Tricaster Virtual Set Designs for PWC

Appearing in the background of these UK Budget reviews from PWC, is a very small part, of a much larger overhaul of their set designs and virtual sets that I have been working on.

The full and official re-launch is scheduled to take place in the coming weeks and features multi-zone, digital sets for use with the Tricaster, along with physical table and desk designs being built by Scott Fleary.

Trying something new: A 1:6 scale miniature set, with 3D tracking and digital extensions…

Having worked exclusively in digital formats for the past 15 years, I have recently been making a concerted effort to resurrect some of my practical design skills. Around five years ago, I started to sketch more frequently, as I began to take on more of a design lead on projects. It proved a great complement to pixels.

More recently, I have looked to expand upon this positive experience and started to explore the use of miniatures in filmmaking. The shots below are of a miniature I have been developing for a sequence of shots based on a snowy environment I have designed. Two faces of a section of a building have been constructed, and set within a snow covered landscape. This miniature set design will ultimately be extended through the use of digital set extensions and 3D tracking.

Shot of the in-progress, 1:6 scale, miniature set, featuring snow and ice effects
A shot of the miniature including snow and ice effects.

The shell of the building was made out of foamcore, which was then clad in balsa. The balsa was ridiculously pristine when first applied, but has since been aged and weathered with heavily diluted ink washes. The snow is a combination of polystyrene base, on top of which, model railway snow effects and marble dust (to add sparkle) have been applied. The icicles are made by applying model railway water effect gel to waxed paper. Once dried, they are glued to the eaves of the building. It’s not finished yet, but so far, it’s proved to be a hugely, enjoyable indulgence.

Detail shot of 1:6 scale miniature set, featuring snow and ice effects
Detail of the miniature in it’s current stage of development.

As with any miniature, depth of field has proved problematic. The only way to counter this, has been to dramatically stop down. Testing has shown f16 to be the absolute maximum, but to achieve optimum results, I am going to need to reduce the aperture even further. The direct consequence of this, is that I then need ridiculous levels of light.

I’m currently looking at stop motion techniques to achieve small apertures, with less light and longer exposures. This approach will allow for better digital environments through better depth of field and improved image quality and resolution compared to video capture.

I wanted to post these before Fortitude is screened tomorrow, as I started work on this last Autumn but business has been very busy and limited the opportunities to work on these kinds of personal projects.

Work schedules permitting, I’m hoping to have the first sequence completed by the Spring

An earlier shot of the miniature set, prior to adding snow and ice effects.
Shot of the miniature prior to the application of snow and ice effects.

 

Sky Sports F1, The F1 Show digital backdrop

As I don’t often get to show my designs as spaces that the camera can move through, I have begun rendering clips from within the digital set models that do just that. These will appear in an updated showreel.

This particular clip is a little too slow and ponderous for a showreel, so I’ve added it to the portfolio instead.

Model built in 3DS Max and rendered with Chaos Groups, Vray.

Virtual set designs for The Sun FC – Behind the scenes

jim_mann_Sun_FC_2

My company’s website has just been updated with a set of images for my latest project, the virtual sets for the Sun FC show on Sun+. This was one of my most comprehensive designs so far and makes use of the Sun’s dedicated studio space fitted with a full lighting rig, remotely controlled cameras, Reflecmedia chroma keying and RT Software’s tOG-VR virtual studio system.

The initial brief was to design a desk and virtual studio for a show based around a single presenter and up to three guests. Working within a budget, I made as much use of the tOG-VR system as possible by designing a truck-able, physical desk back at which the presenter and guests would sit. Filming of the pilots was fast approaching and time was limited, but over the course of one day I sketched designs for seven desk concepts. The clear favourite turned out to be the first design which featured a curved plan layout dominated by an LED mid-body section. The LED’s would provide the client with the flexibility to update and modify the display to suit different shows and features.

SunFC_desk_design_sketch

Once the concept was approved, I drew on my experience as an architect working on interiors and fit-outs to sketch the layout and detail for the desk and enable costs and shop drawings to be prepared by Scott Fleary. The physical desk was delivered on schedule on the morning before filming of the pilots was due to begin.

Sun_FC_desk_by_lightwell

On camera, the desk back and its structure, along with the legs of the occupants are cloaked by the virtual desk front. This hybrid real/virtual desk then sits within a virtual studio designed and lit to simulate a space within the concrete under-croft of a football stadium and overlooking a football pitch.

Sun_FC_virtual_set_design_lightwell

As powerful as VR systems are, I always try and pre-bake/pre-render the lighting in a scene as much as possible. On this project, the studio space and stadium are all pre-rendered whereas the desk is lit in realtime by the tOG-VR system. This combination produced the best quality results, appropriate to each element and its surface properties.

Pre-lit texture panels featured within the final version of the virtual set design.

The stadium takes inspiration from a variety of modern stadiums, but is ultimately an original design. I designed it from the pitch up, using correct sight lines and recognised building regulations (most of the time) to arrive at a credibly functional looking design that would complement and enhance both the wide and the mid-shots that were being proposed at the time.

As the pilots and rehearsals progressed, the shows format and presentation styles evolved from one that was predominantly seated, to one that is entirely standing at the time of its launch. The set design was modified to suit this change and the desk designs remain parked for the time being.

The Sun FC launched in August 2013 and can be viewed at http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/sport/ (Sun+ subscription required)

ian_wright_virtual_set_by_lightwell

Virtual set designs for The Sun FC

The Sun FC virtual set

I have just added a set of images from one of my latest projects to the company website. These showcase the design and preparation of a virtual studio for The Sun FC that utilises the RT Software tOG-VR system.

The show is presented by Samantha Johnson and Ian Wright and is hosted by Sun+.

I am working on a behind-the-scenes breakdown of some of the design and process that I will post here within the next couple of days.

Sport Authority digital sets for use with Tricaster

The Sport Authority digital set, built and lit by Lightwell to a design by BDA.
The Sport Authority digital set, built and lit by Lightwell to a design by BDA.

First look at the new digital sets I prepared for Sport Authority. Sport Authority broadcast betting analysis via the web and use the Tricaster system to incorporate live action with digital sets.

Unlike true VR systems in which the cameras can move, the Tricaster makes full use of locked cameras and so keeps costs down and technology accessible. The main downside, is the lack of parallax effects but this is reasonably offset by the quality of lighting and materials that can be achieved by having fixed background plates.

More details to follow.