Tag Archives: graphics

Quick Chat: FOM’s Adam Espinoza on DirecTV graphics campaign

By Randi Altman

Denver-based creative brand firm Friends of Mine (FOM) recently completed a graphics package for DirecTV Latin America that they had been working on for almost a year. The campaign, which first aired at the start of the 2017/2018 soccer season in August, has been airing on DirecTV’s Latin American network since then.

In addition to providing the graphics packages that ran on DirecTV Sports throughout the European Football League seasons (in Spain, England and France), FOM is currently creating graphics that will promote the World Cup games, set to take place between June 14 and July 15 in Russia.

Adam Espinoza

We reached out to FOM’s co-founder and creative director, Adam Espinoza, to find out more.

How early did you get involved in the piece? How much input did you have?
We were invited to the RFP process two months before the season started. We fully developed the look and concept from their written creative brief and objectives. We had complete input on the direction and execution.

What was it the client wanted to accomplish, and what did you suggest? 
The client wanted to convey the excitement of soccer throughout the season. There were two objectives: highlight the exclusive benefits of DirectTV for its subscribers while at the same time showing footage of goals and celebrations from the best players and teams in the world. We suggested the idea of intersections and digital energy.

Why did you think the visuals you created told the story the client needed? 
The digital energy graphics created a kinetic movement inherent in the sport while connecting the players around the league. The intersections concept helped to integrate the world of soccer seamlessly with DirecTV’s message.

What exactly did you provide services-wise on the piece? 
Conceptual design, art direction, 2D and 3D animation and video editing

What gear/tools did you use for each of those services? 
Our secret sauce along with Cinema 4D, Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects and Adobe Illustrator.

What was the most challenging part of the process?
Evolving the look from month to month throughout the season and building to the climatic finals, while still staying true to the original concept.

What’s was your favorite part of the process?
Being able to fine tune a concept over such a stretch of time.

Utopic editor Suzie Moore on cutting Nissan film for different screens

Utopic editor Suzie Moore has been tasked with cutting a two-minute film for Nissan called Red Thread, out of agency inVNT, that plays on large screens at Worldwide Auto Shows in six cities across the globe. Each show offers a different stage, screen size and shape. For example, the screen in Frankfurt is rectangular while at the Detroit show the screen is 6K and wraps around.

This is Moore’s third season working on the film, the purpose of which is to grab attention at an event packed with competing auto manufacturers revealing concept cars and new technologies to the press. The prepro started in August 2015 and delivery of content began at the end of September and will run through April 2016. Moore and her team are on call day and night throughout the project to trouble shoot and make sure the film plays as expected in each city.

Chicago-based Utopic’s job is shepherding the large-screen format film from prepro to graphics to edit. Moore and team will be in constant contact with the Nissan production teams in all six cities — Frankfurt, Tokyo, Detroit, Geneva, New York and Beijing.

We reached out to editor Moore to find out more about the project, her work and the specific challenges of a project like this one.

What was the project shot on, who shot it and who directed?
We received finished/generic masters for the spots that we used in the film. When the film features executives speaking about the cars, it was typically shot on Red at 4K and directed by the creatives from InVNT.

Interviews were filmed at Nissan’s corporate offices in Japan with the help of TBWA/Hakuhodo. They were also shot in La Jolla, California, at the Nissan Design Center and in various locations in Europe and South America with the help of the Nissan Newsroom team. We source content/commercial spots from all over the world. It’s interesting to see how the brand is represented in South Africa, China, Russia and Brazil.

What did you use for the edit and can you talk about resolutions?
I use Adobe Premiere Pro. It’s the perfect program for this material because I set my sequence setting to whatever size the screen is. For example, the Detroit screen is 5760×896 — so long and thin. Coming from the standard 16×9 rectangle, this is a totally different window, which necessitates a different process. Especially because the material that we are using is 16×9. So the challenge is taking all these parts and making them into a new whole while maintaining the integrity of the brand story that we are telling for each specific region.

How did you work with the client on the edit? Were you mostly left alone to do the edit or was the client with you?
We’re on our own a lot. The agency comes in for a few days in August when we brainstorm. We then have a kickoff for each show about six weeks out, followed by conference calls and postings. The creative/account teams for InVNT are always on the move. When we supervised one of the interview shoots, the shoot was in Japan, the creative was in Russia, the producer was in Detroit, and I was in Chicago. The global reach that this project has is one of the reasons why I love it.

