Spike TV recently turned to 2C Creative for a new promo campaign to launch the seventh season of its reality-competition series Ink Master. The network wanted a new, visually engaging way to drive excitement for the show.
The concept for the campaign imagined going into the blood of the artists to see that tattooing and ink were really a part of their physical being. Once inside, ink streams appear, collide, reveal and erase the competing artists and celebrity judges. More than a transitional device, the ink was also supposed to be a character, showing attitude, aggression and personality.
“We really wanted to push the boundaries for how the familiar genre of tattoo shows is promoted, and it needed to be something entirely fresh and groundbreaking,” said 2C creative director Brian Eloe. “From the beginning, Spike really challenged us to create something never seen before, which also took a huge leap of faith on Spike’s part since we couldn’t fully demonstrate what it would look like upfront.”
2C opted to create the ink elements in camera instead of CG. Adding to the challenge of execution, shooting the artist portraits had to take place as part of a larger Ink Master promotional shoot. In that format, 2C would only have about 30 minutes with each artist to get special performances and attitudes unique to that character that were then used to create a custom ink element to match. Things like hair color, wardrobe colors, body movements and attitudes were all characteristics used to plan the ink effects shoot.
2C worked closely with VFX artist and cinematographer Chris Webb and VFX ink specialist Makoto Aoki to create an animatic of performance selects that would help narrow the shot list and inform the production planning. Shooting the intricate ink simulations instead of generating them in CG meant limiting the number of experiments. Even after all the meticulous planning, the real magic started once the ink was injected into the tank. As expected, the team got spectacular organic results while manipulating the velocity, colors, cloud intensity and deflections.
“When we saw the natural movements of the ink and the secondary offshoot surprises, we realized we never would have imagined that in a CG simulation,” said design director Luis Martinez. “We were absolutely getting the real organic results we dreamed of and the color mix was indescribable.”
In post came the arduous job of linking the Ink Master talent portraits and ink shoot elements together, a process that took many weeks of keying, masking and roto-scoping to get a seamless blend. To enhance the composites, nuances of atmosphere were added, including shots of tattoos from the actual artists, special color grading, particle sparks and light flare overlays.
In all, 2C delivered one 30-second promo, as well as 20- and 15-second cut-downs and a complete graphic tool kit for use in the episodics throughout the season.
Season 7 of Ink Master, hosted by musician, filmmaker and artist Dave Navarro and judged by tattoo icons Chris Nunez and Oliver Peck, will premiere March 1.