Nissan Heisman House: “Tebow’s Dream”

ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: The Mill

Nissan’s annual Heisman House spots featured something special for 2016. Along with the usual round of comedic antics, this year featured a special Tim Tebow music video.

The song itself is something akin to a country rock-rap song with an occasional millennial whoop to punctuate itself. The visuals are literally a performance in the clouds. I’m not sure how the creatives involved pitched this one, but it sure revels in its ridiculous premise.

Workwise, I have to admit, it was a lot of good fun. The spot was intended to look a little cheesy, so of course, I leaned into that aspect with tongue firmly planted in cheek. And although not intended as the slick, classy comp job, these shots did prove to have their own complications. They still had to look good, while intentionally looking bad.

Most of the plates had limited-to-no greenscreen backing. And there were no tracking markers to help align the elements. So quite a bit of push and shove had to be utilized to get everything working together.

All of the cloudscapes were assembled in Flame, cobbled together from various stock footage, and repurposed assets from previous projects. Thanks to the alligator paint job on the Nissan Armada, there was no car clean-up or beauty needed. But Tebow did need some glimmer in his eye.

Myself another Flame Artist handled all of these shots.

Jack Ü: “To Ü” feat. AlunaGeorge

ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: The Mill
PRODUCTION CO: Park Pictures

These days, I always welcome a music video, when, on the off chance, it actually does enter my domain. I have a long history with the music industry, albeit at a much earlier stage in my career, prior to all this Flame stuff. Anyway, I don’t always get to work on these videos, due to my bookings leaning more and more into commercials and online media. But every now and then, one comes along, and the nostalgia kicks in.

This particular video from Jack Ü, a.k.a. Diplo and Skrillex, doesn’t conjure the sound of those days of old. But the spirit still remains, offering four minutes of naturistic documentary-styled photography, an organically assembled visual flow, and an impressionistic collage of young romance.

Workwise, this wasn’t a particularly difficult project, essentially one long conform, featuring some additional color grading, and a little bit of clean-up and/or beauty. Fairly straightforward. But like I said, welcome nonetheless.

I should also add that I had the pleasure of 2D supervising an earlier commercial effort with director AJ Rojas, who’s enthusiasm and openness to the artform made for an enjoyable experience.

Full Credits

MSMR: “Hurricane”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
CLIENT: Columbia Records
DIRECTOR: Luke Gilford

Director Luke Gilford is one of those young and gifted talents that actually has a visual style all his own. Previously, I’ve worked with him on a few interesting commercial spots. But it wasn’t until MS MR’s video for “Hurricane” that I really realized what he was capable of.

Designed to provoke reactions through abstract imagery, the video evolves like a futuristic fashion shoot through a collage of “human” imagery, with blue skinned women, growing tattooed scalps, and multi-eyed beauties, to name a few. The imagery ranges from bizarre, grotesque, striking, surreal, and gorgeous.

My contributions tended to be on the bizarre and striking, adding additional eyes to a woman’s cheeks for multiple shots, and augmenting tattooed scales on a woman’s head that grow like spilled ink on paper. I also contributed some minimal beauty work to various shots, as the director preferred to keep the imagery pure rather than perfect.

Boys Noize: “What You Want”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
DIRECTOR: Patrick Jean & Sebastien Loghman

Set to the electro-beats of Boys Noize, this clever superhero-inspired music video was directed by French duo Patrick Jean & Sebastien Logham. I never met Sebastien. But I did have the pleasure of working in a collaborative capacity with Patrick, who also handled a number of visual effects shots.

Primarily, I color-graded the entire video, approx. 130 shots, designing the look for each of the various sequences – the neighborhood, the mover, the cheerleaders, the church interior, etc.

Of these, I contributed additional effects work to the entire church sequence, from the moment Normal Guy enters the cathedral sanctuary to his transformation into a superhero.

Visual effects included adding all the stained glass windows to the interior, surrounding the priest in a transcendental aura, and creating Normal Guy’s ascension to superhero status, with glowing crystals and heavenly streaks of light.

Arianna & Pitbull: “Sexy People” (a.k.a. The Fiat Song)

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Luma Pictures
AGENCY: The Richard’s Group

An Italian songstress I’d never heard of. A Cuban rapper named after a canine. An abundance of ridiculously fit women with embarrassingly tight swimsuits. Topless mermaids. Something resembling a spy plot. An armada of Fiat 500s that drive both underwater and on the ocean surface. The ultimate beach dance party. And of course, Charlie Sheen.

Every now and then, I get to work on a project that’s batshit nuts. And with this one, I got to participate in the insanity three times – in English, Italian, and Spanish – because, of course, every language needs an entirely different edit with entirely different takes.

So … Three conforms, with three times the beauty work, three times the sky replacements, three times the ocean clean-up and land removal, and three times the dancing fish and floating Fiats of an entirely CG underwater kingdom. You get the general idea.

On the plus side, the end result does put a smile on my face. And I have to say, even though I can’t stand listening to the song, it does sound best in her native Italian.

