Nice Hat Productions (Atlanta, GA) had two weeks to create four
two-minute vignettes highlighting a prototype cell phone. Captured with
a handheld camera, the four vignettes depict an intricate choreography
of characters, cell phones, PDAs and computer screens. That meant
placing graphics and streaming video in the devices’ screens would be a
tricky proposition- especially on the crazy-tight deadline Nice Hat
While the vignettes were still being shot, Jay Hunt, senior editor at
Atlanta’s LAB 601, was loading and cutting footage on the fly. Nice Hat
Productions director Jim Issa had already wrangled several graphic
designers to create the graphics that would be placed in the devices’
screens, but was searching for a facility that could handle 40 to 60
challenging composites at, essentially, a moment’s notice. That’s when
Dave Ballard, president/creative director of LAB 601, stepped in. "I
said, Jim, do it here. I have the software for it," he remembers.
Specifically, he had Imagineer System’s Monet. A 2D tracking system,
Monet is not point-based but instead tracks flat plane surfaces with
the ability to follow turns with rotation, perspective or scale within
the image. The motion blur generated by the vignettes’ fast, handheld
camera action made it a good match for Monet’s system. The need for
speed was another reason why Ballard didn’t consider a 3D tracker,
which he says produces "amazing results with very complicated scenes,"
but with a time penalty. Monet also offers an integrated compositor,
which LAB 601 used to composite the screen shots and streaming video
into the appropriate screens. "We could use Monet to composite the
layer into the background we’ve tracked, or render out a layer as a
layer pass with alpha channel and import it into our Avid DS HD, or
export tracking data itself and import that into another compositor,"
Less than three normal work days and multiple revisions later, the 60
composites were done, Nice Hat Productions made their deadline – and
Ballard felt sort of like a magician. "At least half of these shots had
more than one part of the screen off screen," Ballard says. "It
wouldn’t have been impossible with a point tracker, but it would have
taken an hour or two, and looked wonky, versus five minutes with Monet."