What were the challenges of working on a project of this scale?
As mentioned above, while I do love the global reach, the time zones present a challenge. Japan is 14 hours ahead, so that shoot I mentioned was at 4am for me (6pm Japan).

For the Sao Paulo video last year, we collaborated with a CG team in Japan. This also presented a language barrier. I would get emails first in Japanese, then we would have a translator translate.

The biggest challenge though, by far, is the edit itself. Making 16×9 footage fill a 6K screen without blowing it up, then delivering the final piece in puzzle pieces to be reassembled on site because the screen is different every for show — so it’s never the same video twice. It might have similar elements, but it’s always changing, so it’s a challenge to keep evolving it and making it better and better each time.

The edit at times is layers upon layers and nests within nests. I feel like sometimes I hit the “end of the equation.” Like what I want to accomplish pushes the program to its limit. It’s a different kind of editing… very process driven. The creativity comes once I figure out the process for the edit.

What kinds of VFX were involved and how many shots?
We decide on the graphic treatment at the beginning of each year in August. We typically have a mix of 2D and 3D elements that we use which are created in Maxon Cinema 4D and Adobe After Effects. Last year the concept was based on the lines of the car, so we used 3D strokes and lens flares along with some 3D shape elements. This year, it’s 3D tendrils and chevrons. So these graphics elements open and close the film and are used as transition moments throughout.

Other credits on the film include Yessian, which provided sound design, music and audio post.

Review: Wacom Cintiq Companion 2

A video editor puts this tablet to the test

By Brady Betzel

If you’ve ever used a Wacom Intuos or Cintiq tablet, then you know how efficient they can make your workflow, regardless of your job title. I’m a video editor, and after using a Wacom Intuos 5 I immediately noticed less wrist pain when compared to using a mouse.

Wacom makes very high-quality products that do not disappoint. The Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 is a tablet with the power of a laptop, coupled with the precision of the company’s famous line of pen tablets. Whether you’re an illustrator, a visual effects artist or even an editor, you should check out this tablet.

Under the Hood
While there are multiple configurations of the Wacom Cintiq Companion 2, I will be reviewing only the version I received to test. It’s loaded with the Intel i7 dual core (four thread) 3.1GHz processor, 8GB of DDR3 memory, 256GB SSD Toshiba hard drive and Intel Iris Graphics 5100 graphics card. It comes pre-loaded with Windows 8.1 Pro (if you purchase one with an i3/i5 processor it comes Windows 8.1 standard). This configuration retails for $1,999.95.


Other configurations run from $1,299.95 all the way up to $2,499.95. In addition, the Companion 2 also comes with a carrying case, stand, the Pro Pen (my favorite accessory), an AC adapter and the Cintiq Connect cable. There is a set of six express keys that I don’t often use — except when doing some Photoshop work — but they are programmable and they are there. Around the outside you get three USB 3.0 ports, a display port,a microSD card slot and a headphone port.

I really liked Wacom’s Cintiq Companion. I thought it was great, but there were a few things I felt could be improved: the stand; the power supply, which was cumbersome and had many problems (Google it); and the ability to use it just like a normal Cintiq when connected to another computer

With the Companion 2, Wacom has listened to what its customers wanted. They addressed the bad power supply connection, although the power connection still hangs off the side. Wacom also made a great improvement — allowing the Companion to be used in conjunction with the Cintiq Connect Cable and perform the same functions as its famous cousin the Cintiq. To use this function, however, you must download the drivers to the computer you want to use the Companion with, as well as have a computer with HDMI out and USB ports.

Unfortunately one of my biggest problems with the Companion is the stand and that has not changed. While it’s not a deal breaker, I find it cumbersome and, in my opinion, should have been built-in, much like the Microsoft Surface.

Testing it Out
Once I got the stand attached, the computer turned on fast, and within five seconds I was up and ready to run. If you haven’t used Windows before, don’t worry. It comes loaded with Windows 8.1 Pro and recently has been suggesting that I upgrade to Windows 10. If you are thinking about upgrading to Windows 10, I would be careful because currently many pro apps are not yet certified.

I immediately downloaded the Adobe CC Suite, specifically After Effects and Premiere. When using this tablet, I wanted to concentrate on its video capabilities as opposed to its well-known illustration abilities. As most reviews and articles will tell you, the Companion 2 has 2,048 levels of sensitivity, as well as tilt and multi-touch offerings.

