a52 Undertakes Massive CG Effort to Launch FOX Sports 1 Network

In a show of technical expertise and efficiency, a52 rallied its highly skilled VFX team on an epic 1:30 spot for FOX Sports 1, America’s new sports network, launching Aug. 17. The spot, a slow-motion, on-the-field study of competition, perseverance and victory across the vast arenas of the modern sports landscape, was a triumph made possible by a52’s creation of a sophisticated production pipeline that integrated Massive with VRay to create more than 70 complex CG shots complementing the live-action footage of HSI Director Joseph Kahn.

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“This was a huge undertaking for a one-office studio, but we used that size to our benefit,” noted a52 EP Megan Meloth. “Where sprawling international outfits may resort to simply dumping extra work onto their colleagues, our smaller team forces us to discover new efficiencies and innovations, benefitting both our short-term work for each project and our long-term ability to take on huge, important projects for big-time clients. With a tight-knit, highly skilled team in constant communication, our hope is that potential clients view our size not as an obstacle, but as a reason to work with a52.”

The spot’s exceptionally intense VFX demands arose from the need to complete nearly all of the crowd shots, full stadium replacements, and a handful of racing scenes in CG. In order to complete this mammoth undertaking in just two weeks, a52 built tools that allowed them to set up placement, behaviors and paths for Massive agents in Maya, which could then be rendered in VRAY. The team also built over one thousand unique textures, clothes and props specific to each stadium.

“We are one of the very few studios using Massive with Chaos Group’s VRay renderer,” explains a52 Technical Director Chris Janney, who posted an attention-grabbing how-to on the Massive forum for other studios trying to integrate the tool with VRay. “We worked closely with our TD team and artists to integrate Massive into the a52 pipeline, finding the bottlenecks and solving the issues rather quickly. Chaos was also extremely helpful, with Vlad, one of the founders, assisting us personally to get the VRay-Massive bridge running predictably.”

The pipeline turned out to be so efficient that artists unfamiliar with Massive could place agents, set up sims and output VRay files for lighters to render with just a couple hours of tutoring. Once lighters got ahold of the sims, they worked within the VRay environment in Maya to render the passes that the compositing teams needed, including ambient occlusion (AO) passes, normals passes, shadow, matte, and others. The pipeline also gave lighters the reference of Massive agent placement in their lighting scenes because all the placement curves came from Maya, simplifying the lighting process. “The main idea was to create a pipeline where lighters would stay in the lighting tool set they are used to, with only a few, easy-to-use buttons added,” notes Janney.

The CG pipeline dovetailed beautifully into the 2D workflow as well. The compositing team led by Patrick Murphy and Andy Barrios used the CG elements to create an atmosphere and look to the film that definitely makes you feel like you’re in the action. Upon delivering the spot, Robert Gottlieb, FOX Sports SVP/Head of Marketing praised the work saying, “The team at a52 was unreal. Just a fantastic job and more importantly, it was a real pleasure to work with them all.”



Spot Title: “Happy Days”
Air Date: July 15, 2013

Client/Agency: FOX
SVP/Head of Marketing: Robert Gottlieb
SVP, On-Air Marketing: Bill Battin
Sr. Creative Director: Blake Danforth
Producer: Marilee Lorusso

Production Company: HSI
Director: Joseph Kahn
Director of Photography: Jeff Cronenweth
Live Action Producer: Linda Masse
Production Designer: Jason Hamilton

VFX: a52
VFX Supervisor: Patrick Murphy
Executive Producers: Megan Meloth, Jennifer Sofio Hall
VFX Producer: Kim Christensen
Lead Flame Artist: Patrick Murphy, Andy Barrios
Flame Artists: Stefan Gaillot, Paul Heagney, Jesse Monsour, Brendan Crockett, Matt Sousa, Cameron Coombs, Steve Wolff
Roto Artist: Cathy Shaw, Robert Shaw, Tiffany Germann, The Base
CG Supervisor: Kirk Shintani
Massive Technical Lead: Chris Janney
Massive Texture Lead: Andrew Romatz
Massive Artists: Adam Carter, Paulo de Almada
Dynamics: Vivian Su and Tom Connors
Animation: Cody Woodard
Lighting Leads: Andy Lewis, Max Ulichney, Ian Ruhfass
Lighters: Caleb Hecht, Wendy Pham
Modeling: Erin Clark
Data Integration Lead: Tim Donlevy
Tracking: Shelby Stong, Joe Chiechi, Sanjay Raghavendran
Matte Painter: Eric Mattson

