It's always a special moment when someone reaches out to send you praise on what you are most passionate about doing in life. Chris Eyerman of 3AM reached out to me back in early 2015 with a very special project that he knew I couldn’t pass up. Directing this spot with Chris was an incredible experience. Both of our hearts were in it with the same intentions and goals. We wanted this video to be special for not just us, but for everyone else as well. Ares was not only an extraordinary project because of its size and magnitude, but also because we had an amazing team. The images below are a glimpse into the behind the scenes of how we constructed the visual world that sums up the final piece.
The nebula look development was one of the first things we set forth to accomplish. Since it contained so many of the key visual elements, we knew that if we could nail the look of this early on in the tasks, then we would have a great guide to help navigate us through the rest of project. Here are some of the frames that the team at Juice, Michael Rigley, and I put together.
I remember seeing the first initial motion test pass from Juice, and I immediately knew, “This is it!” It was a memorable 'wow' moment for me on this project. You never really know how things will finish out on any project, so it is critical to keep your intentions incredibly clear and make sure communication is a top priority. The talented crew at Juice took the direction from Chris and I to the next level and really hit it out of the park.
The amazing Hermes asset that was built by the incredible team at Framestore was extremely complicated to integrate into our pipeline, but once we had it set up, we immediately started to see just how powerful this was going to look visually. Since we knew we would be including clips from the actual film, we had to ensure we continued to match that level of reality. We really focused a lot of our energy on making the Hermes ship feel as real as possible. We studied existing NASA footage and imagery of the international space station as a source of reference. As you may know, it's a tall order to replicate reality with computer imagery, but we put our best foot forward on this and I feel like all of our hard work paid off.
This section of the project was one of my favorites to develop with the team. Michael Rigley developed some very strong visuals that exposed what we were trying to support in the narrative right off the bat; it really helped set the pace for everything moving forward. Our main objective was to create a graphical pallet that wasn’t going to interfere with Neil deGrasse Tyson's actions and to also ensure it wouldn't appear like anything we have seen before. The main choice to add in more unique color pallets like red, purple, and blue helped keep us in the visual territory we sought after.
Developing the visual language of the hologram suits took many chapters and stages until we eventually achieved what you see in the final piece. Juice did an amazing job of building all of the astronaughts and their suits in 3D, and then Michael created amazing tests and concepts to see what worked when projected onto the photo realistic nebula backgrounds. The images below are various stages of this creative process.
Michael Rigley and I had a lot of fun with this section of the project. We both knew it had to feel space driven and inspired by the designs of NASA, but it also needed to push even further into the future. We settled on the idea of the type’s intersecting lines being the central orbit that would expand the trajectory points connecting each celestial planet. In essence, this title imagery would thematically represent the story of the entire Ares project. I really love geeking out on these kinds of small details because I feel it really adds to the layered effect and creates a memorable piece. Seeing the final animation take shape was an immensely gratifying moment; it looked nearly identical to the visuals I envisioned when first designing the images below.
I think its no surprise to say that I am a huge fan of science. I grew up watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and now further enjoy watching Neil’s version of Cosmos with my daughter. I am an avid fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson and constantly listen to his podcast Star Talk. It was an incredible experience to work with someone so prolific and talented as Neil. It's always a scary moment to meet one of your heroes in person for the first time, but Neil was instantly welcoming and incredibly wonderful to work with on this shoot. He is filled with an abundance of knowledge and it was so great that he helped advise and share insight to make the project so successful. Thank you, Neil, for helping me check off another item from my bucket list your involvement on this project.
Thank you to everyone involved on this project and for putting in the extra hours, hard work, and effort to produce such amazing work. Until next time…
Produced by: 3AM & RSA Films
Directed by: Chris Eyerman and Ash Thorp
Story/Writing by: Will Melton and Chris Eyerman
Lead Actor: Neil deGrasse Tyson
Producer: Josh Porter
Producers, ALT Creative: Ash Thorp and Monica Thorp
Producer, Juice: Natalia Lasota
Director of Photography: Tony Wolberg
Art Director, Juice: Michal Misinski
Music Director: Marcy Bulkeley
Score: Danny Cocke
Editor: Joe Bellino
Associate Producer, 3AM: Tom Moran
President, 3AM: Alison Temple
Presient, RSA: Jules Daly
Social Strategy, 3AM: David Sarkissian
Post Producer, 3AM: Mike Goble
Colorist, The Mill: Adam Scott
Smoke Producer, The Mill: Kiana Bicoy
Mars Opening VFX: MPC
Hermes VFX: Framestore and Juice
Nebula VFX: Juice
VFX/CG Supervisor, Juice: Jakub Knapik
Onsite VFX Supervisor: Anthony Scott Burns
Concept Designer: Ash Thorp
Concept Designer, Juice: Michal Misinski
Lead Designer/Animator: Michael Rigley
Compositing, Juice: Jakub Knapik, Arkadiusz Leszko, Seweryn Czarnecki, Michal Misinski, Tomasz Przydatek, Sylwester Lipinski
Lighting & Shading, Juice: Artur Szymczak, Seweryn Czarnecki, Tomasz Przydatek, Andrzej Przydatek, Jakub Wrzalik, Jakub Knapik, Tomasz Dyrdula
Matte Painting, Juice: Michal Misinski, Daniel Niszczota, Tomas Muller
FX, Juice: Piotr Suchodolski, Seweryn Czarnecki, Rigel Bowen
Modeling, Juice: Slawomir Ostrowski, Jakub Wrzalik, Andrzej Przydatek, Seweryn Czarnecki, Sebastian Oska, Michal Gosciniak
Layout & Animation, Juice: Jakub Wrzalik, Lukasz Dziedzinski, Tomasz Przydatek, Jakub Knapik, Tomasz Dyrdula
IT, Juice: Tomasz Kruszona
Storyboard Artist: Jason Badower