July 1, 2009
The Skinny During the Super Bowl XLIII, TV viewers were treated to an innovative commercial for Pepsi Co’s SoBe energy drink in 3D stereo. This was the first-ever stereoscopic 3D TV advertising to air at the Super Bowl. The Foundry’s Nuke compositing software and Ocula 3D stereo manipulation tools played an instrumental role at Digital Domain in Venice, California, during the post production of the ad – entitled 3D Lizard Lake – enabling the meticulous combination of CG and live action elements. The SoBe brand, well-known in the US for its animated lizards, brought NFL superstars together with CG lizards and characters from Dreamwork’s 3D Monsters vs. Aliens feature, to perform a ballet dance from Swan Lake. Directed by Peter Arnell, the rough, tough NFL players try their best to perform pliés and pirouettes, before the CG characters from Monsters vs. Aliens and the SoBe Lizards crash in, turning the ballet into a mad party. The Production Due to the limited availability of the players, the shoot took place over two days: one with the hero characters and the other for the secondary dancers and stunt doubles. Los Angeles production specialists 3ality handled the 3D shoot, using Sony HD cameras, capturing at 1080p at 24fps to tape, on its proprietary stereoscopic rig. The production was posted using the Colour Code 3D system, using a yellow/blue combination similar to anaglyph. Crucial to the production and post was the close collaboration between Digital Domain, Dreamworks and 3ality to coordinate the stereo settings of the real cameras on-set and the virtual cameras in post. Digital Domain visual effects supervisor, Jay Barton, took the lead on the CG and VFX post side of the project, collaborating with DreamWorks’ global stereoscopic supervisor Phil McNally, and Steve Schklair of 3ality. Along with the footage, 3ality’s camera rig also provided essential metadata – camera settings, zoom information, the interocular distance (between the left and right eyes) and point of convergence. As different elements were either shot or created at different times, Digital Domain came up with a common scene plate, to put everything in the correct place. Using camera data provided by Digital Domain, Dreamworks put in its characters – The Missing Link, Dr. Cockroach, and BOB – and then sent the results to them. In addition to its 20 shots, Digital Domain also created 3D backgrounds for every shot, and rendered elements for nearly 40 shots in total. The Foundry’s compositing software Nuke, running Ocula stereo plug-ins, played a pivotal role in ensuring correct placement and line-up of the various CG and live action elements. The Post Originally developed by Digital Domain, Nuke is now owned and distributed by The Foundry. Ocula’s tool set is based on disparity-mapping algorithms, which track and correlate the differences in positional space and movement between corresponding pixels in the left and right cameras. Knowing where disparities occur, Ocula tools apply corrections by warping, stretching and squeezing only the areas of an image that require treatment. Digital Domain had four Nuke artists working on the post production. Ocula tools used included the Vertical Aligner, to vertically align corresponding image features in each view and to eliminate any camera misalignment and ‘key-stoning’ effects. The Digital Domain artists also took advantage of the Paint and Rotoscoping plug-ins, knowing that a paint stroke or keyframed roto mask applied to one eye would be automatically generated and applied to the other. Digital Domain checked its work daily in a 3D screening room with shutter-synchronized glasses. “Those tools were absolutely vital to what we needed to do,” commented Barton. “We did a lot of disparity generation between plates. This helped to streamline the process, and, with regard to combining left- and right-eye images, ensured that everything in the composite happened to both sides equally and correctly.” “Tools like Nuke and Ocula, that enable you make adjustments and then view the results in real-time in stereo, are pretty cool,” he added.