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Planet Blue Corporation

Aliens Invade Planet Blue for TiVo

Santa Monica, Ca -- October 4, 1999 -- For "Abducted the new TiVo spot from Campbell-Ewald West, Planet Blue provided visual effects supervision on set and effects and CGI in post. Produced by Morton Jankel Zander, the spot was directed by Tom DeCerchio.

A man is mysteriously abducted while he’s watching his favorite TV show. In outer space he’s examined alongside a cow on rotating platforms. When he’s returned 92 days later, exhausted and disheveled, he’s relieved to find that his favorite episodes have been automatically recorded every time they were on without video tape, thanks to TiVo, the first personal television service.

To accomplish the spot, Planet Blue president Maury Rosenfeld worked as Visual Effects Supervisor on set to determine which effects could be achieved in camera and which ones could be best generated in post. "By being there, I found ways to streamline digital effects by suggesting certain strategies we could take in production," explained Rosenfeld. He also avoided rig removal on a close-up by suggesting to producers that they put the actor on the end of a crane and lift him up instead of using the flying rig, which was critical for the long shots. For shots where the camera moves, Rosenfeld suggested compositing green screens in the post but for stationary shots, green screens were avoided so they wouldn’t cast green on the actor’s face.

Conversely, certain effects were more economical to accomplish in post vs. in production. When a set place interfered with the action or the boom arm wouldn’t move a certain way, Rosenfeld suggested using digital effects to accomplish the sequence instead of incurring the costly delay of halting production to rearrange the set. "We’re talking thousands and thousands of dollars to stop down production (if you consider talent, technicians and production crew) vs. $600/hour to rotoscope and composite. Having me on set to make spontaneous decisions like that can really pay off", he said.

A number of effects were generated in post. Rosenfeld worked with the interactive lighting in the room to generate various beam shots from beginning to end. The blue beam that abducts the actor was shot on set and enhanced digitally in the Inferno from a locked off shot of a scanning laser.

For the outer UFO sequence, digital artist Joel Ashman animated, textured and lit the rotating planet earth element, utilizing Lightwave 5.5 on a PC. Joel also handled all the interior rig removal and screen composites on the Flame system. Since the cables extended to the ceiling of the sound stage each interior shot needed to be shot with a clean plate enabling Joel to "rebuild" the room within the Flame.

Planet Blue CGI artist and animator Nicholas Hoppe modeled, textured and animated two exterior UFO sequences using Maya 2.0 an NT. The UFO itself was built with Maya nurbs tool and pulsating lights were generated by animating glows on the textural surfaces. For the high speed outer space sequence, Hoppe used Maya 3D motion blur. And in the Inferno, Rosenfeld composited the space ship shot with a scene of a village underneath and put 9 different treatments on the surface of the space ship, adding filmic effects on top, to give it that dark and mysterious in-camera look.

For the UFO interior sequence, where the actor is being scrutinized alongside a cow, the talent and the cow were shot on green screen turntables while Rosenfeld and DP Derek Wolski made sure that all of the angles matched up. That way Planet Blue wouldn’t have keying problems in post. Digital artist Konstantine Promokhov modeled, textured and animated the rotating abductee platforms using Maya 2.0 on a UNIX. Animated texture maps and glows were used to create the platform’s plasma fields and the final scene was composited by Rosenfeld in the Inferno.

Other effects were provided, including digital dust and digital light sources as well as taking miniatures, cutting them apart and reassembling them to alter the look of various elements.

"Abducted" begins airing nationwide this Fall.

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