(New York, NY - November 7, 2005) How do you re-launch one of the nation's most visible sports? Mr. Wonderful, a new design and effects company, was charged with the task of developing a fresh sports package for OLN's coverage of the National Hockey League, which was designed and delivered in 1080i HD, as well as 4:3 NTSC.|
The project reinforced the trust that was given to Mr. Wonderful by the clients in re-branding and re-launching a national league sport as iconic as the NHL.
"With only one month to create an entire sports package, we needed someone who had solid sports production experience. We knew Mr. Wonderful could give us the best possible product and deliver within our time constraints," explains Michael Magnotta, OLN VP & Creative Director. "Beirne [Lowry] and his team worked with us to create an extremely exciting sports package that is uniquely OLN. It's exactly what we wanted and we're very proud of the finished product."
OLN, a leader in action and adventure sports, will televise at least 58 regular-season games, which will air consistently on Monday and Tuesday nights and be exclusive to the network. The NHL package is the first HD package for a major franchise on OLN. The 2005-2006 season marks NHL's return after a yearlong hiatus. OLN wanted a graphics package that was fast-paced and exciting to represent the action of the sport and make it more geared towards the fans. The client also wanted a simple clean look and flat, solid-color graphics to maintain consistency with its revamped brand logo and style guide.
"We wanted the package to get right to the core of hockey, which is the speed and the ice," explains Beirne Lowry, Mr. Wonderful Creative Director. "We kept the design stark and bold like a comic book or Japanese anime with heavy use of black and solid colors. The client was wide open to our design interpretation as long as it fit within their look."
Producer Damien Henderson adds, "We had to keep the design fresh since the NHL hadn't been on the air for quite some time. This package had to set the tone for the re-launch of a national league on a new network. It had to correspond with all of the NHL campaigns and branding efforts to revitalize the franchise."
The :22 open was designed by Mr. Wonderful to represent the last heart-pounding :22 of a hockey game. Using stop motion capture of actual professional hockey players, the studio was able to re-create their actions in minute detail with close-ups on various body parts or equipment - not usually feasible in a real game. Action figure models of hockey players were painted white and then shot by Lowry with a digital camera for reference. The concept was to create a photorealistic but stylized look similar to "Sin City" but much brighter.
"Since we were designing for HD, we paid extreme attention to detail from the accuracy of the hockey equipment, which has become more high-tech, to the textures of the socks and leather padding," comments Lowry. "This was much more involved than videogame footage. We wanted to convey the realness of the sport, but in a metaphorical way, which is why we used CG. The end result is an ultra-detailed Chiascurro look to the players."
Lowry created a color palette that complemented both the OLN and NHL logos, which included blacks, whites, blues and grays and some red that was used in the after-game graphics. The studio delivered a body of graphic elements such as bumpers, transitions, backgrounds, violators and lower thirds.
With an incredibly short turnaround time of four weeks from concept to completion, Mr. Wonderful assembled a team of in-house modelers and animators, who worked virtually non-stop.
"It was no problem for all our systems to work in HD as they are already setup that way," says Henderson. "It was quite a technical accomplishment to execute everything in HD in such a short amount of time since it was so render-intensive. We had to streamline our process and enforce strict quality assurance; everyone closely scrutinized their work."
For the crowds, 30 extras were shot against greenscreen by Mr. Wonderful. Lowry directed the action of the crowd with input from Michael Palermo, the Lead Editor on the project. The fans were recreated into flat graphics and silhouettes, and then Lowry sped up the action and cut out every other frame so it had a hand-animated look.
"The OLN package for the NHL was an entirely different process, look and design," concludes Lowry. "Our objective was to create a HD open that had never been seen in sports before."
In addition to Lowry, the Mr. Wonderful team included Smoke Artists Michael Palermo and Christopher Harrison who worked together to provide the edit.
Adobe After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator were utilized for texturing and design. The backgrounds, ice rink and crowds were created in Flame while the 3D hockey players were generated in Maya to animate their motion. Poser was used for the close-ups of the players. Offline Editorial was accomplished in Avid Media Composer and the HD conform was done in Discreet Smoke.
VP & Creative Director: Michael Magnotta
Producer: Phylisse Cook
Creative Director: Beirne Lowry
Producer: Damien Henderson
Editor: Michael Palermo
Smoke/Online Editor: Christopher Harrison
Assistant Editors: Scott Rankin & Jerry Petitto
3D Modeler/Animator: Scott Hubbard
3D Lighting/TD: Joe Burrascano
3D Texturing: Tom Cushwa
3D Animator/Rigger: Ylli Orana, Tzachi Kalsky & Doug Vitarelli
3D Modeler: Jay Shin
Flame Artists: Sean McLean & Jon Tomasello
Sr. Designer/Animator: Mark Thompson
Jr. Designer/Animator: Frank Farella
OLN® is the leader in competitive and adrenaline-charged content. Now in more than 64 million homes, OLN is the cable home of the National Hockey League and best-in-class events like The Tour de France, The America's Cup, Professional Bull Riders (PBR), the Boston Marathon and USSA Skiing. The network offers unique programming in four primary areas: Action Sports, Field Sports, Bulls & Rodeo and Awe-Inspiring Series, and is the exclusive home of Survivor in syndication. OLN, a wholly owned company of Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA, CMCSK), is distributed via cable systems and satellite operators throughout the United States.
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