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Blur Crashes the Boards for Reebok

Blur Studio staged an exciting above-the-rim duel between two of the NBA's best point guards for a new computer-animated spot for Reebok and the Arnell Group, New York. Directed by Blur's Tim Miller and produced entirely in-house by the animation studio, the spot features CG versions of Steve Francis of the Houston Rockets and Baron Davis of the New Orleans Hornets. The hoops stars trade stunning three pointers and devastating slam-dunks that leave a basketball court in ruins.

Currently airing on ESPN, MTV, BET, Turner Network, Spike TV, Cartoon Network, Comcast Cable, NBA Inside Stuff and NBA TV, the spot promotes Reebok's Above the Rim collection of athletic shoes. Under Miller's direction, the spot engages viewers with Francis and Davis' over-the-top battle for playground supremacy with photoreal animation, stunning vfx and clever, jive-talking banter. In addition to assisting Arnell's creative team with story development, Blur Studio shepherded the spot through production and post, handling not only the animation, but also editing, effects, motion capture and even the creation of its infectious hip hop score.

The fun of the spot comes from how quickly the players' court feats escalate from the merely super-human to the totally outrageous. Davis' supreme act has him ricocheting the ball off an air duct and a light stanchion, before catching it and dropping it through the rim in a backward slam-dunk. He then flips his body behind the rim and lands gracefully atop the backboard. "It's pure fantasy," said Miller, "but it's fantasy that is inspired by the real talents and personalities of Baron Davis and Steve Francis."

In order to make lifelike models of the two players, Blur Studio sent an artist to meet them on the road and take digital photographs of their facial and body features. Realistic motion was achieved through motion capture technology. Blur brought in professional basketball players who were recommended to it by Davis to mimic the moves of the two stars.

"Reebok provided us with highlight footage of Baron and Steve," explained Miller. "From that, we were able to mimic some of their signature moves." Blur artists also created photorealistic models of the Reebok footwear and clothing worn by the players.

The spot is packed with production value. Close ups reveal the granularity in the asphalt surface of the court and the cracked and fading paint of the free-throw stripe. Panoramas offer sweeping views of a dark, post-industrial environment with the court hemmed in by the dreary hulks of old factory buildings on the one side and cyclone fencing on the other, through which a pair of woman gape at the basketball theatrics. Off in the distance, a neon sign blinks forlornly. For further visual richness, Blur brought in a graffiti artist to create the spray painted doodling that covers the factory walls. The urban aesthetic is perfectly complemented by the spot's hip hop soundtrack and the witty trash talk engaged in by the two players.

Blur Studio's design unit also contributed to the effort branding the spot with an energetic end-tag animation of the ATR logo. The graphic comes to life in an explosive streak of light that transforms into a graffiti-like arrow that writes on the ATR characters and Reebok logo with an urban, grungy attitude.

Blur credits include: Kevin Margo (CG supervisor), Sherry Wallace (CG producer), Chuck Wojtkiewicz and Sean McNally (storyboards and concept art), David Nibbelin (layout animator), Wim Bien, Jean Dominique Fievet, Makoto Koyama, Remi McGill, Derron Ross, George Schermer, Miller (CG animators), Sze Chan, Zach Cork, Alexandre Litchinko, Margo, Laurent Pierlot, Seung Youb Shin, Jonas Thornqvist, Wallace (modelers), Margo (finishing and lighting), Daniel Perez Ferreira, Margo, Kirby Miller (visual effects), Paul Hormis (rigging and cloth simulation), Jon Jordan (animation technical director), John Bunt (motion capture supervisor).

Founded in 1995, Blur Studio of Venice, California, has produced numerous projects spanning a wide range of media - large-format films, commercials, concept art, feature effects, ride films and game cinematics. Notable recent projects include the SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS 3D stereoscopic ride-film, STARGATE SG-I Attraction, THE RISE OF NATIONS cinematic, Shania Twain's I'M GONNA GETCHA GOOD music video, photoreal effects for BULLETPROOF MONK and a SPIDER-MAN action-figure spot. For more information, call (310) 581-8848.