September 12, 2006


The Syndicate teamed up with directors/designers Matt Checkowski and Kurt Mattila on the :60 project.Calling on its commercial and filmmaking expertise, The Syndicate combined design elements, CG and live-action to create a mini-movie about a transformed city. Materials from the open are also being used throughout the broadcast package.

The open begins with a live-action aerial shot of a downtown at night. It fades to black then cuts to a close-up of a football helmet, with the ESPN logo. As people pass by a young man picks up the helmet, puts it on and a blue energy effect triggers a transformation of the city: energy ripples up a skyscraper, stadium lights take shape among the buildings, a bicyclist transforms into a player carrying the ball, and asphalt morphs into field turf. A line of players rush past a storefront where TV sets transform to display team logos and the ESPN Monday Night Football title.

Initially, The Syndicate shot on location in downtown LA, but the environment just wasn't magical enough so the studio rotoscoped people off plates they had shot and recreated the backplates with CG or front projection mapped onto geometry. Assets they had collected from other jobs were used to create much of the city too, but because this was their first "night city" job, considerable reflections had to be added to the windows.

A low-rez animatic was used to give the directors and creatives a vision of how the city would be laid out. For four nights, the team shot 35mm live action footage in downtown LA. The open's first aerial sequence is live-action, enhanced with CG people. Subsequent aerials are totally CG. An additional day on a soundstage was required to shoot athletes performing the parts of the transformed football players.

A Photo-Sonics camera, shooting at 900 fps, was used to capture the slow-motion leap over a taxi.  Crowds were further filled out with The Syndicate shooting greenscreen elements. Additional background elements were captured on location with a rented HD camera.Danny Braet created the blue energy effect, which radiates from the magical ESPN helmet. 

Automaker GMC, which is a lead sponsor for the program, has branding that appears throughout the open. On one sequence, an animated, photoreal 2007 GMC Sierra truck barrels down the street. A prototype of the truck was scanned to create the model. The model was also used to create posters and signage that appears throughout the city,The final shot, a :10 scene of the fully-formed stadium, ringed by the city, is 100 percent CG. Matte painter Vlad Bina helped lay out and composite the shot.

The Syndicate also customized the show open to allow ESPN to insert a surprise celebrity guest into the third shot following the appearance of the glowing helmet. Telecine artist/partner Beau Leon created the dynamic color correction that includes dark blues, grays and greens.

NewTek LightWave was used for CG. Eyeon's Fusion and Autodesk's Discreet Flame were used for compositing. Adobe After Effects and Photoshop were also used in creating the open, as was 2d3's Boujou tracking software.