All eyes are on the field during a Super Bowl game, especially one as exciting as Sunday’s. But there’s also a lot of work and care that goes into creating all those sets. No one knows that better than the staff at ISD (Innovative Show Design), the company tapped to create the sets for the commentators, interviews and other uses. According to ISD graphics supervisor Nate Mitchell, ISD started its Super Bowl work all the way back in April when they got the go-ahead from NBC. The list of sets they were to create ultimately ended up being the main commentator desk on the ship for the pre-show, the Super Suite for celebrity interviews, the NFL Experience and the Top Chef area.
The job starts with previsualization, lots of it. ISD relies on MAXON CINEMA 4D for its pre-visualization work on each set. ISD president Christopher Runnells, who is also the company’s artistic director, does the drawings, which are sent to Mitchell or project manager/graphics artist Mark Dowling who work on texturing, lighting and camera animations, along with associate artistic director/lighting designer Justin Garrone.
“ISD team uses VectorWorks, a 3D AutoCAD program, to do the drawings, and then MAXON to bring it to life,” said Mitchell. ISD has also built an impressive digital library of both textures and lighting fixtures. “When we texture, we use the same textures we plan to use in real life,” said Mitchell. ” We have the actual textures of the wood laminates we’ll be using. We’ll go to Wilson Art’s online catalog of textures, take the JPEGs and copy them into our library. This way, the wood grain is exactly alike. We do the same things with the lights, using the exact fixtures with all their exact dimensions and characteristics.”
Garrone draws the lighting fixtures in VectorWorks, which are then built with MAXON’s programming language Xpresso, recreating each fixture’s exact specifications. “Because we build it with Xpresso, we have all the sliders, which allow us to animate the lights to move exactly as they’ll be moved in reality,” said Mitchell. “We also use the previs program ESP Vision to position all the lights. So, instead of having to do it on set, you can build the lighting rig on screen, program the show like that, and use a disk to replicate pans, tilts and every other move. If you’ve built the rig exactly the same way, it’s 99.5 percent accurate. That saves a lot of trouble. ” Mitchell reported that ISD has been building its texture and lighting libraries for two years.
What were the challenges of previsualizing the Super Bowl? “Aside from it being the Super Bowl? ,” laughed Mitchell. “It was huge. It’s the Super Bowl and there’s a lot of planning for it. But everything went amazingly smooth.”
Coming up, ISD has also created the sets for the 2009Speed Week at the Daytona 500, starting on February 15, again using CINEMA 4D for previs.
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