Squint/Opera recently produced a short film to help launch Bjarke Ingels design for the final World Trade Center tower. The project is potentially one of the most complex urban renewal projects in the world due to its many political, emotional and architectural aspects. The film featured some ambitious techniques including the use of greenscreen motion controlled footage combined with 3d animation. Here we discuss some of the technical challenges we faced and how we overcame them.
The greenscreen shoot with MILO motion camera rig
Scenes shot within the building depict occupants going about daily activities: from the bustle of the newsroom, to staff taking a break on a lavish garden terrace and a window cleaner, working at the dizzying heights at the top of the tower.
All these scenes were built in 3DS Max but to attain the realism we were aiming for, it was decided that we would shoot real life actors for the main characters. This presented a production challenge, as the camera was doing quite complicated circling movements, which are difficult to control, so we opted for a MILO motion control rig with a RED Dragon camera which was an exciting Squint first.
Due to time and budget constraints, we knew we would have to work quickly on our 1 day shoot to complete the 8 shots required. The 3d team broke down each shot, supplying data for each camera move and that was then tested.
We have a lot of experience with green screen shoots, so were comfortable achieving a good result which would help the comp team key in the footage quickly. This, along with the use of the RED Dragon camera shooting 6K full frame meant we had a very high quality image.
The idea was then to load the data from the MILO crew into 3DS max to give us a camera that would match the live plate with some post processing, and even though we were confident that we would achieve what we needed from the Motion controlled footage, we were also very aware we were trying to do a lot in one day!
MILO Motion control rig with RED Dragon
MILO in action!
Setting up a take
Footage in 3DS Max
From comp to final shot
With this in mind, we had a plan B in case of technical issues that might mean we would need to track the shots instead of using the Motion Control data within 3DS Max.
For every shot, we placed tracking markers on stands in places where they would not interfere with the actors. Then we did another pass with only tracking markers, stands and anything else we had handy so if necessary we could track that camera pass and use that data to create a camera for 3DS Max.
Tracking markers were placed around the actor.
This proved very worthwhile as we had a couple of shots that didn’t work out well from the motion control data so we made the decision to fully track them in either PF Track or Nuke.
However, we didn’t just rely on the Motion control camera to help us achieve some of these shots. We knew some of the characters in the scene were far back in the shot and so we could shoot a static version of them and place them on cards in Nuke’s 3D space. As there was little to no parallax for these characters, this worked very well!
We also decided to use a simple old-school technique of placing our character on a turntable and spinning them at a similar pace to the 3D camera rotation. When placed on a card in nuke and rephotographed with the 3D camera (which includes translation) it gave the impression of the camera moving up and around our character. This worked very well and was a great cheap cheat so we could spend more time on the more complicated shots.
Window cleaner on the turntable
Final comp in Nuke
The final film On reflection, we were pleased that we managed to get the footage we needed to help complete the film as well as data, either via the MILO directly, or using the MILO’s ability for multiple passes to aid the speed of our tracking results.
So, here is the final film. What do you think? If you have a burning question about the production please feel free to ask through our comments section below.
Architect Magazine features our renderings of Singapore’s Sky Habitat, designed by Moshe Safdie and inspired by his original and revolutionary concept for Habitat 67. Safdie has gone on to create a body of work that earned him this year’s AIA Gold Medal. Reflect on his extensive career as you consider the echoes of Habitat 67 in Sky Habitat’s geometric beauty.
Construction underway at One Legacy West
Construction is set to begin on the Gaedeke Group’s tower at One Legacy West, located right across the street from where Toyota’s new headquarters will go up. Tenants are already expressing interest in the office space. See our rendering of the first building to rise in the Dallas Business Journal and check out the film we created in the Dallas Morning News. We also created the branding materials for the project.
Van Ness brings mixed-use to Fenway
1325 Boylston Street is now home to Van Ness, a dual tower building with a number of residential units in addition to retail and restaurant space. Tenants of Van Ness will welcome the summer months with new amenities like the green space terrace and rooftop lounge with grilling areas. See our rendering of the building that BostInno says is “poised to become the commercial epicenter of the revamped Fenway neighborhood.”
