When the brightest minds in the film, broadcast and videogame industries took their seats at this year’s motion 2012 in Albuquerque, they encountered a graphically charged show open produced from start to finish by Nice Shoes. This marked the second consecutive appearance at motion by Creative Director Brian Bowman, who also spoke at the event in 2011, discussing the studio’s work with VDMX software controlled by iOS to create musically driven interactive events.
“At motion 2011, I was impressed by the work being done at Nice Shoes”, said Elaine Montoya, chief imagination officer at the motion group. “I saw that the Nice Shoes team was not only extremely creative, but was also into pushing technology to the extremes for the sake of creative expression – one of my passions as well. When Brian showed us the boards for the 2012 show open, I knew at that moment the piece was going to be fantastic.”
Nice Shoes was given free creative reign for the open, the only stipulation from the conference organizers was the inclusion of the motion 2012 logo. Bowman presented a treatment to the motion team, which featured choreography filmed with both a RED camera and two Microsoft Kinects. The goal was to create a choreographed film, integrated tightly with visual effects created by the dancers’ own movements, hence alluding to the process of creation.
“The dancers are representative of artists,” said Bowman. “They’re manipulating and redefining their environments to become something more than what exists.”
The Design and Visual Effects teams pulled the Kinect data into 3D Studio Max to generate all of the particles. The flame artists, led by Vin Roma worked on key and roto, while Ron Sudul worked with some very specific color looks, including an effect produced on set called light separation, which incorporated practical light in each frame when the green screen was taken away from the talent.
This marked the studio’s first time incorporating Microsoft’s Kinect. “I’ve been interested in tracker-less motion tracking,” explained Bowman. “In the past, you’d need to have a performer wear a ping pong ball suit to record motion capture, but now the technology and sensors have gotten to a point where the suit isn’t necessary. A kinematic skeleton can be generated simply by recording a body and it’s movement. Technology like the Kinect has inspired a hacker culture. I was interested in using the sensors in filmmaking, recording the dancers in wardrobe, while at the same time capturing the depth and kinematic data to create integrated visual effects.”
“Brian sent us progress updates throughout the process,” said Montoya. “But when my team and I saw the final piece, tears came to our eyes. Never before had someone captured the essence of our annual show so elegantly. This was motion.”
For a closer look at the making of the motion 2012 show open, check out the Behind the Scenes video on Vimeo.