Blind Director Tom Koh is helping to ramp up the second season of the hit Steven Spielberg produced Showtime series United States of Tara with a :55 promo that cleverly portrays the multiple personality disorder of main character Tara Gregson (Emmy Award-winner Toni Collette). Blind tapped into its own multiple personalities to produce the spot in a tight timeframe, handling all production, editorial and post/FX to create a flawless and riveting combination of live action and CG. Koh served as both director for all live action and creative directed for the entire post/FX process.
Out of the Box is a rapid-paced overview of Tara's mind, told through scenes contained within a rotating cube. As the cube revolves, various environments are revealed, each one holding one of the Tara's alters or representing a memory from her family life. Among the scenes, this colorful mix of live action and CG portrays Tara's alters: "Buck" the tough alpha male, "Alice" a June Cleaver-like vixen, "T" a mischievous adolescent flirt, and, finally, "Shoshanna" a new alter who will be introduced in this upcoming season.
Koh worked closely with the creative team at Showtime to flesh out the cube concept, a metaphor for Tara's own compartmentalization of her different personalities. "Showtime came to us with this idea and we figured out how to provide the concept with a story and bring it to life through animation," noted Koh. "We created 3D models of the different rooms in pre-vis and worked closely with the network creatives to ensure that we were building something that suited their vision."
The production process was a triumph of time and budget management. From the time Showtime approached Blind with the concept until the shoot date was a mere three weeks, a timeframe that had to include creative conception, pre-vis, and preparation for the technically complex sequence. Adding to the pressure, talent management mandated Koh would have only eight hours to shoot all 24 live-action sequences with nine total camera setups. At the nexus of budget and creative challenges, the studio had to figure out how to do a motion-control shoot without the time to work with a motion-control rig, an obstacle surmounted with extensive pre-vis and detailed preparation with the DP, VFX Supervisor, 1st AD and Line Producer. The post and edit processes faced similar time constraints.
To facilitate the rapid shoot, Blind minimized the props - beds, tables, couches - on the set, shooting all of the live action against a green screen and adding the bulk and detail into the scenes in post with flawless CG. The rooms themselves were built entirely in CG, and Koh's team lit, textured, and animated them through a combination of CINEMA 4D and Maya. All other post work was done in-house, including 3D animation, color correction, lighting and compositing with a combination of AfterEffects and Flame.
"This shoot was technically complex on many levels, and it is a great showcase of Tom's leadership, problem-solving ability, technical proficiency, and comfort overseeing both a live-action team as well as designers, animators and compositors in post," stated Blind EP David Kleinman. "Not only is Tom proficient in the technical realm, he's also incredibly creative, and this is clearly evident in the way he provided a narrative core for each of the rotating visuals."
The spot follows a recent package of DirecTV spots that Koh and the team at Blind similarly produced from concept to completion. "We received great feedback from the DirecTV campaigns and we're hopeful there's a similar reception this time," continued Kleinman.
"From the initial pitch through final delivery, Tom and everyone at Blind were wonderful collaborators who did an incredible job of bringing our vision to life - we couldn't be happier with the results," noted Showtime Sr. Creative Director Erik Friedman. "Tom's wonderful imagination and creativity combined with his complete understanding of the complexities of the shoot and all the post production details made him the perfect person to handle the difficult task of visually representing the complex nature of Tara's multiple personalities in a bold, striking and visually unforgettable way. This was our first project with Blind, but hopefully just the first of many."