Editorial Company: Rock Paper Scissors
Editor: Adam Petrofsky
Assistant Editor: Marjorie Sacks
Producer: Juliet Bater
Executive Producer: Carol Lynn Weaver

Telecine Company: a52
Colorist: Paul Yacono

Music Company: Elias
Executive Producer: Ann Haugen
Composer: Rusty Logsdon
Creative Directors: David Gold, Brent Nichols
Sound Design: Mic Brooling
Final Mix: Mic Brooling

About a52:

Established in 1997 as a destination for the very latest high-end photo-real visual effects, a52 has become home to the industry’s most innovative and talented artists. The boutique full-service studio in Santa Monica works in tandem with award-winning editorial company Rock Paper Scissors and design company Elastic, the latter of which was recently named one of Fast Company’s 10 Most Innovative Companies in Entertainment.

a52’s collaborations with top directors, agencies and clients include commercial work for Target, adidas, Chevy and Nike; VFX work on The Social Network; and comprehensive coloring and finishing for the first season of Netflix’s House of Cards a52’s seamlessly integrated visual effects have helped to earn it near-annual AICP Show recognitions, top honors at Annecy, an Outstanding Commercial Emmy, and honors from the ANDY, BDA, Belding, Clio, British Design and Art Direction, International Monitor, International Automotive Advertising, London International Advertising and One Show awards.

About FOX Sports 1:

FOX Sports 1 is a new national 24-hour multi-sport channel launching on August 17 in over 90 million homes, marking the largest sports network launch in history. FOX Sports 1, boasting nearly 5,000 hours of live event, news and original programming annually, has seven pillar sports: college basketball and football, MLB (in 2014), NASCAR, NFL (ancillary programs), soccer and UFC. College football is highlighted by regular season coverage of Big 12, Pac-12 and Conference USA games, while the college basketball spotlight shines on the Big East, Big 12, Pac-12 and Conference USA and the Big East men’s basketball tournament. Starting in 2014, select MLB League Championship Series and Division Series games as well as regular season games are coming to the channel. FOX Sports 1 also carries select NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events beginning in 2015; NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races; the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race; and all Speedweeks coverage, including Daytona 500 Qualifying, Sprint Unlimited at Daytona, (2014, 2017-22) the Budweiser Duel, and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NCWTS Practice and Qualifying sessions. Additionally, FOX Sports 1 carries NASCAR RaceDay, NASCAR Victory Lane and Race Hub shows. The channel also carries the world’s most prolific club soccer competitions, like UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and CONCACAF Champions League, along with the world’s oldest soccer competition, the FA Cup; plus CONCACAF Gold Cup; CONCACAF Qualifiers, EURO 2016 Qualifiers; 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers; FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015 and 2019; FIFA Men’s World Cup in 2018 and 2022. In addition to Saturday pay-per-view preliminary cards, Wednesday nights are home to the UFC with UFC TONIGHT, live events and THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER. FOX SPORTS LIVE is FOX Sports 1’s flagship 24/7 news, opinion and highlights program, providing around the clock coverage through regularly scheduled programs, hourly updates and an information rich ticker. Original programs include: FOX FOOTBALL DAILY, CROWD GOES WILD, a new live sports entertainment talk show hosted by Regis Philbin; and the groundbreaking BEING: documentary franchise. FOX Sports GO, a groundbreaking authenticated mobile sports experience for iPhone, iPad, Android devices and the web, serves as the channel’s digital extension. The app offers more than 1,100 live games and events from cross FOX Sports, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports’ 22 regional sports networks, as well as scores, highlights, news, stats and analysis. For more information visit www.FOXSports.com/FOXSports1.