Serving a goddess – how Glassworks helped Nike launch a legend

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Last Updated: March 24, 2016 4:41 pm GMT
(March 24, 2016) So potent is Nike’s status as a giant of street fashion, it can prove easy to forget just how technical the company’s broad range of sports footwear is.



From the impact dispersing sole technology of its skate shoes to the Flywire engineering that keeps the company’s boxing boot line light and strong, even the most fashion-friendly Nike product is typically a masterpiece of specialisation.



And found jostling for position at the paramount of Nike’s numerous lines is the Nike Tiempo Legend 6. As a high-end football boot it may not see any footfall on the high street, but it deftly juggles looking good with technical nuance. The promotion of such a product demanded a promotional video with an equal knack for aesthetic grace and technical efficiency, meaning Nike turned to Glassworks, a post-production facility delivering high-end digital animation and visual effects expertise with operations in the UK, Spain and Holland.



It was up to Glassworks to create a slick and high-end video promoting the Legend 6, which was garnering much hype as 2015 drew to a close. In order to render the CG shoe with both efficiency and quality, Glassworks turned to Redshift’s GPU-accelerated renderer…



A legendary client

Serving an outfit with the clout Nike wields meant Glassworks needed to deliver work at immense pace without sacrificing quality – a particularly fitting challenge when serving a client famously named after the Greek goddess of speed.



Embarking on the Tiempo Legend 6 project, Glassworks were also greeted with a rather distinct brief. Nike wanted the boot shown at a remarkable level of detail, at a perspective closer almost than that possible with the human eye. While it’s a simple enough concept in theory, implementing it as a high-quality video presented Glassworks with numerous technical challenges.



Nevertheless, for Florian Juri, Glassworks’ director of ‘Nike Tiempo; Start the Finish’, the Redshift renderer certainly provided what was required.

“From the very beginning it was clear that we needed to show a CG version of the product from an ultra-close point of view, with shallow depth of field combined with rendered motion blur and refractive materials in some shots,” explains Juri. “On previous jobs, when using a different renderer, this specific scenario caused a lot of issues; render times were too high, and a few shots wouldn’t finish in acceptable quality at all. Redshift, meanwhile, enabled us to do all of that, and entirely pain-free.”

This meant that, while embracing the challenge of combining extremely shallow depth of field with intense motion blur on some elements, Glassworks could deliver super smooth results while keeping frame render times to a handful of minutes.



And in the same process, Redshift also granted Glassworks another trick to secure up its sleeve; the ability to construct – at the animatic stage – lower quality renders over and above traditional screen captures; something perfect for working with and suitably impressing the client.

Across the board

“Redshift is a production-ready renderer with pretty much all features you’d need for 95 per cent of jobs,” enthuses Juri, looking back on his experience. “It’s incredibly fast, with speed-ups somewhere between five-times to even 60-times in some cases. Redshift’s renderer enables a 3D artist to go through many iterations fast, while making the kind of last minute changes which do happen a lot.”

Redshift’s rendering speed is well recognised across the many industries it serves, of course, but for Juri the benefits it brought to his project did not stop with a boost to working velocity.

“Redshift’s customer support is incredible, ” he asserts. “The support team is very responsive and helpful, and listens to their customers – that’s really important for us.”

That support may not seem drastically significant at first consideration, but it let Glassworks hit the standard Nike demanded, with technological friction almost entirely eradicated. When the team discovered occasional bugs, for example, they were fixed almost immediately by the Redshift support team. With a globally significant footwear release drawing near, time was of the essence, and there was no time for Glassworks to wait around for assistance and maintenance.

“In the advertising world we need to work and react fast,” confirms Juri. “Approximations of a renderer are acceptable if we can get very realistic, pretty much noise-free results, fast.”

Redshift, of course, let the team do just that.

Best foot forward

Ultimately, the Redshift GPU renderer served a pivotal role in Glassworks’ Tiempo Legend 6 production. It allowed the team under Juri’s direction to respond to the client’s need swiftly, deliver numerous iterations from the 3D art team on a daily basis, and deliver exceptional results at great pace – all while using a relatively small render farm.

“Redshift enables us to render with higher sampling, more diffuse bounces, and increased reflection and refraction depths than ever before, giving us more realistic results, while still hitting low render-times,” offers Juri. “I like the fact that I can use measured material properties like extinction coefficient for my standard architectural shaders to get realistic fresnel effects on reflections, for instance.”



Take a look at the Start the Finish video and it’s clear Glassworks’ achievement on the project is masterful. It captures the Tiempo boot’s elegance and nuance with flair through slick, sexy visuals that pulse and slide – and all delivered with remarkable speed and minimal fuss. That, of course, is what Redshift’s GPU-powered architecture is all about, and like the Greek goddess of speed, it also counts immense power among its attributes.

The results Glassworks produced here were certainly good enough for the more contemporary incarnation of Nike too. Supported by Redshift, the production powerhouse has added another superb piece to its ever-expanding showreel.

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