Thursdays Are !mpossible On Discovery Channel

Thursday nights will never be the same after watching an imaginative Discovery Channel promo campaign created by !mpossible Pictures. Charged with “branding the night,” the award-winning creative digital studio has designed and produced a series of 12 high-concept animated promos and banners, including the recent Discovery Channel “Atmosfearic Thursdays” and “Conspiracy Thursdays.”
The campaign marks a successful ongoing collaboration between !mpossible Pictures and Discovery Communication’s flagship channel, the Discovery Channel. Over the past six months, the studio has been responsible for turnkey creative, design, 3D, and Discreet Flame/Smoke compositing services.

“We were very impressed with the guys at !mpossible Pictures,” says Patricia Tong, Discovery Channel Producer. “Their work blew us away every time! They were an absolute pleasure to work with and were very accommodating of our tight deadlines.”

“We were presented with the challenge of branding these Thursday nights to drive viewers to the network,” explains Joel Pilger, !mpossible Pictures’ President. “As we got further into the project and began delivering outstanding design and animation, Discovery called on our team to do even more. The result was they trusted us for complete turnkey solutions from the creative concepting and naming of each month’s campaigns through animation, post and final delivery.”

Currently running are the promos for “Atmosfearic Thursdays,” which includes “Twister” and “Tsunami.” !mpossible Pictures concepted the theme title and the two featured topics, which employed heavy experimentation in 3D and compositing.

With a typical turnaround time of two weeks, the award-winning studio had to find clever, doable, yet realistic ways to execute these natural disasters. For example, “Twister” was envisioned from the point of view of a passenger in a moving car as a massive tornado makes it way across fields somewhere in Kansas.

Prior to starting, 3D/CGI Artist Chad Jacobson conducted research of actual tornadoes and past heroic visual effects efforts to create them. He then created a digital pre-viz animatic to simulate the scene, and determine the size, speed and movement of the tornado. This “living” 3D storyboard was an effective tool for !mpossible to rapidly provide Discovery with an overall glimpse of their vision. Jacobson performed tests with the particle system simulator in Softimage XSI taking advantage of the built-in XSI compositor, which allowed him to quickly composite his rough particles and see if the effects were headed towards a realistic result.

“Like all the promos in the ‘Thursdays’ campaign, this one had to grab viewers’ attention, yet quickly arrive on the classic Discovery logo plus tune-in information for viewers,” explains Jacobson. “Coming up with the ideas for this campaign really clicked with us. They’re fun, playful and whimsical. We decided to create pieces that were photorealistic, visually eye-catching and technically challenging, but could be executed within a short amount of time.”

The challenge with “Twister” was how to control the tornado in terms of its physics. Jacobson created a particle system of animated dirt and mist that could be deformed and choreographed via lattice deformation. This twister began to take shape once the photorealistic particle systems were layered with animated images going through a twisted vortex, which was also warped and wave-deformed. Doing it this way made the CG mass much more organic rather than too computer-perfect and mathematical.

Jacobson also used the same particle system to attach objects such as debris, grass, and vehicles to the twister, which ultimately was comprised of almost two dozen layers. Initial compositing passes were done in Softimage XSI, which Jacobson credits for its usability, layout and customer support. The final heavy compositing was performed with Discreet Flame. Once camera shake was added in post, Jacobson says the final look and feel exceeded everyone’s expectations. “The final result made us laugh; it looked so good,” comments Jacobson.

“This project was a prime example of how we were able to use our talent and software in creative and resourceful ways, and essentially pull off mini movie-style effects in a short amount of time,” concludes Jacobson. “Discovery’s shows are so diverse. From a 3D animator’s perspective, they are dream projects to work on since there are so many opportunities to use our design, pre-viz, modeling, character, and visual effects skills. Discovery has been great to work with. They love what we’ve done for them and have given us the chance to show that small shops like !mpossible can execute a very high caliber of work.”

The upcoming promos follow the theme of “Conspiracy Thursdays,” which draws viewers into thought-provoking worlds of government cover-ups and hidden mysteries. The final month of promos will highlight prehistoric and ancient civilizations themes. Promos having already aired celebrated the following different themes: Killer Thursdays “Ants” and “Squid,” Turbo Thursdays “Pistons” and “Wind Tunnel,” and finally, Phenomathon Thursdays “Saucer” and “Eyes.”

Design & Post-Production Company: !mpossible Pictures
President / Creative Director: Joel Pilger
3D/CGI Artist: Chad Jacobson
Discreet Flame VFX Artists: Hector Espinosa, Brian Eloe, Joel Pilger
Production Coordinator: Emily Crenshaw
Designers: Chad Jacobson, Hector Espinosa, Joel Pilger
Freelance Designer: Ben Larson for Bottle Rocket Design

!mpossible Pictures is located at 1617 Wazee Street, Denver, CO 80202.
T: 303.893.0900. F: 303.893.1161.

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