Groundbreaking at Allston-Brighton commuter rail station
Work began this month to reopen and reconnect the Allston-Brighton commuter rail station previously closed during the 1962 extension of the Massachusetts Turnpike. Not familiar with the history of the rail station? The Boston Business Journal shares five things you need to know about the project, including details about nearby Boston Landing, a massive mixed-use development that will include the new world headquarters for New Balance, a boutique hotel, Class A office space and a training rink for the Boston Bruins. Check out the plans for the site in our rendering on BostInno. Curbed Boston calls the neighborhood one to watch.
Former New York Times space is on the market
The renovated office space at 229 W. 43rd Street that was once home to the operations of the New York Times is reportedly for sale, according to Bloomberg Business. Crain’s New York and The Real Deal feature our rendering of the building where Blackstone Group is seeking $525 million for the top 12 floors of the historic building.
Knickerbocker Hotel named a new hot getaway
For those planning a fun summer getaway, Yahoo! Travel has compiled a list of the hottest hotels in New York. A recent overhaul brought new life to The Knickerbocker, now open in a landmarked building that previously housed office space. See our rendering of the “Times Square-squatting hotel.”
NEEP is repositioned as The District Burlington
A massive repositioning effort will transform the New England Executive Office Park into The District Burlington, as investments in the office park will create a more walkable, urban-style destination for tenants and visitors. Check out our rendering on GlobeSt.com. We also created a film for the project that previews the changes coming to Burlington.
Thirteen years ago four friends full of reckless youthful optimism started a company. The aim? To make films which were fun yet informative and would shake up the way architecture is communicated. Thirteen years later the style and approach remains much the same but our company has grown and changed in exciting and sometimes unexpected ways. Today, Squint/Opera is a creative studio, full production house, bar and events space employing over 150 people across four countries. Along the way there have been some interesting moments, we’ve picked out a few which have helped us get to where we are today.
2003 to 2004: where it all began We started in the corner of an architecture studio in Battersea equipped with simple camera kit and software. Our first commissions helped to communicate the regeneration of a number of post-industrial towns in England. One of the earliest examples was Bradford Picture a City, which went on to be exhibited in MoMa.
Bradford Picture a City.
2005: deep fry Chips, a film about Will Alsop's RIBA award-winning community eco-homes, kept things colourful and playful. Before we could afford to pay for actors many of our Directors played the leading roles in our early films!
2006: everything goes 3d In 2006 Creative Director Nick Taylor joined, bringing extensive 3d expertise which added a new flavour. Slick 3d artistry was combined with great narrative and a playful style. We were commissioned by landscape architects Grant Associates to create a visionary animated film for the spectacular Singapore Gardens. The film helped Grant's win the international design competition and put Squint/Opera on the map.
2007: doodle your own architectural vision Through collaboration with talented artist Serge Seidlitz we created Doodlearth. We encouraged the public to draw on a large canvas with a projected cityscape. The aim was to reflect the multitude of styles and languages present in the beautiful chaos of modern cities.
2008: ch-ch-ch-changes Just as our reputation was growing, the financial crisis struck. This was a turning point. We continued to work on great projects but would also begin experimenting with new ideas and break-out projects over the coming years. We opened studios in Australia and the Middle East, began our first venture in broadcast with animations for Channel 4’s Fonejacker and opened the exhibition Flooded London, which depicted future generations of Londoners coping with rising sea levels in a mostly abandoned city.
2009: come and draw on our walls The warehouse below our studio was becoming deserted during the recession so we decided to whitewash the walls and start a bar with a blank canvas for creativity, encouraging local artists and the community back into our space. 2009 also saw the official launch of Squint/Opera’s sister company Coda Cola who produce all the music for our productions.
The original Doodle Bar.
2010: launching the games This was a bumper year for us. We worked with leading sports architects Populous to launch the 2012 Olympic stadium with our playful film which was used by all major broadcasters (BBC, SKY, CNN) and completed our film about the regeneration of the World Trade Center site which was shown in subways, ports and airports across the city.
Squint/Opera's film which launched the 2012 Olympic Stadium.
The regeneration of the World Trade Centre.