For each of these videos, I worked with fellow Flame artist Chris DeCristo.

American Idol: “2012 Ford Music Challenge”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Ntropic
AGENCY: Team Detroit
DIRECTOR: P.R. Brown & Ethan Lader

12 weeks.  12 music videos.  Each custom-themed.  Shoot on Sunday.  Edit on Monday-Tuesday. Compositing and post on Tuesday-Wednesday.  Finish and deliver on Wednesday night.

That’s the production schedule for “American Idol” and Ford’s fourth annual “Music Video Challenge.” To say it’s a short turnaround is a bit of an understatement.

I worked on 8 of the 12 weeks, with Lead Flame Artist MB Emigh, as well as additional Flame Aritsts Chris Moore, Chris DeCristo, and Rob Hubbard.  Each week was different, depending on the theme: fairy tale, zodiac, ghosts, school, magic, giants, etc.

One week would necessitate heavy greenscreen compositing, making the Idols look like giants; the next week creating stylized treatments, transforming the Idols into astrological signs or magical fantasy figures. In short, a lot of hard work with no time, lots of creativity, and a reliance on pretty much every trick in the book.

Miley Cyrus: “Can’t Be Tamed”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor / Matte Painter
VENDOR: Digital Domain
CLIENT: Hollywood Records
DIRECTOR: Robert Hales

In all my years, I never imagined myself working on a Miley Cyrus video – let alone the one that would mark the end of Hannah Montana wholesome goodness, instead promising future days of twerking and tongue-wagging.

Allegedly inspired by a dream, Miley’s wild rumpus through a museum of natural history features the former Disney poster girl in a provocative bird costume, escaping her cage and running wild like a Cirque du Soleil production possessed by Britney Spears.

Crammed into an aggressive two week post schedule, all compositing was done entirely in Flame.

I handled all of the matte paintings for the wide shots, creating wall extensions, ceiling arches and lighting for the museum interior, as well as capping the practical cage with a curtained dome.

Also, I built out all the feathered backgrounds for the peacock sequence, worked on a few CG wing comps, and tackled all the clean-up, and half the beauty work, of which there was more than you’d expect.

Selena Gomez (Sears Arrive Air Band): “I’m Gonna Arrive”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor

To promote their Fall ’09 school fashions, Sears chose not to go” back” to school. They chose to “arrive.”

“I’m Gonna Arrive” was the defining slogan for this ambitious campaign, focused on the freedom and excitement of starting the school year in style.

And arrive they did, enlisting child star Selena Gomez, as well as a number of other talented kids, to create a music video centered completely around a super-choreographed youth-oriented “air-band.”

Themed with four musical genres – rock, hip-hop, skater, and pop – the video features these kids dancing, lip-syncing, and playing their favorite “air” instruments.

My contributions are primarily for the opening rock section, accomplished entirely in 2D with Flame, compositing cityscapes, sky and atmosphere, and fireworks behind greenscreen rooftop dance footage.

I also aided in the execution of the clothes-changing transition from school yard to rooftop, as well as did some CG comp work on the backgrounds for the hip-hop and pop sections.

Green Day: “Know Your Enemy”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Motion Theory
CLIENT: Warner / Reprise
DIRECTOR: Mathew Cullen

At the time, Green Day’s “Know Your Enemy” was the band’s first new material in more than five years. Thus, the music video needed to make an immediate and lasting impression – i.e. it had to kick-ass.

Known for their powerhouse performances, the live element of the video was a given. Director Mathew Cullen brought the concept of a “city under lockdown” to the table, where the band’s performance would be surrounded by ever-encroaching and oppressive prison imagery – guard towers, helicopters, walls, barb wire, etc.

My role focused on a number of tasks. I composited a couple of hero city-as-prison shots, as well as all the full-color fire shots, blending multiple plates to create maximum impact.

I also handled all the beauty work, making the band look younger and more vibrant than the night shoot would allow. And I tackled a number of location clean-ups, removing unwanted elements, signage, etc. that detracted from the over-arching dystopian concept.

Black Eyed Peas: “Boom Boom Pow”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Motion Theory
CLIENT: Interscope Records
DIRECTOR: Mathew Cullen & Mark Kudsi

When I started work on this video, the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” was already sitting comfortably at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. Due to an unofficial leak, the song found it’s way to the internet well-before its scheduled debut. And needless-to-say, it’s popularity exploded. Hence, the band wanted a slick groundbreaking video, as soon as was deemed creatively possible.

To say the visual interpretation of “Boom Boom Pow” had a lot to live up to was a bit of an understatement.

Thematically, the video is all about transforming negative energy into positivity – i.e. the machine gun into a trumpet, the toxic barrel into a drum kit, the band into streaking light NRG, etc.

As Flame Artist, my role was primarily color grading and beauty work on all the band footage – i.e. making Fergie and co. look better than ever. Also, I did a fair bit of work on the digital energy glitch effects that appear throughout their performance.