Parachute founder Sam O’Hare discusses how VFX created the perfect night at the ballpark for Chrysler and Miggy Cabrera.
When Miguel Cabrera swings the bat, there’s usually a stadium full of screaming fans around him. However, for Chrysler’s “Miggy at the Bat” commercial, the stands were empty.
The commercial celebrating the 2015 Chrysler 200 centered on Cabrera in an updated “Casey at the Bat” tale and featured the legendary showdown between batter and pitcher. In reality, Cabrera and the pitcher were worlds apart, in Detroit and Los Angeles, surrounded by green screens and in need of NYC’s Parachute to create the scenery and game around the players.
The Parachute team, led by founder Sam O’Hare, created the spot by building a stadium and providing the setting for the infamous strike out (and later, added comeback). Using different software for various stadium components, Parachute relied on Blackmagic Design’s advanced visual effects (VFX) and motion graphics solution, Fusion Studio, to bring everything together. From crowds, to weather, to effects, Fusion Studio served as the main VFX software for the spot.
Starting with the stadium, Parachute’s VFX artists worked with Fusion Studio to key out all of the green screen shots and combine them with CG backgrounds of the field. The artists then set the scene by using various fog and flare passes in Fusion Studio to create a muggy, humid summer night for Cabrera’s at bat.
Finally, ending the commercial with a Cabrera home run, Parachute used the particles feature in Fusion Studio to create flashes in the crowd for cameras capturing the big moment. Fusion Studio’s 3D Particle Systems allows VFX artists to create 3D animated particle effects with real world physics, such as gravity, wind, and collision, so particles can interact with objects in the scene. Whether it’s snow, rain, smoke, or in this case flashes, VFX artists can add physics simulations that influence particles in natural ways and add authenticity to spots.
“Fusion Studio is a powerful toolset. It's very quick,” said O’Hare. “Doing this in a node-based compositor is much better. I haven’t used a layered-based compositor in years – I started using Fusion Studio eight or nine years ago and the lovely thing about it is you see the structure of what you’re working on right there. It is not limited or clunky. It’s so easy to link or instance tools to map to multiple paths and you can see everything laid out, so it’s much simpler to build everything.”
In addition to Fusion Studio’s node-based architecture, its 3D environment was a big part of Parachute’s work and was used throughout the entire spot. Using Fusion Studio's import capabilities to bring in 3D models and cameras from other animation and modeling applications, "we are able to use them to project map matte paintings and do 3D camera stabilization, along with cleanup work, which we use Fusion Studio for a lot.”
This comes in handy for many of Parachute’s projects. For example, a recent project with Wells Fargo brought O’Hare’s team out of the baseball park and into the snow. “For this holiday spot, we ended up with a much bigger task than we were expecting and ended up doing about three times the number of shots that we anticipated. We didn’t have time to render every single full CG background frame with all of the snow in 3D, so we rendered out still passes for many shots, projection mapped them in Fusion Studio, then rendered them back out of the tracked camera. We were able to get all the extra shots done without having to render them all out of 3D, which saved us a lot of time,” O’Hare described.
In addition to the snowman shots, the entire Wells Fargo commercial was graded in DaVinci Resolve, Blackmagic Design’s professional editing and color correction software. Fusion Studio was used throughout to apply final look to the shots. “On some of the shots, the director liked to muddy things up a bit,” O’Hare explained. “The new digital cameras can often have everything looking too clean. Because so much of the footage was getting keyed and going through the VFX pipeline, we didn’t want to shoot with a tilt shift lens, as it can be difficult in post if you’ve got stuff that’s very blurred. As a solution, we went in and added the effect by using Fusion Studio’s defocus and blur tools with masks on various shots.”
About Sam O’Hare
Parachute is a NYC-based boutique visual effects company founded by artist Sam O’Hare. O’Hare comes from a background in architecture and design in England, which helped propel him into the world of photo-realistic CGI production in the US. Under O’Hare’s leadership, Parachute has won a Prix Ars Electronia award, been nominated for a Webby for Best Viral Film and has a short film in the permanent collection at MOMA. O’Hare has spoken around the world with Autodesk as an expert in photo-real animation, including presenting at SIGGRAPH.
More of Parachute’s work and contact information can be found on their website, www.parachute.tv.