Legendary director Spike Lee chose Smoke & Mirrors New York (SMNY) to do post and VFX work for a special postmortem tribute to Michael Jackson. The video is a stirring montage of images spanning the King of Pop’s lifetime and is set to the sounds of This Is It, a track that is two decades old.
“When Spike (Lee) asked us to be involved in a secret project, of course we said yes. It was a huge compliment to SMNY, as he could have chosen anyone to help him achieve his vision,” noted Smoke & Mirrors CD Sean Broughton. “We knew this would not only be a fun project, but a heartfelt goodbye to the King of Pop.”
This project is the latest in a long line of music videos for which SMNY has handled the VFX, and a fluid process has been installed to handle the workflow. Nick Seresin led the team of artists at the SMNY facility, working tirelessly to finish on a tight deadline. The crew used Autodesk’s Flame to create seemingly three-dimensional movements to Lee’s deftly chosen assortment of videos and photos spanning fifty years, from Jackson’s childhood to his live performances to his interactions with his hoards of fans.
As they refined the edit, more photos became available and every department at SMNY came together to expertly rotoscope and matte paint to achieve Lee’s vision and ensure delivery. To bring all the different film and archive mediums together, SMNY employed its new Da Vinci grading solution, helmed by the legendary Ben Eagleton, to do a masterful grade of the final work. The finished product is a joyous celebration of the singer’s life; a careful mixture of slowed-down video, treated still shots and classic reels that pay homage to Jackson’s life.
New York and London-based design, animation and VFX studio, Smoke & Mirrors was founded by COO Sean Broughton (NY), Penny Verbe (UK) and Mark Wildig (UK). A creative and artist-driven company synonymous with vision and originality since its inception, Smoke & Mirrors has consistently succeeded because of its collaborative approach and ability to build lasting creative relationships with directors, producers, agencies and clients alike. Diverse projects range from work on the Harry Potter and Bond film series, to commercial campaigns for Mercedes, Burger King, Miller Lite and Sirius.
Song Title: This Is It
Air Date: December 2009
Prod Company: 40 Acres and a Mule
Director: Spike Lee
Director of Photography: Malik Sayeed
Editor: Barry A. Brown
Producer(s): Spike Lee, Butch Robinson
Additional Camera: Kerwin Devonish, Rick Sarmiento
Post/Effects: Smoke & Mirrors NY
Lead Flame Artist: Nic Seresin
Flame Artist: Stephanie Isaacson, Sam Caine, Sean Broughton, Philip Akka
Flame Assistant: Ross Vincent
3D Artist: Steve Parish, Mike Donovan, Wei Louie, Serkan Ertekin, Greg Calas
Producer: Lauren Shawe
Color Correction: Smoke & Mirrors, NY
Colorist: Ben Eagleton
Producer: Lauren Shawe
Color Correction: The Mill
Colorist: Damian van der Cruyssen
Music: Michael Jackson
Shoot Location: Gary, Indiana