2011: when you need to know go to Okido We happily stumbled across a fantastic scientist and a talented illustrator who'd founded Okido, an arts and science magazine for kids, we decided to make it into an animation - more on this later. Meanwhile, the Doodle Bar had been refurbished and was going from strength-to-strength, hosting pop ups and exciting urban space regenerators. Meanwhile back in our studio, the team were busy pushing technology, building an iPod controlled model of London’s Royal Docks.
Okido - an arts and science magazine for children aged 3 - 7.
The refurbished Doodle Bar.
Royal Docks media table.
2012: branding and digital We continued to explore digital and spatial projects including a website and app for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and a series of media walls for Newham and Douglas & Gordan. Our studio was expanding with a growing graphic design team providing branding for a range of products and organisations such as Give Me Tap, BSkyB, Edge of Arabia, SomewhereTo and Samba Mobile.
A selection of branding projects.
2013: Olympics, World Cup and Hollywood For the 2014 World Cup we created an award winning film and app using real time 3d visualisation, a technology also employed on the Siemen’s Crystal interactive exhibition. Our knowledge of digital media combined with a love of culture led us to a new venture creating exhibits for museums such as the V&A’s Hollywood Costumes which won the Drum Award in 2013.
The award winning film for the 2014 World Cup.
Hollywood Costume exhibition which won a 2013 Drum award.
2014: have fun and learn Back to Okido, our kid’s TV show was commissioned by the BBC and we got in a heap of talented people to make 52 episodes, doubling our studio in space and numbers. More installations opened including WCMC Discovery Wall, an artwork created from thousands of tiny screens which communicates the work of a major medical research centre in New York.
The trailer for Okido, a 52-part series which will launch on BBC in the autumn.
The WCMC Discovery Wall: a wall-sized digital artwork communicating medical research.
2015: BIG things With Okido set to launch in the Autumn it has been a busy year so far. We have completed a number of films for architect Bjarke Ingels, digital media and graphic applications for the UKTI Pavilion and the Doodle Bar continues to host amazing events.
The Testbed events space: a recent event for Formula One team Mercedes.
Dryline: keeping New York safe from storms.
Graphic identity applied to a poster, book, invitation, record sleeve and vinyl for the UKTI
So what’s next? We have plans to open more offices around the world very soon, we're continuing to explore more brilliant ideas and collaborations with talented people, we're growing our digital and post production divisions and have a couple of other top secret ventures in the pipeline.
Last week we made our way back to District Hall for our third annual Spring in the Seaport networking event. In case you didn’t make it to last year’s event, the night is a chance for us to discuss architecture, real estate, technology, marketing and more. This year we had 49 attendees from the industry join us, including Elkus Manfredi, JLL, and Perkins+Will, for a Monopoly-themed event in a great collaborative space right in our neighborhood.
The event gave attendees a chance to preview our real-time app, which we’ll share at ICSC’s RECon in just a few days. The technology gives real estate marketers the opportunity to craft a personalized tour experience for potential buyers or tenants. The interactive, dynamic interface lets you “walk” through and explore a curated space. Through the power of real-time, Spring in the Seaport attendees walked through Union Station in Washington D.C., while testing out features like switching out different retail shops.
Check out the photos from the event below, and stay tuned for more on our work with real-time technology!
Since being named architect for the new National Medal of Honor Museum in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina this past October, Safdie Architects’ (in collaboration with Gallagher & Associates) have been designing a space for those who have served in defense of the U.S. and received the Medal of Honor – the nation’s highest military award. See Safdie’s design and our renderings featured on ArchDaily. You can look inside the building and see more of our renderings on Curbed. We’ve also worked with Moshe Safdie on his Sky Habitat project in Singapore. Learn how we’ve been inspired by Safdie’s design on our blog, where you can see our renderings and Sky Habitat film.
Development in Dallas’ Victory Park
Dallas’ Victory Park is seeing lots of new development springing up lately, from an apartment tower to a new movie theater. Yet the space left for development is dwindling. We created a film to show what the changes at Victory Park will actually look like in the coming months and how the Victory Park landscape fits into downtown Dallas. Impending changes to the neighborhood include 200,000 square feet of retail space, 1 million square feet of office space, some residential units and hotel and entertainment options. Check it out on The Dallas Morning News.