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Awaited

December 21, 2007

Neil’s Blog Entry

As Laura mentioned in a previous post, for the past 2 months or so I’ve been working on a big Christmas show. It’s called “Awaited,” and it tells the Christmas story through the eyes of angels.

Besides the video work, I was also part of the team that handled the art direction for the show. Our primary influences are the movies “300” and “Moulin Rouge.” Ain’t nothing says “Christmas” like some half-naked Spartans and French prostitutes. Actually, we used these movies only for their tonal and color ranges… everything starts with a sepia-tone base and is enhanced with deep reds and rich jewel tones.

One of the more challenging projects was to create a virtual 3D field of wheat. This was accomplished by photographing several clumps of dried wheat and then animating them in the computer to wave side to side as if in a soft breeze. Each animated clump was then duplicated over and over in the compositing software to create an almost endless wheat field. We can zoom in real close or pull out to see the whole field set against this really cool gothy-looking sky.

I also did some CG animated snow. The idea was to make it look as if it were made of gold or a similarly shiny metal. The larger snowflakes were created by taking a bunch of ornamental typographic patterns and basically rotating them around themselves. All of these elements were thrown into a particle system in order to get that random snowfall feel.

Our angels are a little different than what one would normally expect. There are no wings, but rather suggestion of wings made by flowing fabric. They are covered in something we ended up calling “jewelry as armor.” They were meant to convey a warrior-like persona without being too scary looking for the kids. We dressed our actors and shot them in slow motion so we could get a nice flowing effect with the fabric. I then went in and digitally replaced their heads with a normal speed shot for when they talk. I also added some sparkles and firefly-looking thingies to make it all look even more ethereal.

Here are a few detail shots…



Lastly, we had a miniature created for a piece that was set to “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” The miniature took about a month and a half to build and was done by a friend of mine named Jim. Jim was also in the BSG video from way back when. He had never done something like this before and all of us at work were a tiny bit nervous at first… but he proved himself to a master craftsman when it came to this model. The entire city is about 6 foot by 6 foot with the tallest building being about 18 inches tall. It is fully lit with teeny-tiny light bulbs and a little bit of fiber optics. I didn’t do much to this piece except some color correction and glow effects, but I think it’s one of the best pieces in the show.

So that’s what’s been keeping me busy for the last two months. It’s been really challenging to work on this, and I have been having great fun.

The show opened on Dec. 19 and goes until Christmas Eve. After that, it’ll be time to relax for a while. I get to take the week between Christmas and New Years’ off from work so it should be a very nice time indeed.

Still with no pithy catchphrase,
Neil

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 21, 2007 7:17 pm

    Dude. You friggin rock. I still want to be you. Pleeeez, can I be? 🙂 You continue to inspire me, Neil. The angels look to be a stark contrast than any angels I’ve seen before. Was struck by the way Brian T described angels in his latest sermon. I’m guessing he was an influence in how they look. Where can I see the final video product?

    Merry Christmas, Smith Fam!

    With Love From the Land of the Sun (where it’s 65 degrees and sunny today),
    The Kriegers

  2. December 21, 2007 7:17 pm

    What programs did you use to animate the snow and wheat? Motion? Some 3d software?

  3. December 22, 2007 4:26 pm

    Actually, the headdress that Nicole Kidman wore in the finale of Moulin Rouge had a lot more to do with how the angels ended up looking. We just made it seem a bit more armor-ish and less jewelry-ish. The wheat field was done in After Effects using a bend effect with a random expression to control the amount. I figure I had over 300 layers on the wheat field alone and it was a bear to render… about 18 hours for 1.5 minutes of film. The snow was done in AE as well using Trapcode’s Particular particle plug-in.

    And Merry Christmas to you too, Jeff. Our love to your family.
    Neil

  4. December 23, 2007 1:35 pm

    WOW! Amazing. The images are gorgeous. I certainly hope you can post it on your site. I would love to see it. You are brilliant!

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