How do you design a concept that shows 90 seconds of film clips from multiple Oscar-winning films, and simultaneously make something imaginative occur beyond the magic happening within the films themselves? That was the daunting challenge facing digital content creation and production studio yU+co. when they took on the assignment to promote Turner Classic Movies’s annual ”31 Days of Oscar” event.
For Founder/Creative Director Garson Yu, ”31 Days of Oscar” presented a wonderful opportunity to tap into the company diverse array of talent. ”This project really got our creative juices going,” Yu says. ”We were able to draw upon our storytelling skills honed from designing titles for hundreds of feature films, as well as our motion graphics design and visual effects expertise.”
As a key member of the team, Creative and Visual Effects Director Richard Taylor directed the project, bringing his many years of experience to the table as a visual effects supervisor (Tron) and cinematics director for Electronic Arts. According to Taylor, the decision was made to use a old fashioned flatbed editing machine to showcase the filmstrips, harkening back to pre-digital days when film was physically edited on Kem or Steenbeck systems. The difficult part was figuring out how to use the flatbed as a platform on which to stage visual effects shots.
”We wanted to bring the audience into the world of film by placing them on the flatbed at camera level, so we created a fantasy CG editing machine that operates just like the real thing and lights up the moving filmstrip,” Taylor says. ”To make the spot magical, we had characters and elements move from the filmstrip out onto the flatbed.”
To make this illusion believable, Taylor shot reference stills and running footage of a flatbed to replicate the speed and look of a film as it runs through the machine and around the metal sprockets.
”In order to make the film appear as if it was moving, the right amount of grain, blur and flicker had to be created and the ?‚àö√ë‚àö‚â§ride’s up and down of the filmstrip replicated as it moved through the machine,” says Taylor.
Elements were created in Maya and After Effects and then composited in Nuke, with most shots having at least 6-8 layers. Also, low-resolution motion tests of the camera choreography and 3D elements flying around the machines were refined until there was a well-paced flow to the spot that showcased the film clips.
For Senior Producer Carey Keeney, the challenge was editorial. ”First, we had to select the ?‚àö√ë‚àö‚â§event moments’s, the moments when a character or an element would spill out of the scene as a visual effect onto the CG flatbed,’ says Keeney.
Working with Editor Christopher Gee, Keeney and Taylor selected about a dozen of those moments, and ended up with 8 events in the final :90 second spot. Some of the highlights include a bank robbery scene from Bonnie and Clyde, a prison scene from Birdman of Alcatraz and a monster scene from Alien.
After all of the key scenes for visual effects were chosen, editing pods were built around these moments and other clips chosen to be the adjacent scenes. Adding to the complexity, transitions between clips needed to be seamless and have some visual and/or emotional connection for a natural progression, building up the emotion and sustaining it until the end.
Since TCM didn’st want to use familiar clips that had been seen a hundred times before, the challenge was to find iconic moments in clips that were somewhat recognizable and would challenge the viewer to remember what movie they came from. After reviewing hundreds of scenes from dozens of Oscar-winning movies, clips were found from movies such as The Maltese Falcon and Titanic that set the tone for the montage, yet simultaneously winked at the audience as an inside joke that movies are all magical illusion.
As for the future direction of yU+co., Yu believes the lines will be blurred between film, television, games and the internet and the four platforms will merge into one. ”Motion graphics is a storytelling medium that works for any digital platform and it will not be limited to just one,” comments Yu. ”Whether it for films, television, commercials or gaming, we have been and will continue to design digital content that can be applied across all of them.”
In addition to 31 Days of Oscar, other recent yU+co. projects include the film title design for Twentieth Century recent release Tooth Fairy; the media design and production for the Urbanian Pavilion, one of five thematic pavilions for the 2010 World Fair; and the Census 2010 campaign of television spots that broke during this year Super Bowl.
Recognized as an industry leader in visual design, motion graphics and experiential design with offices in Hollywood, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, yU+co. specializes in digital content creation for all media platforms,. including title design for film and television, network branding and graphics packages, visual effects and animation, theatrical logos, game cinematics and commercials.
Project: 31 Days of Oscar
Client: Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
Design/Animation: yU+Co., Hollywood, CA
Creative Directors: Garson Yu, Richard Taylor
Executive Producer: Carol Wong
Senior Producer: Carey Michaels Keeney
Editor: Christopher Gee
Writer/Designer: Edwin Baker
CG Supervisor: Stephen Fedasz
VFX Coordinator: Sean Hoessli
Production Coordinator: Ryan Wilik
Modeler: Nghia Lam
Lighting: Eric Smith
Camera: Connor LaBella
3D Animators: Stephen Delalla, R. Kevin Clarke
2D Graphics: John Kim
Nuke Compositors: Charles Collyer, Dan Walker, Anthony Barcelo
Rotoscoping: John Kim, Karen Ruggero
I/O: Brandon Muse