To create a new stereo 3D spot that would live up to Sony's tagline for its 3D home entertainment products, "Don't just watch. Feel," Grey London and Spy Films tapped the masters of complex visuals at Digital Domain. The studio worked with director Arev Manoukian to create "2 Worlds," a 60 second spot that features movie-scale visual effects and handles stereo 3D artfully to shatter the barrier between story and audience.
Based on the concept of Manoukian's acclaimed short film "Nuit Blanche," "2 Worlds" takes the lightning-strike feeling of love at first sight and brings it into the 3D realm, following a young man and woman as they're drawn inevitably together while the physical world shatters around them in deference to the power of the moment.
"The visual effects on this spot are as complex and intricate as any you'll see in major feature films," said Ed Ulbrich, EVP of Digital Domain and President of Mothership. "We had to pull out all of the stops to create a piece that highlights stereo 3D artfully, without being gimmicky. It was a challenging project."
"We treated this spot as an art piece and did a lot of up-front planning to blend CG, live action and stereo," said Digital Domain Visual Effects Supervisor Richard Morton, who was brought into the process in its early stages to help plan the stereo shoot and overall creation. "Arev's story was perfect for this medium. It has cityscapes where you can see miles down the road. The office and library are big, expansive rooms with characters in the foreground. There was a lot of opportunity to play with depth. The woman walks through a glass window and it shatters towards the audience -- that's a great moment to showcase in 3D. It's also slow motion, so you can really see what's happening."
To create the piece, Digital Domain worked with Manoukian to pre-visualize every shot. They held a five-day stereo shoot to capture the actors and elements on green screen using a high-speed camera. They also captured most of the smoke, sparks and debris effects practically in stereo - even shooting books out of a cannon to capture reference footage. This was tricky, Morton explained, because with cameras shooting at a high frame rate they tended to drift out of sync and had to be resynced later.
Aside from the actors and some elements and effects, all of the backgrounds in the spot were created digitally - even the complex library and office interiors. Digital Domain artists then faced the challenge of integrating CG and practical stereo elements. "We had hundreds of thousands of practical effects that we had to review individually to get the right performances," said Morton. "You can't art direct real smoke."
The team layered CG smoke around the live action smoke billowing low along the sidewalks, matching it precisely, and added CG sparks to a practical bulb shattering behind the man's head as he walks through the wall and into the rollicking street. Matching the speed of the CG cars and the position of the CG lighting with the speed of the live-action actors walking in slow motion was supremely difficult. In one of the spot's most striking shots, the woman walking through shattering glass with her face in closeup, Digital Domain even hand-animated thousands of pieces of glass to enable Manoukian to art direct each one individually.
"When you add the stereo to the mix things get a whole lot more complicated," said Morton. The traditional 'cheats' to integrate practical effects go out the window. You can't rotate or mix and match elements. Everything has to be horizontally aligned. We used every tool and technique we possibly could to get the execution right."