Microsoft Studios | Epic Games: “Gears of War 3: Walls of Brotherhood”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Digital Domain
CLIENT: Microsoft Studios | Epic Games
DIRECTOR: Aladino Debert

“Walls of Brotherhood” consists of six spots, each depicting a different stage of destruction of a large triangular walled object. As explosions occur, an etched mural depicting the Gears of War story is revealed behind the debris. The above featured clip is a compilation of highlights from all six spots.

The primary task was to augment or completely replace the murals being revealed. Per client critique, plate photography explosions were great, but the murals beneath them didn’t read as effectively as intended.

This posed a few unique challenges. To replace the murals behind the blank walls, a number of keying and color correction techniques were implemented to create a convincing composite. For the murals exploding to reveal the statues, additional warping, hand-tracks, and g-masks were utilized to shatter the newly replaced murals.

Additionally, parallax was added to static shots, and unwanted exploding debris was removed.

Myself and Jeff Heusser contributed to 5 of these spots. Lisa Tomei worked on the exploding logo at the end of the featured compilation, which chronologically was the campaign’s first spot.

Ubisoft: “Brothers in Arms: Furious 4”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Digital Domain
CLIENT: Ubisoft
DIRECTOR: Aladino Debert

During my latter days at Digital Domain, I worked on a number of game cinematics, E3 trailers, and promotional spots.

The studio just inherited Robert Zemeckis’ mo-cap stage in Playa Vista, which was perfect for creating game-related content. And their internal production company Mothership boasted a roster of directors that were looking to branch out from commercial work. Cinematics and long-form trailers proved am appealing medium for broader storytelling.

This brings us to one of their earlier efforts, “Brothers in Arms: Furious 4,” directed by longtime VFX supervisor and Mothership member Aladino Debert. This ultraviolent, WWII fantasy assumed a Tarantino-flavored take on killing Nazis.

At the time, it was created as an announcement trailer for E3. But apparently, after the gaming conference, it was deemed a little too close to Tarantino’s wartime fantasy “Inglorious Bastards,” and was consequently changed quite a bit from what you see here.

History aside, the trailer itself was tons of fun to work on, albeit sometimes pretty eye-opening in its irreverent take on wartime vengeance. All of the CG was comp’d in Nuke by a talented roster of artistd. I had the opportunity to tackle a couple of shots in Flame, although most of my contributions were touch-ups and flourishes that occurred on top of Nuke comps.

I also managed the conform, handled all animated titling, treated the overall style and grade, and crafted additional explosive and flash effects in 2D.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta: “Strong for Life”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Digital Domain
CLIENT: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
DIRECTOR: David Rosenbaum

As metaphor for the benefits of playtime, this PSA features giant-sized children engaged in a game of hide-and-seek throughout the streets of Atlanta.

This is one of those spots where I was brought in late in the schedule to help finish. As such, I only worked on a couple of shots, primarily with kids sitting on a rooftop, and children chasing each other down streets.

The primary challenge was integrating the greenscreen plates of normal-sized children into city footage to make them feel as if they were the size of buildings. Much of this was achieved with 2D re-lighting and interactive shadows, along with typical comp needs such as DOF, color, and the proper keys, edges, and holdouts.


ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Digital Domain
CLIENT: Marvel Entertainment
DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branaugh

My contribution to Marvel Entertainment’s “Thor” consisted of a brief yet significant flashback sequence, depicting mischievous brother Loki’s origins as a Frost Giant baby discovered by King Odin.

Originally, the shots were intended to be quick color corrections to depict the Frost Giant baby, the skin color of which is blue. But following a late redesign of the sequence, Marvel requested that the baby also feature the signature Frost Giant scarification on its body and head.

With no time in the schedule for a full CG solution, the sequence was turned over to Flame for a 2D fix. Myself, along with Sam Edwards, worked on these shots, primarily relying on 2D projections and geometry object tracks to matchmove the scarification to the baby’s smooth jiggling flesh. Also, long hours of hand-tracking and bicubic warping factored heavily into the solution.

Technical challenges included object tracking on multiple axes without markers, as well as close-up handheld photography, offering no distinct environmental or body features to aid in the tracking.

Dr. Pepper: “Thor”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Digital Domain
CLIENT: Dr. Pepper

This Dr. Pepper spot was first conceived for the Super Bowl, but through the powers-that-be, instead revised to be a cross-promotion to coincide with the May release of Marvel’s “Thor.”

As such, the spot benefited from better footage to choose from, as many FX shots from the film had yet-to-be completed, improved integration with the film (the Destroyer’s fire beam was originally a lightning bolt from Thor), and an opportunity to further revise the sky replacements and storm composites.

I handled the Flame duties, while compositors Sven Dreesback and Arthur Argote took on a majority of the Nuke work.

