How do you maintain a PG rating when Janet Jackson’s clothes disappear in a flash? Good question, and one that the producers of the 2005 Super Bowl halftime show would have certainly liked to have known the answer to (or maybe not).
Creating a Wardrobe Function for Janet Jackson
In the newest Janet Jackson music video for So Excited, directed by Joseph Kahn, VFX house X1FX handled numerous effects shots, including the recurring instance wherein Jackson and other dancers’ clothes would suddenly disappear and then come back in time with the motion of the dance moves.
X1FX joined Kahn on set where the dance routines were filmed, first with clothes and then without, or rather, with as little as possible. To make the clothes come on and off in the same shot, X1 was challenged to track the clothes back on all the dancers. In between setups, X1 took the clothes and shot high-res stills of them, which would be tracked and composited in post. But tracking clothes to a group of gyrating dancers is no simple task. X1 used SynthEyes, a 3D tracking system.
"We actually just used it on some shots for Spider-Man 3," explains VFX Supervisor and X1 Co-Owner Mark Larranaga. "It basically gathers the data the camera is shooting and places those points all over the place, so that we’re able to place our object in there and camera match it."
Once that movement data was gathered, X1 used it to make their character animation, created in Autodesk Maya, match the dancers’ movements; clothes were then placed on the characters.
"We used Syflex for the cloth simulation so that the characters’ movements drive the movement of the clothes," Larranga explains. "As soon as we got the textures, we baked that in and created the cloth. From there, we composite it over Janet and color correct it down to match. Looking at the video you can’t tell when it’s real clothing and CG clothing. On top of that, we had to paint out the tube tops and shorts with the skin colors."
In addition to that effect, X1 had to create the entire ceiling structure in 3D, as well as a number of X-ray effects where the camera would rack focus to go through walls, cars and even skin to see people’s skeletal systems.
"There were about 120 shots that we had to replace the ceilings for, so that alone was a big task to deliver in five days," says Edy Enriquez, X1FX executive producer.
- Matt Armstrong