When the third season of HBO's Bored to Death debuted on Oct. 10, it featured VFX by premier postproduction studio Click 3X.
When the third season of HBO's Bored to Death debuted on Oct. 10, it featured VFX by premier postproduction studio Click 3X. Click 3X's handiwork will be apparent from the final shot of the first episode to the opening sequence of the second episode, in which show star Jason Schwartzman finds himself hanging from the hour hand of an iconic Brooklyn clock tower as his friend Ray (played by Zach Galifianakis) comes to his rescue.
To create the scene, Click 3X was responsible for 18 shots using multiple source plates from stills to live action, from different types of cameras with the addition of completely generated CG assets. These different mediums had to live in the same space to create a seamless final composite.
After a recent successful collaboration between Click 3X's Theodore Maniatis and Chris Kiser and Bored to Death producer Brad Carpenter on the Showtime series Nurse Jackie, a follow-up act seemed natural. "For such a complex sequence, the Bored to Death team knew they needed a VFX shop experienced with on-set supervision, photoreal CGI animation, and high-level compositing to pull off the feat," noted VFX Producer/EP Chris Kiser. "Click 3X is that shop."
Click 3X's first step was to meet with the production team and set builders, determining the amount of built set versus virtual building, discussing the plates that would be shot, and deciding what would be needed for rig removal and cleanup. This process enabled a breakdown of specific angles to determine the needs for the live-action shoot and CGI animation.
The live-action clock face, built by the Bored To Death production team, was 75 percent of the real size; it included the bank building windows directly below the clock and some of the brick and façade in the area the actors would be performing. Click 3X dirtied up the set to match the surrounding, CGI-generated buildings.
CGI construction followed a separate route. Click 3X's CG team built the 3D model of the Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower, tested for the look and motion of the proposed camera moves, then animated an early test and presented it to Director Michael Lehmann.
"Our main concern was to get as much brick reference for the hero building as possible, and from multiple angles," noted Kiser. "The team spent time on the roof of nearby buildings with a telephoto lens, getting a vantage point across a lower section of the building and determining locations for shooting plates of the background and surrounding neighborhood."
Click 3X achieved a weathered look by matte painting sections in Photoshop, adding different bricks and weathered elements onto stills of the CG, and using photogrammetry in Autodesk Flame. These new plates were then projected onto the moving shots using an imported 3D model of the building. This touch of realism added authenticity to the virtual building and gave credibility to the final scene of Schwartzman's precariously dangling character.
To compensate for a qualitative difference between the bricks used in the set piece and those in the CGI building and reference stills, only the smallest amount of live action was used, and as much as possible of the real building was incorporated.
While the Bored to Death production relied on the Arri Alexa camera for primary shooting, Click turned to the Canon 5D and 7Ds for stills and city background plate shots in motion due to a need to be more mobile with a limited crew, and only having a small window of time to get what we needed.
Click 3X also used a Gigapan system on a 7D to tile together photos to make very large stitched still images. Click 3X compositors then spent time animating the still to create movement, making it look alive by adding blinking lights, a distant airplane and moving traffic.
One of these sequences required Click to build a POV down at the street below as seen by Galifianakis' character from the top of the Williamsburg Bank building. Click 3X shot plates of Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, but they lacked the sense of height and distance that was needed. Even though the shot was taken from close to the actual 37-story (512 feet) height, Click 3X realized that they needed to emphasize the vertigo effect Jason's character would be experiencing.
In order to get the audience to feel this height, Click 3X completed a massive composite that scaled the scene to much greater lengths than the provided plate. Senior Click 3X Flame Artist Aaron Vasquez grabbed stills of the Manhattan plates, added other stills of Brooklyn building rooftops, and stitched them all together. He painted trees, changed the lighting of buildings, and animated cars, traffic, and even CG people from above to fill in the scene. The result was a fully animated street scene within a massive 16k plate.
"It was a joy to work closely with production to achieve the look they wanted," Click 3X VFX Supervisor Theodore Maniatis. "As with all visual effects that are based in realism, our job was to match a virtual set to a real-world environment. There are many elements and qualities of being dozens of stories high above a city. It's often difficult and sometimes impossible to recreate those elements fully on set, so it fell upon us to get that quality back into the live action plates from the principal shoot at Steiner Studios. I think our team did a great job here."
Credits:Client: HBOTitle: Bored to Death - Season 3Air Date: 10/10/11
Post/Effects: Click 3XManaging Director: Jason MayoExecutive Producer: David EdelsteinVFX Producer/EP: Chris KiserAssistant Producer: Will MokVFX Supervisor: Theodore ManiatisFlame: Aaron VasquezFlame: Liz BerndtFlame: Dan BowhersCG Supervisor: Anthony FilipakisCG Artist: Mark RubboCG Artist: Spyro SerbosRoto: Jeff Nelson
About Click 3X:Click 3X and its interactive division ClickFire Media create engaging film, TV and web content. Positioned at the intersection of entertainment, advertising, and technology, the studios work in tandem or autonomously. Click 3X shoots, edits, designs, animates and creates VFX, while ClickFire Media brings those disciplines into the interactive space. Click 3X operates a full service, 11,000 square foot state of the art studio in Manhattan outfitted with 50 fulltime staffers. In 2010 audio post-production division, Sounds Like Click was launched to provide sound design, mixing and original music services.