Client: Clarion Events / MPH Show
Director: Roland French
Producer: Inition / Andy Millns
Lead CG Artist: Jeff Ferguson
Screening: 40’ wide 3D projection screen. MPH 07 in London’s Earl’s Court and Birmingham’s NEC. Coca Cola Dome in Johannesburg 2008.
Audience to date: >100,000
Brief: To create a 3 minute 3D extravaganza of an animated character, including several ‘duck-for-cover’ out-of-screen 3D moments.
Following the success and popularity of 3D (deployed by Inition) at MPH 05 and 06, MPH’07 producer Rowland French approached Inition for a new 3D extravaganza: ‘The GATSO Dragon’. MPH is a unique concept including a live theatrical car show, hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.
The premise of the 3D set-piece was as follows:
Inition were briefed to produce a spectacular in-your-face 3D short film to be choreographed with on-stage action of The Stig (the mystery test driver) doing battle with the 3D Dragon. The various stages of the project are documented below.
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"The year is 2050, and the Government has gone mad. A small resistance of petrol heads do their best to fight Baby Blair’s army wherever they can. Leader of the resistance is The Stig; top of the Government's Most Wanted, he roams like a road warrior battling traffic wardens and mobile speed cameras where he can. In response to his success, the Government has designed a new type of mobile speed camera – something more frightening and devious than anything seen before: GATSO Dragon".
Inition’s concept artists got to work for various treatments of the GATSO Dragon developing ideas and direction:
2. Storyboarding Character and Live Stage Action.
Working with show producers Andy Wilman and Rowland French, timings and actions for the GATSO Dragon's movements were established along with the methods by which these actions would be linked up with on-stage action:
3. Animatic of Character with Live Stage Action.
To aid the show’s choreographers during rehearsals, exact timings for the GATSO dragon’s actions were animated in a simple animation showing both the direction in which the beast would be facing and what it would be doing. This confirmed that our ideas of linking up on-screen stereo with live stunt drivers and pyrotechnics were feasible, helping us indentify potential problems before they arose. Stereoscopic tests were also carried out using the animatic.
4. Character and Prop Creation.
The team at Inition set up a work-flow between Autodesk’s 3D Studio Max for modelling and MotionBuilder for the bulk of the animation, allowing the art and animation teams to work in parallel efficiently and effectively:
5. Lighting & Environment.
HDR Images were used to create realistic reflections on the GATSO Dragon. Combined with VRay lighting, this made the GATSO Dragon a visually convincing experience when seen on-screen at Earls Court.
6. Character Animation.
Using MotionBuilder as the tool of choice for GATSO Dragon’s animation enabled animators to have a great deal of control when animating the characters skeleton and blending between animated poses with ease. Other tools in MotionBuilder also simulated realistic movement of GATSO Dragon’s tail:
7. Effects and Compositing.
Compositing in stereo was completed in After Effects, with After Burner was used to create the fire effects. Separate left and right-eye composites were made.
8. Out-of-Screen Stereo Moments and Stereoscopic Tests for 3D Camera Configuration.
Events in the sequence which are intended to make the audience flinch or react to objects that seem to come out of the screen (like debris from an explosion) are known as ‘out-of-screen stereo moments’. The careful testing and tweaking of the camera settings helped us perfect the illusion of the 3D objects exiting the screen and flying towards the audience. Inition’s animators used desktop passive stereo displays and our in house Duality system to preview stereo effects.
9. Sound Effects and Music.
Inition’s sound designer added sound effects created from scratch to help reinforce the on-screen action. As well as sound effects, an emotive soundtrack was selected to help create the atmosphere of an epic battle.
10. Rendering Left and Right Composites.
Rendering was completed on Inition’s in-house 35-computer-strong render farm, speeding up production time dramatically. The left and right eye complete composites were rendered to two separate movie files, ready for playback on Inition’s 3DVidBoxHD playback server.
11. Encoding Stereoscopic Movie File.
Encoding was done in house using loss-less compression for the highest quality results.
12. The Show.
Inition provided a 3DVidBoxHD playback server, high-transmission polarising filters, a 40-feet-wide silver screen and over 100,000 pairs of 3D glasses for the show. Inition technicians supervised the 3D installation at the show and operated the playback for all 20 shows (to date). The 3D sequence ran flawlessly in every show.
We asked the client for some feedback on the MPH project and a quote for the story….
"Inition are fucking brilliant; if you want the best 3D in the UK, you'd be mad to use anyone else", said Rowland French, Producer of MPH 07.
Rowland went on to say: "Often the greatest working disappointments as a producer are when the reality of something bears little or no relation to what you had in your head. It's easy to design giant fighting koala bears in your mind, but who is going to make them?
"The same sense of foreboding haunted me when I came up with the idea of making a giant 3D dragon to fight The Stig, live in the MPH arena. Not complex enough already, the dragon had to be from the future, with armaments to deploy in the scrap, armour to be blown off - and most importantly had to have enough character in its face and movement to almost be a 'fourth presenter'.
"Inition were as excited as me about the idea, and organised plenty of artist meetings where we could discuss the dragons look. Once they had my barmy outline, they then started supplying their own drawings, and slowly the dragon in my head came to life on paper. Their seemingly limitless patience was never tested by my constant 'eyes need to be further apart' and 'the wings should beat slower' redesigns.
"When I finally sat down in their subterranean lair in East London, and watched the exact dragon from the middle of my head bob and flap in 3D in front of me, I was speechless. The dragon was all I could have hoped for, its movements were totally animalistic, its look perfectly well-worn futuristic. Jump to the first performance in Earls Court and The Stig tears around evading rockets and razor edged parking tickets, the audience ducking the stereo moments and jumping as the rockets cue with huge pyrotechnics on the floor. Inition had graced me with a beautiful baby dragon, and I was as proud a father as you could imagine."