SANTA MONICA, CA - Design, animation and visual effects studio Blind (www.blind.com) recently placed some of the biggest stars in Major League Baseball inside a pinball machine for a new spot promoting the annual All-Star Game on Fox Sports. The studio worked with the network's creative team in developing the spot's concept in which Mike Piazza, Roger Clemens, Derek Jeter and other players pitch, hit and catch steel balls in an environment of oversized drop-targets, bumpers and blinking lights. The spot aired on Fox channels and other media outlets, and was also shown on screens located in ballparks nationwide.
Fox Sports VP/creative director Robert Gottlieb asked Blind to develop a concept for a spot that would portray the players as warm and accessible, and show them having fun playing the game. Blind creative director Chris Do responded with the pinball idea.
After considering the possibility of using miniatures and other practical means, Blind and the team at Fox Sports determined that the best solution was to create the pinball machine as a wholly CG environment and to composite the players into it.
Blind turned to veteran pinball designer John Trudeau, who drew up a practical design for a pinball machine with a baseball theme.
The Blind CG team, led by Lawrence Wyatt, used Trudeau's blueprints to model the CG environment. Additionally, the studio brought in a real machine and shot close up videos of ball movement and the functions of bumpers and other practical features for artists to use as reference in animating 3D elements.
Prior to the live-action shoots with the ball players, Blind produced a pre-viz animatic indicating camera locations and movement, and light sources for each of the 60-plus VFX shots. Shoots with the players took place in Arizona and Florida over 10 days. The shoots were directed by Gottlieb and fellow Fox Sports creative director Rob Hoover. Do and art director Rick Spitznas attended the Arizona shoot to offer technical advice.
The bulk of Blind's work was focused on tracking the live action elements to the 3D environment, and on detailing the pinball machine. 2D3's Boujou was used by Ownen Hammer and Shant Jordan for tracking.