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Digital Domain's Neil Huxley Directs Epic Show Open for UFC

Zuffa, LLC, owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) brand, hired 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.

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.

About Digital Domain

Digital production company Digital Domain, a subsidiary of Digital Domain Media Group (NYSE: DDMG), was founded in 1993. The company has created visuals for more than 80 movies, including Titanic, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and TRON: Legacy and hundreds of commercials. Its artists have earned multiple Academy Awards®. Digital Domain recently completed visual effects for Thor, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Real Steel and is in production on Jack the Giant Killer, 47 Ronin and a full slate of commercials. Digital Domain is headquartered in Venice, California with studios in Vancouver, San Francisco and Florida.

About Mothership

Hybrid commercial production company Mothership creates advertising, branded content, and entertainment for screens of all sizes. A sister company to Digital Domain, Mothership represents top global creative talent and enables them with all of the resources and expertise of the world-class, Academy-honored studio. Mothership creates the content, strategies and campaigns that take ideas from concept through completion, to roll out brand experiences across multiple media platforms.

About Ultimate Fighting Championship®

Owned and operated by Zuffa, LLC, and headquartered in Las Vegas, Nev., UFC® is the world’s premier MMA organization and produces over 12 UFC live Pay-Per-View events annually around the globe. This year, FOX will broadcast four fight cards annually. In spring 2012, The Ultimate Fighter®, UFC’s signature weekly reality TV show, debuts on FX. UFC content is also distributed commercially to U.S. bars and restaurants through Joe Hand Promotions. Globally, UFC programming is broadcast in 150 countries, territories and jurisdictions, reaching over one billion homes worldwide, in 21 different languages.

UFC® also boasts a powerful presence online, with attracting over seven million unique visitors per month, while also possessing one of the most powerful social media followings in all of professional sports. To date, UFC has over six million fans on Facebook and over 475,000 followers on Twitter. In addition, UFC President Dana White is one of the most accessible and most followed executives in sports with nearly 1.9 million followers on Twitter. On January 22, 2011, UFC continued to set trends in social media, becoming the first major sports league to stream live, broadcast quality action on Facebook.

Ancillary businesses include best-selling DVDs, UFC Magazine, the best-selling UFC “Undisputed” videogame franchise distributed by THQ, UFC GYM®, UFC Fight Club affinity program, UFC Fan Expo® festivals, UFC branded apparel, trading cards, and articulated action figures.


UFC Open “Evolution” :60 Client: Zuffa, LLC

Frank Fertitta lll: Executive Producer Lorenzo Fertitta: Executive Producer Dana White: Executive Producer Craig Borsari: Supervising Producer Chris Kartzmark: Producer

Production, Animation, Editorial & Visual Effects by: DIGITAL DOMAIN Directed by: Neil Huxley

Ed Ulbrich: Chief Creative Officer Tanya Cohen: Executive Producer Rich Flier: Executive Producer Scott Gemmell: Head of Production James Atkinson: Visual Effects Supervisor Kait Boehm: Senior VFX Producer William Lemmon: VFX Producer Fred Fouquet: Editor Ash Thorp: Art Director Karl Denham: CG Supervisor Scott Meadows: Previsualization Supervisor Carlos Pedroza: Animator, Previs Artist Derek Crosby: Digital Artist Michael Lori: Digital Artist Jon Aghassian: Digital Artist Jesse James Chisolm: Digital Artist Montu Jariwala: Digital Artist John Niehuss: Digital Artist Daniel Buck: Digital Artist Keith Weilmuenster: Digital Artist Marlan Harris: Digital Artist Dawrath Phoue: Digital Artist Marcel Caue Martins: Digital Artist Eric Ebling: Digital Artist Dennis Blakey: Digital Artist Kurt Lawson: Compositor Kevin Bouchez: Compositor Guatama Murcho: Compositor Jeff Heusser: Flame Artist

Music: Theme Licensed by 14th Street Music

Sound Design: 740 Sound Design

Scott Ganary: Executive Producer Andrew Tracy: Sound Designer Eric Ryan: Mixer

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Jennifer Wolfe is Director of News & Content at Animation World Network.