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The Mets Meet VFX

Is This the Future of 3D Stadium Entertainment?

Considering the challenging season the Mets are having, it may be time to bring back the superheroes, this time in stereo3D.

That Mets mojo was in fine form on the field last year, thanks in small part to a new kind of VFX-rich promo up on stadium screens. Wearing HUDs straight out of Iron Man, futuristic players revved up fans with feature-film-style fly throughs and graphic-intense effects. The 60-second spot, titled "Heads-Up Display" and produced by Digital Domain, opened each home game, and condensed clips ran after significant plays throughout the team's 2012 season. It also ran on MLB.com and Mets.com.

The short was written, directed and created by Marc Dominic Rienzo, whose credits include The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, The Hobbit and Spider-Man and who was, until last September, a director and VFX supervisor at Digital Domain Media Group in Florida. "Amazin'," another spot created for the Mets by Rienzo and the DDMG team, blended historical images and effects for a nostalgic look back at the moments that shaped the team's history.

Building on the incredible buzz of its Tupac Shakur hologram at Coachella and the subsequent creation of a new virtual performance business, DDMG aimed to bring the same excitement to sports stadiums that it had to the concert stage.The Mets project was the first public result of DDMG's Sports Venues division, the last of several initiatives launched by the visual effects and conversion facility in July 2012. In a release at the time the company said it hoped to help "sports teams and venues create fan experiences that inspire and excite in new ways, honor teams legacies and iconic players, and take in-venue sports entertainment to the next level." Stereo3D versions of both spots were set to launch later that year.  

Unfortunately, DDMG benched those plans—and everything else in the works—when the company began laying off employees just two months later, eventually filing for bankruptcy on September 11 and selling most of its assets to China's Galloping Horse America and India's Reliance MediaWorks. (For an update on what really happened, see Mike Seymour's recent FX Guide interview with former DDMG CEO John Textor.) Rienzo is now an independent director and VFX supervisor.

But in an effort to share the great work he and his former colleagues did—and perhaps also revive a bit of the Mets magic—Rienzo has since posted both spots on Vimeo, as well as the companion "The Ball Unleashed." Earlier this month, he posted stereo 3D anaglyph versions of "Heads-Up Display" (below), which was originally rendered in 3D, and "Amazin'," which was converted to 3D. Neither made it to stadium screens in stereo3D. Todd Napier supervised the stereo conversion at DDMG using Nuke and a number of proprietary tools. Get out your red-and-green glasses, then see how the VFX team did it in the "Heads-Up Display" VFX breakdown.

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