In an effects-heavy spot to promote the NFL Playoffs on Fox, Mill New York partnered with first-time director Jun Diaz. Jun, a long-time collaborator with The Mill on such projects as Brand Jordan, Miller and Skittles, adds directing to his repertoire, alongside his career as a prominent editor at MacKenzie Cutler. Mill New York Head of CG, Aron Hjartarson acted as Visual Effects and CG Supervisor on this project. As Aron has already worked closely with Jun on many of the aforementioned projects, he understood the intensity and visual style that Jun wanted to communicate in this piece.
Certain consraints led the Mill CG team to realize very early on that way they would have to build a fully CG environment with live characters – a tricky combination. jun and Aron worked efficiently on a strong pre-visualization for the piece, blocking out the basic movements and action. Jun, Aron and Mill lighting/ rendering technical Director, Antoine Moulineau, produced a creative pipeline via the use of online file transfers to critique timing and motion.
Throughout the pre-viz process, they tried to maximize the interaction between the football players and the environment through tackles, collisions, stumbles and near misses. One might think that because of the challenge of properly integrating the characters in their environment, they would have shied away from these physical interactions between the various elements. But in actuality, they realized it was a very useful tool they could employ to help sell the illusion of integration.
Furthermore, Jun and Aron relied on Mill New York Colorist Tom Poole to do high resolution technical passes of the footage. Tom did a first-rate job maintaining all the information exposed on the film, eliminating any guesswork in match-moving and giving the effects team latitude to develop the final grade in compositing as the job progressed. To create the intense, earth-thundering, ‘middle of a stampede’ feel, The Mill team complimented DP Barry Markowitz camera work by adding shake and zooms to increase the tension.
The Mill CG artists referenced tight macro imagery and large format photography of urban environments per Jun request. Aron noticed the extremely shallow focus in each reference, so he created a plane where everything was sharp but at the same time, rapidly falling out of focus. Thus the areas outside the focus plane became blurry with highlights and visible lens distortions. As Aron noted, ‘This gave us the opportunity to make some very pretty frames, focusing attention where we wanted while also abstracting the rest of the environment’.
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