Digital Domain's Neil Huxley Directs Epic Show Open for UFC
Los Angeles, CA— Zuffa, LLC, owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship® (UFC®) brand, turned to Digital Domain to create a new show open for its legendary matches, set for debut at UFC® 143: DIAZ vs. CONDIT live on Pay-Per-View at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Saturday, February 4. The :60 second piece combines archival footage of iconic UFC bouts mapped into entirely imagined backgrounds that illustrate how mixed martial arts has evolved from a niche following into one of the biggest sports worldwide and includes a score by famed film composer and music producer Hans Zimmer, through his company 14th St. Music. The new show open will air on UFC Pay-Per-View programming.
“The UFC is heading into a new chapter and taking the brand to the next level,” said Dana White, UFC President. “We’ve had the same show open for the last 9 years and with this monumental FOX deal, and the global expansion of the UFC, we wanted to come up with a new show open that paid tribute to the fighters who helped us build the business and grow the sport.”
When Digital Domain first met with UFC president Dana White, he wanted a new show open that conveyed the full breadth of the UFC’s history while also showcasing the various fighting disciplines represented by the stars of the sport. Huxley, a director with Digital Domain’s Mothership, came up with the concept of illustrating UFC’s rise from the gym to the mega-stadium as a metaphor for the ascent of the sport, featuring iconic moments from real UFC matches dating back to its inception in 1993. With each tap out, blow, punch and kick, the strength of the fighters causes the concrete of the mat and surrounding structure of a dark run-down gym to fracture and crumble away. The debris clears away piece by piece, through generations of MMA gyms and fighters to reveal the rise of a new Octagon® with huge steel lighting girders that come up through the floor. With the impact of each demolishing blow timed to the music, the new stadium constructs itself around a rotating cast of famed UFC fighters, to eventually reveal an epic, modern arena filled with 120,000 fans.
“I am a big fan of the UFC, and have boxed and been around fighters since my early 20s. It’s a world I am very familiar with,” said Huxley. “It’s a true warrior sport. It’s explosive and amazing to watch. The nature of this kind of combat is no joke. It’s the fastest growing sport in the world and they needed a show open to equal the spectacle of their live event. Dana invited me to watch a fight ringside and the atmosphere was electric. I said if we can bottle some of this energy and convey that through the piece then we are onto something. That was when we came up with the evolution concept. Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta brought their passion for mixed martial arts to the mainstream, and I was fortunate to collaborate closely with them to bring audiences these iconic moments that are truly the lifeblood of the sport.”
Huxley started by sifting through hours of archival footage and working with Dana to identify the 29 seminal fights, of which 18 made it into the piece. Digital artists worked with Neil to remove the fighters from backgrounds in the archival clips while an animation team began building CG environments and set pieces. Once an animation was locked, the Digital Domain team tracked and animated 3D digital human models, lining them up precisely with the fighters’ motion, to enable the simulation of real-world lighting and seamless matching of the fighters into CG environments. Digital Domain employed a team of 20 artists to complete this project in ten weeks.