Collaborative music video project: ‘Dog morph’, Overview (Marijn Eken)

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Erik is letting me, Marijn Eken, write a guest post on his blog to introduce a series of posts about a music video we collaborated on.The music video was for the official song of the 2011 Asian Cup, by Jay Sean. You can see the completed video here.

Jay Sean feat. Karl Wolf – Yalla Asia ft. Radhika Vekaria.

For this project I was the visual effects supervisor, overseeing the whole production from concept to delivery and also doing the color grading. I was also on set for the filming, which took place in Doha, Qatar. It was shot on the Red One camera, which gave us the nice option to send around trimmed R3D files to the artists. We used ShotRunner to communicate among the group of 8 people that worked together over the internet.

There are over 100 vfx shots in the video, of which 64 green screen shots and we completed the work in essentially two weeks time. But, for this series we’ll focus on one shot that was a particular challenge.

The client’s idea was to have a pack of dogs run through the desert and turn into a car. They suggested a morph, but I couldn’t see how four dogs morphing into a car would look good. So I opted for having a dust cloud form from the dogs and kind of conceal what actually happened and have the car appear from the cloud. Here is the finished shot.

View in full resolution: Graded_dogs.

The first challenge was how we would shoot this. Doing this in two passes (one with the dogs, one with the car), would require some kind of motion control to get the same camera move twice, which was not an option. So I quickly realized we would have to do the car in CG. The only real elements would be the desert and the dogs.

I had planned to use golf balls to aid the match-moving. But the reality of the shoot proved I couldn’t use them. The dogs were going to chase after a gazelle. Yes, a real live gazelle. So this made it quite impossible to plan out a route in advance. Luckily the desert floor was hard and cracked, which gave us some features and I just had to hope we could track it later.

We ended up getting very little usable footage. The part we picked had only one dog in it, but we needed four. So we ended up duplicating the dog in the final shot. Linus Hofmann did that and will elaborate on this in a later post.

The footage was particularly shaky, so we needed stabilization. We didn’t want to run it through some stabilizer and then track it, because that would probably make the match-moving harder and less accurate. Marco de Goeij tracked the original shot and provided me with a solid track. What we then did, was use a 3D method for stabilizing, rather than a 2D warp. Since the desert is essentially flat, I created a simple piece of geometry inside Nuke to match that and projected the original plate from the tracked camera onto that surface. I then duplicated the camera and filtered it’s path to create a much smoother camera path and rotation. Looking through this smooth moving camera, we got our stabilized shot. This was the camera that was passed to the others to create all the CG elements from. See the difference between the original and stabilized shots here.

View in full resolution:Original_and_stabilized.

It was a bit of a challenge to work out how we were going to have all the elements for the shot come together, as multiple people at different locations and with different software were involved. Richard Levene would render out the CG car in Maya and hand over the animated car model to Erik, so he could use it as a hold out for the dust simulation in Houdini. Linus Hofmann had the job of bringing it all together in the compositing in Nuke, which required a fair bit of tweaking to get just right.

It was a challenging but ultimately fun project to collaborate on. The quality of the end result amazed the client, which is alway nice to hear.