Motion504 creates show opener that uses stereoscopy’s past to trace a path to 3D’s future.
By Meleah Maynard
Like most creative directors, Scott Wenner has a certain way he likes to approach projects. But when Minneapolis-based motion504 was asked to create the show open for 3D University, a day-long seminar for 3D professionals that was held earlier this year, he figured he needed to try something different. For the last scene of the 3D University show open motion504’s Creative Director Scott Wenner captured the tossing of the glasses in the bin after the movie using MoGraph and a dynamics simulation to create a pile of glasses landing on the floor.
Though the creative brief motion504 received was wide open, there was one stipulation. The titles needed to be projected in 3D. Wenner had often thought about learning about stereo 3D, but this would be his first project and he was worried about getting it right. So rather than starting with sketches, he worked out the technical side first using Cinema 4D’s new stereoscopic tools. “I don’t normally like to let the creative be informed by technical constraints, but in this case I thought it would be the best way to go,” he explains.
If you have a pair of red/blue 3D glasses, swing them on and play this video below.
Presented by the International 3D Society, AICP Minnesota and other sponsors, 3D University was organized to help prepare artists and others working in film, TV, advertising and marketing to answer clients’ questions about using 3D for their projects. In addition to hardware demos, the event featured an all-star lineup of speakers, including industry experts Buzz Hays of Sony Pictures Technologies, Jason Goodman of 21st Century 3D and Steve Schklair of 3ality Digital Systems.
Early stereocopes were designed with attractiveness in mind and Wenner tried to mimic that look when modeling this one, which is not an exact replica of any particular style.
For the show open, which was screened in full stereoscopic 3D to kick off the event, Wenner built on his love of old gadgets, especially cameras, to create photo-real, animated visuals that would introduce speakers and sponsors while at the same time presenting the evolution of stereoscopic gadgetry from the early 20th century to the present. “I liked the idea of it being in 3D and about 3D and also about the history of 3D,” he says, adding that people tend to think of 3D as something new when it’s actually very old.
While creating a look that resembled a tabletop shoot of each 3D device, he was careful to compartmentalize each name as an individual shot so changes could be made right up until the last minute. “I knew that with something like this the sponsor list could be fluid, so I wanted something that could be easily edited rather than a linear animation,” he explains. Wenner appreciated the intuitive controls of C4D’s new stereo 3D tools. “There is a tendency in 3D and stereo to give tools much more complicated labels like interocular distance instead of just eye separation and I like how Cinema used more simplified language that you could get your head around.”
Rather than a timeline, the open begins in the mid 20th century with a metal photo-viewer that was once used for military ground surveillance. Moving backward in time, viewers see things like a leather-bound cartoscope, a stereoscope made of wood, an ancient peep show box, some classic View-Masters and the red-blue 3D glasses we all know today.
Because of his longtime love of 19th- and 20th-century technology, Wenner was already familiar with several local antique stores where he searched for 3D gadgets he could use for reference when modeling in Cinema 4D. He found several stereoscopes and stereoscopic cards, but other pieces were harder to locate so he hunted for photographs, instead.
motion504 has been using Cinema4D for over a decade for most of their work. For rendering they rely on V-Ray. “Cinema has made a huge difference in terms of workflow because we can accomplish things so much faster,” Wenner says.
The amount of modeling needed to create each 3D object varied from piece to piece, depending on design. Wenner relied primarily on C4D, but he also used Pixologic’s ZBrush, Photoshop and After Effects. For the peep show box, for example, he started modeling in Cinema 4D before moving into ZBrush to create the organic texture he wanted for the wood.
“I was able to pop back and forth between the two, which was great because I had photographs of wood and the shaders I needed, and I thought it would be easier to sculpt than model that organic look that I wanted,” he explains.
Wenner was happy to find that he had more time than usual to devote to getting details exactly the way he wanted them, so he focused on things like getting wood grain textures just right.
To model the military-style viewer, which was used during World War II for looking at aerial photographs show in a stereo format, Wenner referenced photographs of several different styles and created his own amalgamation. “In the 1940s, if you were looking at photographs shot from a spy plane, you would just pop one of these viewers out of a case to see them,” he says.
Wenner had never seen an actual viewbox, an early version of the View-Master, so he found images he could use for reference. Because the wood grain on this object was so subtle, he modeled and textured everything in C4D. “I didn’t need ZBrush for this one, I just generated bump maps from photographs of wood.”
Having the opportunity to create something viewed in 3D by a “captive audience” was a lot of fun for Wenner, who enjoyed attending the event and watching how people reacted. “It was thrilling to be able to make exactly what I wanted to have it presented in that format.”
Wenner had nearly a month to complete the show open and was pleasantly surprised to find that he didn’t feel rushed as the deadline approached. In fact, he says, because working in stereo 3D was much less complicated than he imagined, he was able to spend a good amount of time editing and working on sound design. “It was a nice luxury to have that time and that was mostly due to the new tools in [C4D’s] R13,” he says. “I just started messing around with the tools and I was amazed that it was surprisingly simple.”
Wenner created the subtle wood grain of the viewbox using bump maps generated from reference photographs of wood. A self-described “music-oriented person,” Wenner had ideas from the start about what kind of sound he wanted for the open. He imagined “something stripped down with key percussion moments here and there”. For help, he turned to Minneapolis-based Uproar Music and Sound, owned by composer and musician Kent Militzer, who often works with motion504. “Kent recreated some of the ideas I had, but he added a lot of his own stuff to it and I thought it was fantastic so we only made minor tweaks and everything went incredibly smoothly.”
Stereo 3D projects don’t come up very often, but if another one does Wenner says he plans to go back to his old approach of sketching first and letting visuals drive the technology. “I’m glad to know stereo isn’t as complicated as I had thought,” he says.
Wenner used C4D’s new dynamics tools to control simulations like the growing pile of View-Master slides in the show open. "This was an incredible amount of fun for me and it was great to have the opportunity to do whatever I wanted to do and show it to a captive audience on a huge screen in 3D," he said.
Design & Animation Company: motion504
Creative Director: Scott Wenner
Executive Producer: Eric Mueller
Music & Sound Design: Uproar
Music and Sound Composer: Kent Militzer
Surround Mix and DCP
Surround Mixer: Kelly Pieklo
DCP Delivery: Mark Abney
Executive Producer: Steve Fait
Client: AICP Minnesota, on behalf of 3D University
Producer: Mike Tabor