My primary Flame tasks were removal of unwanted awning poles, street lights, and trees, plate blending for multiple takes of Stan Lee, minor beauty work on Lee, and the standard keeping of the conform. I also handled some Nuke shots, further refining composite edges of talent for sky replacements, as well as updated comps to accommodate new takes.

Dodge Charger: “The Future of Driving”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Digital Domain
DIRECTOR: Carl Erik Rinsch

Originally slotted for Super Bowl 2011, this Dodge commercial ultimately found its way to the internet a few months later. A long colorful journey precedes its cancellation. But for all practical purposes, let’s just say that the powers-that-be simply just didn’t get it.

Designed as a counterpoint to contemporary car conveniences, the spot depicts the Charger as a no-frills driving machine. This is achieved through an absurdist extrapolation of technology and the future, where an automated lifestyle doesn’t always lead to a satisfactory one.

A number of compositors worked on this spot, but my contributions primarily consisted of futuristic apartment interiors (the clothes changing device, the automated door handle), some garage clean-up (rig and greenscreen removals), and the beautifying of all of the running car footage (car and street clean-up, color grading). I also contributed some interior car robot comps, particularly focused on the animated face.

Additionally, I managed the conform, accommodating all editorial changes, which doesn’t seem like much … unless you take into consideration that the edit was never truly “locked,” and on delivery day, we were receiving edit v84 from the agency.

Sony Interactive Entertainment | Guerrilla Games: “Killzone 3”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Digital Domain
CLIENT: Sony Interactive Entertainment | Guerrilla Games
DIRECTOR: Vernon Wilbert

This cinematic was one of my earliest forays into video game production. I was mainly a Flame conform artist for this portion of the wartime sci-fi epic “Killzone 3.” But considering its complexity in storytelling and pacing, I also served a bit on the editorial side. Plus, the most interesting challenge for me was that the entire cinematic was designed and rendered for stereoscopic viewing. That’s 3D to you and me.

At the time, assembling a 3D conform and aiding in the design of depth was a completely new territory in my experience. The industry was still undergoing a 3D renaissance, with new digital techniques and a bit of a wild west attitude. So a lot of what I did involved a try-anything approach, with full reign to experiment and innovate. Without question, that was fun.

Although commonplace today, back then, I had a fair-sized learning curve with color grading, stylistic treatments, and 2D effects work. And the stereoscopic editorial timeline not only doubled the amount of work, but also required an intuitive understanding of depth and convergence for each individual shot.

Royal Caribbean: “The Royal Caribbean Cruise Vacation DreamWorks Experience: Shrek”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Digital Domain
CLIENT: Royal Caribbean
PRODUCTION CO: Radical Media
DIRECTOR: Dave Meyers

Collaborating with Dreamworks, Digital Domain helped Royal Caribbean cruise ships send off the season in style, with Shrek and Co. enjoying a vacation at sea.

Dreamworks supplied the character animation and DD handled the integration of those characters into live action plates, shot by long-time commercial director Dave Meyers.

Much of the compositing was done in Nuke, but Flame came in handy for the trickier shots, such as Shrek surfing or splashing in the water park. Flame was also the primary tool for all the stand-in and rig removals that plagued most of the filmed footage.

I also handled a bit of matte painting for Gingy’s cupcakes, as well as all the finishing touches and color grading that went into the final delivery.

Mazda Cx7: “Director’s Cut”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Digital Domain
DIRECTOR: Dael Oates

Director Dael Oates originally shot this spot roughly three years prior to the current work done on it. Due to creative differences, the agency that commissioned it decided to go a different direction. Dael’s vision was never realized.

When Dael joined Digital Domain’s sister company Mothership, he finally had the opportunity to complete the work the way he always intended … hence, his director’s cut.

Dael shot a majority of the spot in camera, stop-motion-style, then enhanced it through editorial techniques.

Having worked with Dael before on 7 Days’ Croissants, I was brought on to enhance the edit, complete the visual effects, and color grade the entire spot.

Most of what you see is what he shot. Everything else was finished in Flame.

Infiniti FX: “Storm”

ROLE: Senior Flame Artist / VFX Compositor
VENDOR: Digital Domain
CLIENT: Infiniti
DIRECTOR: Nick Robertson

This was the second Infiniti spot I had the privilege of working on at DD. To date, it’s still one of my favorites of the shodo ink Infiniti series.

This time, the premise is a smooth ride through a hurricane … literally.

With plates shot in China, the team created a beautiful turbulent storm to enshroud the Infiniti FX vehicle. Everything started with overcast plates, sometimes precipitous, but never fully raining.

The entire stormfront had to be fabricated … from tempestuous clouds and wind-swept rain, to lightning strikes and crashing waves on a matte painted shoreline.

My primary contribution was to the interior shots, building 2.5D storm environments through a mountain pass, visible through the front and driver’s side window. The challenge was to create a frightening storm on the outside, while maintaining a meditative peace on the inside.

I also added crashing waves and churning mist to a handful of exterior driving shots.