Booby Moore – the captain of England's 1966 World Cup-winning football team – was a highly respected sportsman and much loved national icon. Sadly, Moore succumbed to bowel cancer on 24 February 1993, aged just 51.
Shortly afterwards, his wife Stephanie set up the Bobby Moore Fund, a charity which aims to raise awareness of the disease and generate funding for Cancer Research UK. Over the last 24 years, the fund has raised more than £23.5 million and helped to reduce mortality rates by 30% – yet bowel cancer still kills 44 people every day in the UK.
The latest initiative is the #MooreToKnow campaign, which has joined forces with the England Footballers Foundation to spread the message about bowel cancer awareness. The promotion stars some of the nation's biggest footballing names – including Harry Kane, Jordan Henderson, Gary Cahill, Joe Hart, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard – in a series of videos that employ animated stills of the footballers in super slo-mo poses.
It's a style that you may have seen on TV stings, in which a static 2D image is animated in an app such as Adobe After Effects or Nuke. The sequence is then enhanced with animated particles, lens flares, depth of field and so on, to replicate the effect of slow motion photography.
Vincent Studios was brought on board to direct and produce all the VFX on- and off-air for the campaign. John Hill, director at Vincent, describes the general workflow for each of the videos, which started with stills photography by leading sports photographer John Davis. Sections of the image were cut out and animated using the Puppet Tool in After Effects. A 3D skeleton was then modelled, rigged and animated in Cinema 4D to match the player's movement, before being composited with the 2D footage.
Hill states that about 75% of the work was produced in Cinema 4D, from modelling, rigging and animation to rendering. "Multipasses and the character rigging tools were essential," he adds, "along with the sculpting tools."
Combining the CG anatomy with the live action plates proved to be the biggest technical challenge, says Hill. "Matching lenses and different player body shapes and poses was very tricky. We wanted to light the body from within and bring to life John Davis's stills photography using the gut as an energy source so the viewer's attention was focused on this part of the body."
The skeleton was built using Cinema 4D's sculpting tools, rigged for IK and animated, then rendered using Autodesk's Arnold renderer. Arnold's displacement maps were also used to add detail to the sculpted bones where necessary.
"We had to model and sculpt most of the anatomy, which took time," says Hill, "especially the intestines of the players. Rigging a very heavy rig was difficult and time consuming to match the live action poses. We also had to edit and resize our skeleton rig for each player, which was quite time consuming. It was all done by eye and using basic shoot lens info and studio measurements."
Hill explains that to help marry the CG skeleton with the photography, Arnold's AOVs (Arbitrary Output Variables) provided the best flexibility and results, especially around the players' stomach and bowel area. "We had to mask and feather a lot of the AOVs over the photography to work with the lighting in the photo," he says. "We used the dark areas of skin to add more CG and mask out the specular lighting to retain a believable balance between the real lighting and the CG illumination."
To highlight the intestines, the team used a light source and illuminating textures on the mesh. Various AOVs were then output and used to illuminate the organs in the composite. "We had to do a fair bit of R&D to find the best ways to light the player from inside the stomach area and retain skin detail from the photography. Combining the CG skeleton and photography required careful integration, especially when it came to joints and accurate anatomic detailing – we actually had each CG shot signed off by medical professionals."
At the start of each animation, the player's 3D skeleton appears and gradually blends into the animated photography. This was achieved using a number of animated mattes based on the luminance in the photography. The background scenery is simply a 2.5D environment, created in After Effects along with the reflections.
Whenever the ball is kicked or headed, there are some subtle streams of water droplets to enhance the impact and add some texture to the shot. "We used X-Particles to create the water and debris from the ball impact," explains Hill. "We added various turbulence and friction dynamics to the particles for realism." The ball itself was animated and rendered in Cinema 4D, replicating the studio lighting to help it match with the composite.
As well as the video sequences, Vincent was also required to produce large out-of-home digital posters to promote the campaign. These were produced in 30 different formats for roadside billboards, shopping centres, taxis and so on, with the largest being 5,000 x 2,812 pixels. "We had to create high-poly/high-resolution images for these using Cinema 4D and After Effects," says Hill, adding that Cinema 4D coped well with the heavy geometry needed for each image.
The whole project was completed in three months by a team of five, working on Mac OS workstations. A further four render clients were used – comprising 48 processors in all – to output the AOVs and ten multipass layers.
Once again, Cinema 4D proved its worth on the project, and for budding Cinema 4D artists, Hill has this advice: "Try and gain as much experience of as many different disciplines as possible and ways to combine them all to give you a wide scope of tools to play with. The more skills you can draw upon, the better you will solve a brief."
Steve Jarratt is a long-time CG enthusiast and technology journalist based in the UK.
All images courtesy of Vincent Studios.
Vincent Studios Website
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