Not long after launching After Effects and Premiere I discovered that I really like to use touch over the Pro Pen for the most part, which is a true testament to Adobe and the improvements they have made to their apps for touch. The exception came when I was using bezier curves, masks or adjusting color curves. I could not get the same level of accuracy as I do with the pen.

Nonetheless, using the CIntiq Companion 2 as a video editor and effects machine proved to be a great experience — including the fact that I was able to use Video CoPilot’s Element 3D without a problem. It should also be noted that there will be some hiccups when editing multiple video layers; you will need way more memory and a dedicated graphics card. This brings up another point: technically the Cintiq Companion 2 cannot be upgraded, so if you order the 8GB memory version, that’s it. My advice would be to spend a little more money and max it out as much as you can, your renders will thank you.

IMG_5336 IMG_5338

I tested the machine with an XDCAM 50 MOV file. The XDCAM codec is a notoriously processor-intensive codec that gives even the largest Mac Pro or HP z840 a run for their compression money. The Companion stayed in the race nicely. I compressed the nine-minute, 11.2GB XDCAM MOV using Adobe Media Encoder, compressing to the YouTube 1080p preset and harnessing the OpenCL acceleration in 12 minutes and 52 seconds — with OpenCL turned off, and using only the software acceleration, it took 11 min 37 seconds. It definitely kept up with rough realtime encoding, but with 16GB of DDR3 we may have seen a slightly faster time.

Summing Up
If you have the money and/or the need for Wacom’s high precision and craftsmanship, the Cintiq Companion 2 is the mobile Cintiq for you. In addition to the precision, the Companion 2 boasts a QHD screen with a resolution of 2560×1440 (an aspect ratio of 1.778 or 16:9) and a color gamut of 72 percent NTSC. While this isn’t the fastest tablet on the market, you will not find one with the same precision and quality that Wacom has become famous for.

I leave you with these highlights: the Companion 2 offers 2,048 levels of sensitivity with the Pro Pen; the Cintiq Connect Cable allows you to use the Companion like a standard Cintiq; and it offers QHD 2650×1440 screen resolution.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood. Previously, he was editing The Real World at Bunim-Murray Productions. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.

King and Country gets new MD of network, brand work

Santa Monica-based King and Country, a live-action production company with an emphasis on design and effects, has hired industry vet Lisa Miller as managing director of Networks & Brands. The appointment comes as King and Country continues to widen its footprint in the entertainment marketing business.

Prior to joining King and Country, Miller was VP of integrated marketing at LA-based entertainment creative agency mOcean, where she spent the last six years. Miller entered the media industry working in news at ABC and Fox affiliates. She spent a few years working with various production, design and editorial companies as a producer. In 2002, she joined Citizen Pictures, a Denver-based broadcast and commercial production company, as an executive producer before being promoted to senior executive producer.

She has worked on high-profile 360-degree campaigns, network rebrands, show launches and advertising for broadcast clients including ABC, CBS, Discovery Communications, Dish Network, Scripps Networks and Turner Broadcasting. She was also involved in the 10th Anniversary Campaign for Ellen and Warner Brothers Television, which won a Daytime Emmy.

“For years, I’ve been aware of King and Country’s extraordinary ability to integrate live-action with stellar design and effects,” says Miller. “The level of detail that they apply to a project from the conceptual phase through execution was a major draw for me. Beautiful imagery and sound strategy are certainly critical to a campaign’s success, but the ability to properly execute every stage of a project in a way that makes our clients feel completely supported and confident is equally important. I truly believe that King and Country strikes that balance perfectly.”

The company recently completed projects for Fox Sports, Golf Channel, History Channel, NBC and Travel Channel, to name a few.


Maxon intros next-gen Cinema 4D

Maxon has updated its 3D motion graphics, visual effects, visualization, painting and rendering software Cinema 4D to Release 16. Some of the new features in this newest version include a modeling PolyPen “super-tool,” a motion tracker for easily integrating 3D content within live footage and a Reflectance material channel that allows for multi-layered reflections and specularity.

The company will be at Siggraph next week with the new version and it’s scheduled to ship in September.

CINEMA_4D_R16_Packshot_Range_Books_Left_RGB copy

Key highlights include:
Motion Tracker – This offers fast and seamless integration of 3D elements into real-world footage. So footage can be tracked automatically or manually, and aligned to the 3D environment using position, vector and planar constraints.

