Check out this clever viral video for Ridley Scott’s blockbuster Prometheus and find out about the postproduction work as we talk to Hoxton Redsox’s Paul McGeoch…
Director Ridley Scott was convinced that Prometheus would benefit from a less conventional viral marketing campaign. Johnny Hardstaff, Damon Lindelof and Luke Scott all helped develop short films, intended to generate interest in the feature film without giving away plot.
The Happy Birthday David video is one of these gems. The creepy viral video, starring the steely-eyed Michael Fassbender, shows the unboxing of Weyland Industries latest robot ‘David’.
Hoxton Redsox completed postproduction on Happy Birthday David, which was designed and directed by Johnny Hardstaff. We caught up with Hoxton Redsox founder and VFX supervisor, Paul McGeoch, to find out more…
Watch Happy Birthday David then read about the postproduction work
Hoxton Redsox’s founder, Paul McGeoch says he draws his inspiration from original ideas and good design: how fortunate to be working on a project like this one!
In fact, the Happy Birthday David viral is the most rewarding project McGeoch has worked on so far in his career: “The brief was inspiring, the director’s treatment was very clever, we got to work with some amazing talent, the end result looked stunning, and everyone loved it. You can’t ask for more than that.”
Hoxton Redsox was responsible for all visual effects on Happy Birthday David and two other short films for the viral campaign. “A small but dedicated team created, in total, around 14 minutes of footage in six months,” says McGeoch.
“A wide range of looks were developed, which varied from photo-real landscapes, products and sets to abstract visualisations and animated screen graphics”.
The team used Maya 2012, After Effects, Nuke and PF Track.
The viral video didn’t present any technical problems: “The greatest challenge was generating so many CG sets and graphical overlays in such a short period of time with limited resources,” McGeoch comments. “The director wisely based his treatment around locked off cameras, knowing that this would allow for a higher quality finish within the available time.
The pipeline was made as simple as possible and passes from Maya were kept to a minimum, while conforming, comping and finishing was done in After Effects.
After Effects proved vital to production
“After Effects was a star,” says McGeoch. “It handled the EDLs from final cut, worked natively with Red Cam R3D files (though we later converted to DPX sequences for faster processing), effortlessly imported and rebuilt the directors photoshop layouts, the keyer handled green screen with ease and the built in stabiliser worked perfectly. It even handled conforming, matching grades, finishing and versioning.”
Hoxton Redsox’s custom-built render farm also proved invaluable to manage the heavy render times for thousands of 4K frames.
“We use 10 x 6 core AMD machines specifically for rendering,” explains McGeoch. “These were safely overclocked from 2.9 to around 3.5GHz. In the evenings we also turn over more powerful artists machines to the farm which is managed by deadline software. Render times for shots varied hugely. Certain scenes that required very high sampling could take anything up to an hour a frame to render.”
A shot in focus
The VFX shots took in the region of 280 man days! The opening shot where David is delivered in a box was made up from five different takes and getting them to sit together in post posed quite a challenge for the team.
“A hero plate with Michael Fassbender’s action was selected and stabilised, McGeoch explains. “The other ‘takes’ containing doors opening, white liquid dripping, and cover removal then had to be stabilised, retimed and graded to match. The foreground and background CG elements were then animated, lit and comped to match the live action.”
Paul McGeoch shares some words of wisdom for aspiring 3D artists looking to break into the industry
“If you are new to the industry, try to gain work experience in a broad range of roles. Understanding the various skill sets required for each position will help you decide if this is for you and where to specialise.”
“If you have a basic training but no industry experience don’t fill your reel with minutes of mediocre. I’d rather see 30 seconds of something that inspires you and gives me a glimpse of what you’re capable of.”
“Finally if you do get a break, don’t plug-in and zone out (I’m talking headphones and facebook). Get involved in the workings of the studio and listen to what’s being said.”
What’s next for Hoxton Redsox?
“We are officially launching Hoxton Redsox, proudly promoting our most recent work for Prometheus and Titanic Belfast, we’ll be approaching ad agencies and production companies that we are keen to work with and as ever pitching for work,” says McGeoch.
“R&D is underway for a independent feature film which we can’t talk about just yet. We’ll also be building a database of talented freelance artists so… if that’s you, please do get in touch.”
Thanks to Paul McGeoch for taking the time to talk to us.