oran Bumroongchart, Theresa Nguyen, Jason Krugman, Amanda Scuglia, Thu Tran, Akash Nihalani, Genevive Simms, Alexis Distler, Mary Kate Rex, Lily Montemarano, Mac Pohanka, Maggie Lysikiewicz, Elizabeth Heilich, Sara Greenwalt, Rebecca Bersohn, Katrina Vonnegut, Nadia Lachance, Amanda Blue, Thu Tran, Katie Widloski, Gabriel Abrantes, Alex Carver, Jenae Wilkins, Mihail Kossev, Trey Kirchoff, Nadia Lachance, Max Nova
Stereographer: Sean Hellfritsch
Digital Imaging Technician: Nick Kay
Technical Consultant: Joel Edelstein
First AC: Bobb Lovett
Lighting Designer: Michael Yetter
Gaffer: Corey Eisenstein
Key Grip: Olivia Kuan
Grip: Danya Apt
Grip: Fletcher Wolfe
Grip: Andrew Roddewig
Grip: Kevin Phillips
Grip: Jim McGibbon
Still Photographers: Nathan Jones, Brian Derballa, Alyona Mindlin
3d Guru: Greg Dinkins
Hair & Make-up: Andrea Helgadottir
Body Make-up: Cheyenne Timperio
Body Make-up Assistants: Nina Stewart, Loran Gurgin
Choreographer: Chris Elam of Misnomer Dance
Pain Body: Coco Karol
Bjork Double: Bryne Billingsly
Lead Puppeteer: Jessica Scott
Production Coordinator: Emily Anderson
2nd Assistant Director: Stephanie Hamilton
Production Assistants: Eli Stonberg, Jacquelyn Moses, Tiffany Chung, Danilo Parra, Brian Debralla, Mihail Kossev, Sarah Casey, Hunter Fairstone Levin, Alex Tibbets, Bobby Saferstein, Ben Bindra, Robert Montemarano, Mike Burden
Very Special Thanks:
Jessica Zambri and Jennifer George
Mike Bellon, Anne Gale and the crew at Barney Studio (Long Island City, Queens)