Interaction Tag – This gives users control over 3D objects and works with the new Tweak mode to provide information on object movement and highlighting. Suited for technical directors and character riggers, the tag reports all mouse interaction and allows object control via XPresso, COFFEE or Python.

PolyPen – With this tool users can paint polygons and polish points as well as easily move, clone, cut and weld points and edges of 3D models. You can even re-topologize complex meshes. Enable snapping for greater precision or to snap to a surface.

Bevel Deformer – The Bevel toolset in Cinema 4D can now be applied nondestructively to entire objects or specific selection sets. Users can also animate and adjust bevel attributes to create all new effects.

Sculpting – R16 offers many improvements and dynamic features to sculpt with precision and expand the overall modeling toolset. The new Select tool gives users access to powerful symmetry and fill options to define point and polygon selections on any editable object. Additional features give users more control and flexibility for sculpting details on parametric objects, creating curves, defining masks, stamps and stencils, as well as tools for users to create their own sculpt brushes and more.

Other modeling features in R16 include an all-new Cogwheel spline primitive to generate involute and ratchet gears; a new Mesh Check tool to evaluate the integrity of a polygonal mesh; Deformer Falloff options and Cap enhancements to easily add textures to the caps of MoText, Extrude, Loft, Lathe and Sweep objects.

Reflectance Channel (main image) – This provides more control over reflections and specularity within a single new channel. Features include the ability to build-up multiple layers for complex surfaces such as metallic car paint, woven cloth surfaces, and options to render separate multi-pass layers for each reflection layer to achieve higher quality realistic imagery.

New Render Engine for Hair & Sketch – A completely new unified effects render engine allows artists to seamlessly raytrace Hair and Sketch lines within the same render pass to give users higher quality results in a fraction of the time.


Rendered image

Team Render, introduced by Maxon in 2013, features many new enhancements including a client-server architecture allowing users to control all the render jobs for a studio via a browser.

Other Workflow Features/Updates
Content Library – Completely re-organized and optimized for Release 16, the preset library contains custom made solutions with specific target groups in mind. New house and stair generators, as well as modular doors and windows have been added for architectural visualizers. Product and advertising designers can take advantage of a powerful tool to animate the folding of die-cut packaging, as well as modular bottles, tubes and boxes. Motion designers will enjoy the addition of high-quality models made for MoGraph, preset title animations and interactive chart templates.

Exchange/Pipeline Support – Users can now exchange assets throughout the production pipeline more reliably in R16 with support for the most current versions of FBX and Alembic.

Solo Button – Offers artists a production-friendly solution to isolate individual objects and hierarchies for refinement when modeling. Soloing also speeds up the viewport performance for improved workflow on massive scenes.

Annotations – Tag specific objects, clones or points in any scene with annotations that appear directly in view for a dependable solution to reference online pre-production materials, target areas of a scene for enhancement, and more.

UV Peeler – An effective means to quickly unwrap the UV’s of cylindrical objects for optimized texturing.

Review: Boris FX: Boris Continuum Complete V.9

By Brady Betzel

These days there are only a few one-size fits all plug-in packages worth the price of admission, and unfortunately when working on a new project it’s pretty hard to convince the line producer that you need more than one package.

Usually when an editor asks for Boris Continuum Complete (BCC), GenArt’s Sapphire, or even the lower-priced Red Giant Universe, the line producer will laugh a little when they see the price tags (multiplied by the amount of systems it would have to go on). Then, if you are lucky, they may even say, “Ok, choose one.”

So in this review I chose one: I will take a look at a couple of the latest updates to Boris Continuum Complete V.9’s plug-in library as well as give insights into whether BCC is right for your situation. I will be referring to both the Adobe After Effects/Premiere plug-in as well as the Continue reading

At almost 20 years old, Wildchild is in growth mode

By Randi Altman

New York-based editing and post house Wildchild recently celebrated its 19th anniversary, which is fairly remarkable for an independently owned studio in today’s economic climate and with the changes that have occurred in our industry over recent years.

So we checked in with editor/owner Yvette Piñeyro to get a feel for where Wildchild is headed and how she has remained so successful in a very competitive space, and in a very competitive city.

Continue reading

RucksackNY’s path to success

By Randi Altman

New York — RuckSackNY, which opened in 2011, has been busy out of the gate with work for companies like Chase, American Express and Chevron. This steady flow of projects has also led to a recent expansion for the creative studio.

RuckSackNY (http://rucksackny.com) is run by Fred Ruckel and his wife Natasha, both Continue reading