Some very massive digital backdrops designed for Bloomberg Go

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My latest designs, for a set of digital backdrops for Bloomberg TV’s new, New York studios went live yesterday. The architectural scene in the backdrops is based upon Bloomberg’s own headquarters building in New York and is displayed in a set of massive LED screens. Often, with such large screens I tend to find that the pitch of the LED’s is coarse, but these have a luxurious 1.9mm pitch – by way of comparison, the screen we prepared at Lightwell, for TV4 News in Sweden is of a similar size, but has a 12mm pitch.

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The finer pitch resolution has meant that we’ve had to adjust our approach in a number of ways. Previously, we would avoid fine detail and focus on lighting across large areas, and establishing strong contrast within the imagery to counteract the effect of the diffusion screens that would be required in front of the LED’s. The superior resolution of the Bloomberg installation means that no diffusion screen is required, and so we now need to focus on finer details, particularly within the mid-shots, in a way that would have been a wasted effort on previous projects. The absence of a diffusion screen also means that we get better colour fidelity. LED screens tend to be excellent at re-producing colour anyway, but by removing the diffusion layer in the project, we have been able to achieve better blacks, and can be confident that what the viewer will see upon their screens, is the closest to what we see here in the studio that we have experienced.

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Another factor that we have had to adapt to on this project, like no other, is that extra pixels mean much larger file sizes. We’ve had to adapt to working with 12k composites, and the logistics of delivering and playing 8k video. This is a challenge that will be ongoing for the foreseeable future, but is one that I welcome, not least because it makes my work look infinitely better with each new technological advance.

This is a bold investment in technology by Bloomberg, one that I applaud. They have been a fantastic client.

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A big fat “Hurrah!” for CG from Rocket Jump Film School

I spotted this short paean to computer generated visual effects on Twitter earlier today. It’s premise is that CGI visual effects are actually good for movies, and that it’s only considered to be a bad thing, because we only tend to notice bad CGI, whilst most CGI, the good stuff, is invisible – there are some overdue nods to superlative digital environments in there, including those for TV.

I’ve been generating CGI since 1995, which is a bit like the time in the middle ages, at the cusp of the renaissance in the context of computer graphics history. Back then I was constantly having to argue the toss and justify whether what I was doing was art/design/creative/valid, and we are still fighting similar battles now. I too get frustrated with the bad and unnecessary CGI, but equally, I still love to see the good stuff – particularly so when I don’t spot it until it’s pointed out to me later on by the likes of Cinefex, or via VFX breakdowns on the web.

This visual essay makes the point that CGI is great for some things e.g. environments, crowds, vehicles, etc, but not (yet) great for others – digital characters are still something of a work in progress. It also rightly asserts that many films and TV shows wouldn’t have happened without superb, affordable CGI. A good example being Game of Thrones. All tools have their place and value, whether they are practical or digital. So, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Rocket Jump Film School for articulating what I believe, so passionately, and far more eloquently than I am able in this short video.

There aren’t enough Spy movies being made these days – The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

There aren’t enough spy movies being made these days, so its good to see the latest trailer for Guy Ritchie’s Man From U.N.C.L.E. appear on the web yesterday.

The story is set in 1963 – Bond’s From Russia With Love came out in 1963 – which suggests an abundance of opportunities to play on the designs and style and costumes of that period. It will be interesting to see what Production Designer Oliver Scholl delivers. There isn’t anything like MFU on his CV, but Edge of Tomorrow was a fine looking film, so lets see.

Opportunities for digital sets and set extensions should be plentiful too, so I look forward to tracking the behind-the-scenes revelations from the various different effects houses that are involved.

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.

 

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.