New York-based Click 3x has designed and produced a multifaceted branding package to support the launch of INHD and INHD-2, iN DEMAND's new 24-hour, high definition cable channels. The sweeping effort, itself produced in stunning high definition video, and comprising more than 50 deliverables, heralds, not only the arrival of two new channels, but an entirely new way to experience TV. INHD launches on digital cable Sept. 15, 2003.
Conceived by a Click 3x creative team partnered by creative director Iain Greenway and designer/director Christine Lin, the graphics seek to establish the INHD brand in a bold manner while highlighting the compelling qualities of the high definition television viewing experience. "Our vision was to really show-off the medium," said Stacie Gray, vp exec creative director for iN DEMAND. The graphics emphasize HD's expansive 16:9 frame, its brilliant color and clarity and the medium's eye-catching ability to delivery depth-of-field in panoramas and macro details. The package also underscores the theatrical quality sound provided by INHD through dynamic 5.1 surround sound audio (created with the aid of creative partners Marshall Grupp Sound Design, Sound Lounge and composer Gerry Mosby for Steam Music Inc.).
"Our challenge was to define the landscape, to communicate the fundamental difference represented by high definition in general and INHD in particular," Greenway said.
A core element of the branding package is the INHD logo, a fan-like series of rectangular glass panels of varying blue hues designed by David Brubaker of Ignition Design. Click 3x creatives elaborated on the core logo design developing a color system that enables genre specific packaging. The logo is a key element In Click 3x's broadcast work where it appears in many different guises, often turning up in surprising or humorous ways
"Part of our concern was in coming up with the right quality for the glass. It had to appear real, yet have a proprietary feel," noted Lin. "It had to be glass, not plastic and not simply a graphic form. It had to be refined, elegant and infused with color."
Creative elements in the package include image spots, ID's, opens, interstitials and logo animations, as well as an extensive graphics toolkit that included lower thirds, backgrounds, video windows, transitions and a style guide. Click 3x also produced a four-minute promotional teaser, aired by iN DEMAND in advance of the INHD launch.
The image spots focus on the qualities of the HD medium. In a spot titled BUTTERFLY, a girl is portrayed frolicking in a grassy field filled with whimsical butterflies. A panel from the logo becomes a rectangular magnifying glass, used to juxtapose panoramic imagery with close-ups where viewers can inspect the patterns on the butterflies' wings and the freckles on the girl's cheeks. "Our intent was to bring the experience to the viewer, through a heightened sense of reality," said Lin.
The spot SPORTS flaunts the variety of HD sports programming offered by INHD, which includes Major League Baseball and an assortment of college sports. Images of baseball, basketball and football players shot from varying perspectives are projected onto glass panels. In KAYAK, a man and a woman paddle their small crafts across a mirror like lake, with the panels of the INHD logo again used to affect perspective shifts. That spot, shot at New York's Rockland Lake State Park, involved perhaps the most complicated execution as compositors not only made it appear as though the kayaks are spilling out of the animated logo, they completely altered the spot's physical setting.
"We changed the background, using a digital matte painting to place the scene in a mountain setting, which made it more fantastical and dreamy," recalled Lin. "In pre-production, I consulted with our team of compositors on how to best shoot the location to facilitate the background change."
Several other IDs present objects against a white cyc to highlight high def's incredible color, clarity, detail, and depth. One such ID shows a bullfrog eyeing an insect as it darts back and forth across the frame. Just as it becomes apparent that the "insect" is not a fly after all, but rather the INHD logo, the frog's tongue snatches the buzzing logo out of the air. The HD imagery allows viewers to see details of the frog's skin and features that you wouldn't be able to see on a standard def station.
In another ID, a stretch Harley Davidson motorcycle, a gleaming mass of chrome and red steel, slides slowly into view. The bike overshoots the frame on the right, before sidling backwards to park neatly in the 16:9 rectangle. Other IDs show a fly fisherman casting a line, a balloon being blown up, a deejay operating an expansive table of eight turntables and an intense-looking snake slithering across the screen.
"The design concept is long lasting and flexible, and therefore can be applied in many ways," observed Greenway. "There are twists to the stories and quirky humor which makes the package unexpected, entertaining as well as beautiful."
Producing the package was a challenging undertaking, in part, because it was shot and produced in HD video. Click 3x, with the assistance of its production partner Arf & Co., mounted a five day shoot that included one day on location and four days on Arf & Co.'s special effects stage in Hoboken, New Jersey. All of the shooting was done with a Sony HD camera, with the exception of a few sequences for the sports spots that required slow motion. (Slow motion was shot with a 35mm film camera.)
"We used a standard 35mm lens package with the HD camera, which enabled us to capture the same depth of field and perspectives that we could have with a film camera," said Lin, who directed the bulk of the live action. (Greenway directed three of the spots.)
HD post production work spanned four weeks and occupied nearly all of Click 3x's resources as designers prepared graphics, editors cut the spots, CG artists created animated elements and compositors manipulated images and assembled the finished pieces. "Our initial task was to establish standards to work with," explained Click 3x exec producer Abbe Daniel. "In addition to the HD material that we shot and the computer animation that we created, we had a lot of high def stock material that needed to be integrated. We set strict standards for lines, resolution and frame rate in order to maintain consistency."
Click 3x recently completed a full overhaul of its technical systems to handle HD work. "It was very similar to doing feature film effects," said Daniel. "It put high demands on our compositing resources, as everything takes longer. There are more quality issues. If something is slightly out of focus it might go unnoticed at standard def, but in high def, it's obvious. We had to raise the standards across the board."
Despite the rigors, Click 3x artists pulled off some noteworthy feats. The butterflies needed to be integrated into the live-action scenes, so they were produced using computer animation. To make the creatures appear as real as possible, Click 3x artists made motion studies of butterflies housed at the Bronx Zoo for reference and scanned the wings of real butterflies to acquire textures that could be applied to 3D models. Click 3x's Peter Corbett served as technical director/partner.
Compositing work, accomplished at 2K on discreet flame platforms, was extensive for virtually every element in the package. The project is the most ambitious undertaking for Click 3x since it launched its broadcast design unit 18 months ago. "It was the perfect project for us, exactly what we had in mind when we embarked on this venture," concluded Greenway. "It was an immensely challenging creative assignment and a true test of our production resources. It drew on all of our talents and capabilities and everyone involved performed magnificently. We are delighted with the results."
Click 3X (www.click3X.com) provides visual effects, computer animation and broadcast design services to the advertising and television industries.