Published on Wednesday, 14 December 2011
The Australian Football League’s integrated campaign titled ‘This Is Greatness’ to promote the 2011 Toyota AFL Final Series featured a series of TVCs screened on Channel Seven during live coverage of the finals over the four weeks up to 1 October.
|Director Bobby Dazzler and the team at Crayon Melbourne created the spots with agency George Patterson Y&R Melbourne, recreating historic football moments. ‘This is Greatness’ included radio ads and a street and public transport campaign across Melbourne, the finals’ host city.
Director Bobby Dazzler at Crayon Melbourne said, “This campaign's treatment took an original direction for the sport and the AFL actively participated in its development. As a strong starting point, we had the art direction for GP Y&R Melbourne’s print element. The client's chief concern was that the ink and grungy effects would overpower the famous footage. Fortunately, we were still working on the final spots when the first spots were airing, and the enthusiastic feedback from the general public and fans gave the client confidence to let us to crank up those ink splats, transitions and colours.”
The access they had to the AFL's archives was fantastic but also presented challenges. The spots not only had to look great and be dynamic, but also needed to show significant AFL moments. As the key was keeping a balance, the client's close involvement in shot selection was important to the project's authenticity.
Much of the footage of the famous events was not of the best quality in terms of camera movement, composition and resolution. Some clips were nearly 50 years old and of course anything over ten years was SD in 4:3, a tricky scenario for a 16:9 project. The solution was to extend frames through matte painting, adding and removing players and in some cases recreating the shots entirely.
“After the edit was approved and locked, we would output each clip with a fair number of handles to use for the transitions. The workflow began with rotoscoping using luma masks created for selected players, uniforms and other elements such as the ball, followed by tracking and floor placement,” Bobby said.
“We needed to rotoscope not just each player, but their uniforms too. Although this was time consuming, it meant we had complete freedom to place graphic elements between players, grade their team colours and their skin tones. By having the uniforms and skin rotoscoped separately, we could easily make tweaks and needed to do very little colour grading at the end of the project. The only exceptions to this technique were the large crowd shots where we used colour keying.”
Adding graphic elements was an organic process. Ink in particular was added on a shot by shot basis. In some shots, ink footage would work perfectly as 2D elements, in others they painted and scanned ink splodges and added these as assets to the composition. “We had a great selection of assets to use and a good grasp of which assets suited which scenarios. Time warps, masking and matte chokers gave us a good deal of customisation,” said Bobby. “Most spots incorporated many layers of all of these assets. We used After Effects and Maya for animation and motion graphics, and did the grade in After Effects.
“For the ink trails from the players and ball, we created a collection of static brush marks that were then animated in After Effects using warp tools, together with stock footage of ink splats. This was then tracked to the player's movements and then masked. A third party plug-in could have been used but we were very satisfied with this approach, which gave the clips a distinctive grungy and gritty look. The plug-in Particular was used for the confetti.”
Establishing the ground plane, so that the contact with players, the motion graphics and the splashes looked natural and consistent across the frame and during transitions, was done with Mocha and After Effects in-house trackers. As mentioned, the quality of the footage varied greatly and, typical of sports photography, included rapid pans and zooms.
These factors, and the lack of strong, consistent tracking points, meant considerable time was spent getting the tracking exactly right, and usually required multiple tracking points and manual tracking where automated tracks failed. “We then applied a place holder ground plane, and parented any ground elements to this,” Bobby explained. “On the whole, this process worked perfectly as we could then animate the camera between scenes without breaking any of the tracking.
“Editing was done in house at Crayon, by our editor, the agency Art Director and myself. This was essential because selecting shots with transitions and animation in mind was as important as the edit itself. From a collection of key moments recommended by the AFL, we placed selections into the edit to work as closely as possible with the script and voiceover. Where possible we chose shots that looked dynamic, with good transitional queues and tracking points.”
A very creative part of the project, the transitions were always a big factor in the process. Experimentation was a key step because some shots could be read and recognised easily, thus allowing a quick, dynamic transition, whereas some needed a little more time. The two main types of transitions were the wipe and camera move. Where transitions worked as one camera move, clips were combined in one After Effects project. Finally, all were imported into a combined ‘mother’ project for final finessing and colour tweaking.
“Camera moves were our preference to really keep the immersive energy intact throughout the piece. This was best achieved, I believe, in the fourth TVC seen during Week 3 of the campaign, where we go beyond the footage and sweep around the field,” said Bobby. In other cases they changed the pace - particularly where the footage restricted us - with a wipe effect, using footage of water colour spreading over paper for a softer finish contrasting with the hard edged ink splats. For reveals across crowd shots, a more detailed, layered ink transition was developed.
The vintage 4:3 clips posed the greatest challenge. Bobby said, “One good example was the big Tony ‘Plugger’ Lockett kick for the Sydney Swans in the second TVC shown in Week 1. The original footage cuts quickly from Plugger to a wide shot of the stadium and the ball. Having a 4:3 aspect ratio, we couldn't use this in a 16:9 project as the crowd would be cut off on the sides and the action was very hard to follow, let alone to track.
“But this was such a legendary moment that we had to include it. Our solution was to recreate the entire kick, adding frames to Plugger kicking the ball and following the ball’s trajectory through the air. The AFL fans recognise the event instantly, but see it in a whole new way. www.wearecrayon.com www.xyzstudios.com www.wearecrayon.com