When faced with the task of grading and finishing 13 episodes of David Fincher’s original Netflix series “House of Cards”, a52’s Colorist and Lead Smoke Artist Paul Yacono worked with producers, engineers and artists to develop a pipeline that served both the technical challenges and the creative aspirations that the show presented us with. Paul started with the first episode, working within the parameters that Fincher and his DP, Eigil Bryld, established which set the look for the series. “David and his crew set out with rules in place to keep the production value on all 13 episodes extremely high”, Yacono noted. “He is an idiosyncratic director with an incredible eye. He knows what he likes and doesn’t like. There’s rarely a grey area.” Once the initial look was established, Paul and a52’s second colorist, Tommy Hooper, tag-teamed the remaining 12 episodes over a 5 month period. Not only did Paul and Tommy set the color for the show, but Paul and the rest of the HOC team at a52, including lead online editor Matt Sousa, conformed every episode and completed a large amount of VFX for the show.
Having never tackled a show of this size, we needed to make significant infrastructure changes to accommodate the amount of data we processed on a weekly basis for each one hour episode. a52’s Chief Engineer, Kevin Bass, led the pipeline development for the crew creating a hugely flexible, yet structured workflow that allowed for rolling editorial changes on all episodes. “Unlike traditional series deliveries, Netflix releases an entire season in one go. So as the show took shape, the editorial department needed flexibility to change episodes at will. We had to create a pipeline that allowed for that flexibility but also didn’t slow down the finishing for the rest of the series,” explained Bass. Netflix, being an all digital delivery network, allowed us to push the technical boundaries of our tapeless pipeline as well. Thorough encoding development had to be tested and retested to meet the needs of both viewing for WIP comments as well as delivery formats for streaming.
“a52 has always been known as a boutique VFX company,” notes Executive Producer Megan Meloth. “This starts a new chapter in our history. We’re committed to doing more DI whether it be for commercials or long form. Paul is an incredibly talented colorist and with a sophisticated engineering department behind him, we’re ready to take on our next challenge.”
In visual effects, the single take camera move is both a thing of beauty as well as much pain and suffering for artists. When at the end of the day you can look at a spot and say, “How did they do that?” we know we’ve done our job really well.
The creative team at Anomaly thought up this VFX mind bender and with the inclusion of Derek Cianfrance, it got taken to a whole other level. More times than not, the single camera move is a roller coaster that we’re taken on. This spot however keeps that move subtle and simple which allows for more scrutiny from the viewer. Derek, being a purist, was intent on capturing the camera move in one take so that we wouldn’t have to hide any cuts with VFX trickery. Brilliant cinematography and choreography gave us the canvas to which we applied our VFX artistry.
VFX Supervisor, Andy McKenna took on the challenge of designing an approach for filling the stadium and removing the very large motion control rig that ran from the pitcher’s mound to the catcher allowing that move to happen. After a few long nights on location, the team assembled at a52 to bring Derek’s simple and elegant vision to life. “The phrase patience is a virtue comes into play on jobs like these,” McKenna notes. “There’s a lot of trust that has to be gathered from the Agency and Director because it usually doesn’t come together until the very end. Thankfully both the Agency and Derek found that trust in us.”
Its not everyday that we take on a music video. So when we do, we are fortunate enough to work with amazing artists both in front of and behind the camera.
How could we go wrong with David Fincher at the helm and an amazing track by Justin Timberlake and JayZ.
Microsoft “Provibe” :60 from a52 on Vimeo.
For the launch of Microsoft’s “Pro” Surface, agency Black Ops tapped up a52 to bring the new spot to air. Having successfully worked with Rock Paper Scissors Editorial on past campaigns, the agency turned its sights to a52 for the VFX.
Lead Flame Artist, Andy Bate chose well for his first project of the new year. After breaking last week, the spot was named Ad of the Day by Adweek.
NFL Network “Sandcastle” :60 from a52 on Vimeo.
Taco Bell “Viva Young” :60 from a52 on Vimeo.
Hyundai “Stuck” from a52 on Vimeo.
The artists at a52 had another great showing this year for Superbowl XLVII. Here’s some of the highlights.
Long time collaborators, Joaquin Baca-Asay and a52 VFX Supervisor Andy McKenna came together again for this new image campaign for Toyota via Saatchi + Saatchi.
Clever match cuts are topped off by the seamless introduction of the CG concept car created by a52 artists with their usual discreet hand of not really knowing what is real and what was done through VFX.
Congratulations to Lance Acord on his DGA nomination. We had the privilege of working with Lance on all three of his nominated commercials.
More recently, VFX Supervisor Patrick Murphy was on set with Lance for our first job with him of 2013.
Photo Credit: Scott Boyajan
We love that we work with directors like Lance Acord that afford us the opportunity to contribute to pieces outside of the commercial world. When asked if we’d like to help Lance with his retrospect on Ed Ruscha at the LACMA, we answered with a resounding “YES!” The show is on through January 21, 2013.
Be sure to catch it if you’re in town.
The first three spots in a Target Holiday campaign that we were lucky enough to work with 72 + Sunny and Jonas Akerlund on have hit the airwaves just in time for the start of the holiday shopping season. Magical CG characters and impeccable compositing courtesy of the fine artists at a52 populate the beautifully designed worlds from the mind of Jonas Akerlund.
Keep checking back for more spots in the campaign as the holidays are quickly approaching.
Its been a long history of a52 and Agency 215 creating beautiful spots for Nescafe and this one is no exception. This marks our sixth spot that we’ve worked with the creative team and the first one with our other long time friends at BlueSource.
Beautiful compositing at the hands of Jesse Monsour make this spot one to remember in the campaign. We look forward to these spots every year… we can’t wait to see what the team dreams up for 2013.