Attendees at Motion 2012 in Albuquerque earlier this month encountered a graphically charged show open, produced from start to finish by visual media studio, Nice Shoes. This was the second consecutive appearance at Motion by creative director Brian Bowman, who also spoke last year. He discussed the studio’s work with VDMX software controlled by iOS to create musically driven interactive events.
“At motion 2011, I was impressed by the work being done at Nice Shoes,” said Elaine Montoya, chief imagination officer at the Motion Group. “I saw that the Nice Shoes team was not only extremely creative, but was also into pushing technology to the extremes for the sake of creative expression – one of my passions as well.”
Nice Shoes was given free creative reign for the open. The only stipulation from the conference organizers was the inclusion of the motion 2012 logo. Bowman presented a treatment to the motion team, which featured choreography filmed with both a RED camera and two Microsoft Kinects. The goal was to choreograph a film that is tightly integrated with visual effects created by the dancers’ own movements.
“The dancers are representative of artists,” Bowman said. “They’re manipulating and redefining their environments to become something more than what exists.”
The design and visual effects teams pulled the Kinect data into 3D Studio Max to generate the particles. The flame artists, led by Vin Roma worked on key and roto, while Ron Sudul worked with some very specific color looks, including an effect produced on set called “light separation,” which incorporated practical light in each frame when the greenscreen was taken away from the talent.
This was the studio’s first time incorporating Microsoft’s Kinect. “I’ve been interested in tracker-less motion tracking,” Bowman explained. “In the past, you’d need to have a performer wear a ping pong ball suit to record motion capture, but now the technology and sensors have gotten to a point where the suit isn’t necessary. A kinematic skeleton can be generated simply by recording a body and its movement. Technology like the Kinect has inspired a hacker culture. I was interested in using the sensors in filmmaking, recording the dancers in wardrobe, while at the same time capturing the depth and kinematic data to create integrated visual effects.”
“Brian sent us progress updates throughout the process, but when my team and I saw the final piece, tears came to our eyes,” Montoya said. “Never before had someone captured the essence of our annual show so elegantly.”