Last fall, when creators of the nationally syndicated program "Live! with Regis and Kelly" needed a new look for the show's opener, they saw the spot Big Machine Design (BMD) did for the Promax|BDA (an organization for broadcast marketing and promotion professionals) awards and knew they'd found the right studio for the job. It was the combination of live-action footage with 2D and 3D elements they liked because the approach was a perfect way to connect Regis and Kelly to Manhattan in a fun and original way.
It was Giant Octopus that hired Burbank, California-based BMD for the project: a complete show package including the main title sequence and bump-in and bump-out graphics, most of which were made using MAXON's CINEMA 4D. The goal was to create something that offered a fresh take on an urban street scene while turning the city into a character that actually interacts with Regis Philbin as he walks briskly toward Times Square where he meets Kelly Ripa, who has hailed a taxi to get there. Along the way, the city is alive with yellow stars, blue and yellow streamers and red arrows. Once they reach their destination, the duo is happy to see a giant, animated version of the show's logo dominating the skyline above. See the opener, which debuted in the fall here: http://www.bigmachinedesign.net/promax/regisandkelly/RK_Comp_Bug_Resize.mov
Graphic elements used in the "Live! with Regis and Kelly" opener reinforce the idea of Manhattan being a character, along with the show's stars. "What you see is the result of a good compositing workflow between C4D and After Effects," says Big Machine Design's Ken Carlson.
BMD's team had a month to complete the work and the freedom to make a lot of creative choices, says Ken Carlson, who co-founded the design house with Steve Petersen in 2003. Some of their recent clients include CBS, ABC, NBC, MTV, Disney, Sony and NFL Network. "We thought it would be cool to have a lot of interactivity between the city and CG-generated graphics, and it was great because with this project we didn't have a lot of parameters so we were able to do what we wanted to," says Carlson, who shares the position of studio creative director with Petersen.
Rather than coming up with full storyboards to begin the project, BMD created their pre-visualization using C4D and Photoshop so the client could take a look at the color palette, as well as the combination of locations and graphic treatments. Knowing they wouldn't have a lot of time to work with Regis and Kelly, Steve went to Manhattan before the shoot to scout locations. For expediency's sake, most scenes were shot within close proximity to each other. Everything was shot using a RED ONE digital camera and security was very tight as crowds pushed to get closer to the daytime TV stars.
BMD's artists combined 2D and 3D graphic elements to give the opener the "happy, fun" look the client wanted. The Empire State Building in the background emphasizes the show's New York City locale.
Once the footage was shot (both a spring and fall version, requiring only a wardrobe change), they brought it into Final Cut Pro to do a rough edit and then tracked the footage using Boujou. Camera data was brought into C4D where BMD's artists began building out all of the scenes. Compositing of finished graphics and live-action footage was done in Adobe After Effects. Polygon and object counts were relatively low compared to other projects Big Machine Design has done, at 3,800 polygons and 1,473 objects per scene.
The fast-paced opener ends with all of the graphic elements converging on the "Regis and Kelly" logo as the stars watch excitedly.
"Because most of the CG for the project involved animating geometric shapes composed against backgrounds, the work wasn't very complex," Carlson explains. This helped keep render times relatively short, at about two minutes per shot with an average of four to eight MacPro workstations rendering at one time. Swirling colors that swoop around the city were done with C4D's Sweep Nurbs object. A wind deformer was applied to some of the shapes to give them more of a dynamic feel. Floral patterns that appear in some scenes were composited in After Effects. The patterns, and other 2D effects, add another layer to the look, making the fast-paced opener more visually interesting. "It was great because C4D's built-in tools made it so easy for us to go back and forth between C4D and After Effects," says Carlson. "This gave us the time to try things and play around with compositing and timing without feeling like we were jeopardizing our deadline."
3D elements, such as these stars, help create the illusion that the design elements are moving throughout the city just as Regis and Kelly do. "We wanted them to reinforce that Regis and Kelly are from the city and they interact with things there every day," Carlson explains.
Artists on the team, which consisted of about 15 people including the live-action crew, used CINEMA 4D's MoGraph Module to replicate objects like coffee mugs and milk cartons, which were used to give the title sequence a more morning-themed feel. "If we were required to hand animate all of those things it would have taken much longer than using MoGraph to clone them," says Carlson, who has been using CINEMA 4D since 2001. "C4D really helped us streamline our animation process and it gave us time to experiment even with a tight timeframe." All in all, the project included 14 different scenes, each file being about 2 to 3 megabytes.
Looking for iconic morning-themed images, BMD originally used white milk cartons for this scene but later switched to a more pastel palette to make things livelier.
While most of the show package's CG elements appear and disappear quickly, the red arrow is more active, moving viewers' eyes through scenes and at the end, motivating the show's logo to move upward. This is meant to be a bit of an online component that gives the sense that the show is hip," Carlson explains. "It's a subtle thing that doesn't change the meaning of the scene whether people notice it or not." This simplicity of design is one of the things Carlson enjoyed most about this job. "A lot of times there's a temptation to go crazy with software just because it has the ability but this time, the design is understated and didn't call for more."
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Meleah Maynard is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Contact her at her website: www.slowdog.com
August 17, 2009
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