- new balance | running green
- running green, is a visual experiment in time. it explores the differences between subtle moments and prolonged movements. contrasting the natural with the synthetic, the man-made. combining these into one instance of space and time, you are left with a suspension of disbelief that is both surreal, and sedately captivating. using cinematic techniques, combined with computer generated elements, we have created a moment in time that is both impossible to exist and naturally tangible.
i wanted to see what could be done when combining these different time-lines. the content was also a big influence on how the visuals were showcased. new balance is known for using eco-friendly materials. i wanted to help contribute to the message of environmental awareness and responsibility. once i had a solid treatment of the concept, i approached rob and tim at SUSPECT.they were excited by the idea, and wanted to partner up and collaborate on the post-production. with the help of keith mccabe, their vfx supervisor, we started to formulate a plan.
- with the interest in time manipulation being one of the driving forces behind this piece, i constructed a quasi motion control camera rig for my dslr. i wanted to craft an interesting camera move, capture a long period of time and play it back as if you are watching just one moment. i built it from some extruded aluminum and programable servos hooked up to a gear train.
camera of choice was the canon 5dmkII, with a 17-40mm L series lens, fully open, shooting 3 second exposures every 7 seconds. shooting stills that would then create our live action sequence was great. it gave us such a massive starting resolution, from which we could crop however we wanted. it also gave us tons of information for tracking, as well as grading. i shot that corner 7 or 8 times before i got a take that was perfect, tweaking the rig between each shoot to get the smoothest possible move.
- while the shooting was underway, SUSPECT’s cg team was already in the throws of production. andrew modeled our hero, the new balance 509 sneaker, in autodesk softimage. we photographed every angle of the shoe for reference and high resolution texture maps. we did the same for the flowers we wanted in the spot. dissecting the plants and capturing their visual essence for dave, who took on the daunting task of creating the living in autodesk maya. we painted a lot of different maps that went into the shader trees. between color, bump, displacement, sub surface scatter, and then doing multiple versions for variations, it was a task keeping track of all of them.
- the rigging of our geo, were combinations of traditional joints blended with deformations that were able to provide maximum control to every aspect of our subjects. for the shoe, it was important for all the different materials of the sole to bend or squish differently from one another, while maintaining the overall shape of the shoe as the “foot” would bend and roll through it. the plants were set up and rigged in such a way that we could scale and change the form of the plants to make duplication and population more efficient. a lot of scripting was done in order to rig the leaves and stems with ik splines simultaneously, instead of doing each one over and over. this drastically cut down the amount of time needed in setting up all of the flowers and greenery. all of the joints and deformers were then set up to be fully scaleable and keyable to allow complete customization.
- the last night of shooting, a continuous fluid move was achieved. i also photographed a panorama at the shoot location in multiple exposures to create our main hdr sphere. finally having our backplate, tracking could commence, so that we would be able to place our cg in the scene. due to the camera move being slow and smooth, and the fact that a cobble stone street corner has tons of natural tracking points, we thought this process was going to be painless. john unfortunately found out that we were sadly mistaken. because of the light streaks passing through the frame at a sporadic and random pace, the solver had quite a difficult time pulling off a convincing solution. he ended up having to go in and place many manual tracking points in order to get a solid track. the camera was then exported to all our other applications, maya, after effects, and nuke.
- layer breakdown...
- because of the nature of this project and the realism we hoped to achieve, we decided early on that we would work in a linear color space. this was something a couple of us had heard of quite a bit recently, but none of us had taken part of. nuke then became our compositing tool of choice. it essentially forces you to work in linear. it was important that we kept track of every single texture map being used in 3d, making sure it remained in the same color space. we tried not to rely on a handful of render passes to get our cg looking premium. the team took it as far as they possibly could all within maya, tweaking the shaders. certain matte passes were rendered out for basic grading. some passes were rendered to enhance some of the lighting. the rgb light pass became my new favorite pass of all time. the lights in the scene were given either red green or blue, then using those channels as mattes for a color correct node, i could brighten the effect of a certain light in the scene, or shift the tone of it. this was especially important, because the hdr of the street scene was primarily warm oranges and yellows. where we took the grading of the backplate was more into a cool world. so the lighting of the cg had to be adjusted accordingly. all of this grading took place in nuke. the color correction tools are so comprehensive and precise.
this was such a great project to work on. the guys at suspect were so helpful and dedicated to the idea. it has been a wonderful collaborative partnership. after much sweat, patience, and commitment, this is where we were able to take this project. enjoy.
- production company – roadnorth
director – douglas purver
director of photography – douglas purver
post-production – SUSPECT
lead vfx artist – douglas purver
executive producers – rob appelblatt, tim crean
technical director(s) – dave white, andrew cohen
sneaker animation – ricardo vicens
sneaker rigging – lee wolland
cg artist – steve burger
additional shader/texture artist – jimbo rowel
camera tracking – john geehring
music and sound design – q department