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Combining Four Types of Software for a 3D Circus

Developing a circus-themed 3D video display for a 50-foot widescreen is no easy task, especially in a mobile environment.  For Content Designer John Nierras, the ability to work seamlessly in Adobe After Effects, Maxon Cinema 4D and others, helps him create quickly, spark creativity and streamline his workflow for faster turnaround.

Looking to make a big splash at Heart Ball 2014, the American Heart Association (AHA) and Tolo Events turned to John Nierras, Content and Environment Designer at Perfect Infinitives, to take their PowerPoint driven video display and turn it into something more interactive and eye-catching. Designing large-scale 3D images, with dynamic transitions, required the use of several design programs and the ability to use these programs intuitively, allowing him to stay in the creative flow while on-set.

To accomplish this, John turned to his creative arsenal, consisting of Maxon Cinema 4D, DaVinci Resolve, Resolume Arena and the Adobe CC Suite to achieve the design quality and workflow efficiency he demands. Using his Cintiq to quickly transition between programs to composite, color and define objects, John was able to create an immersive video environment.

Combining Four types of Software for a 3D Circus

Enhancing Video Display Impact with 3D Modeling

To create the vintage circus-themed video display, John was given color swatches, cloth materials, room diagrams and the initial concept for the event program to help guide his creative vision, but before starting composition and design, John says, “It was imperative to get a clear understanding of the format, who’s going on stage, when are the callouts, basically a complete show flow. This gave me a better understanding of which elements would need to be created for different parts of the show.”

Next he had to determine what size of video display would actually fit in the event space. John points out, “We needed to decide what screen resolution we were going to go with and how the content would be displayed. With the diagrams I was given, I quickly mapped out the room using Maxon Cinema 4D on my Cintiq, which helped me visualize what the space would look like. Seeing it from every angle in 3D, with a one-to-one ratio saved me a lot of time, I didn’t have to second-guess where I was in the creative space.”

After collaborating with Tolo Events and Three Rivers Entertainment, John decided to go with a 50-foot widescreen monitor with intelligent moving lights, adding “This was going to allow us to maximize the space without breaking our budget, but it was also going to require me to composite and design images that worked with a very wide pixel ratio.”

Combining Four types of Software for a 3D Circus

Taking Ideas from Concept to Reality for Improved Efficiency

Once John was familiar with the format and layout for the video display, he started introducing and designing circus-themed objects to bring the concept to life. Using Adobe Photoshop and After Effects, he created basic shapes and rough animations to convey to AHA his vision and overall design recommendations. John points out, “With Photoshop, the images are still, which was great to do the fine tuning. Then I used After Effects, which gave me the ability to move images around to maximize spacing and composition. Using these with the Cintiq, I was able to grab text and animate a lot faster, using splines and roto-objects right on the screen.”

To create the basic shapes and add more life and additional design elements, John turned to Maxon Cinema 4D again, to materialize the objects in different colors and in the desired dimensions. “This is where I converted the selected images so they would fit properly on our monitor. I needed to make sure the elements we were using were in the right pixel size and space. Some of the elements needed transparent backgrounds; I used the Cintiq’s pressure-sensitive pen to create vector shapes for added flair, while other elements needed some treatment to give it that vintage circus look. After that I finished off the elements in 3D,” says John.

After materializing his objects in different colors, dimensions and 3D, using Maxon Cinema 4D and Adobe Photoshop, he went back into Adobe After Effects to add the finishing touches, such as light flares, shadows, glows and depth of fields.

After all creative assets were finished, he used DaVinci Resolve to do the editing. John says, “With DaVinci Resolve, I have access to a powerful tool that has everything I need. I made my edits, cut them and then moved them straight to color. Once the final edits were done, I did a color pass to give them that pristine look. Using DaVinci Resolve on the Cintiq, I was able to use the Levels Plot a lot more accurately, without having an expensive color surface; this was great, especially being on-set and trying to keep things as mobile as possible.”

Once all the elements were finalized and rendered, John used Resolume Arena to map the images to the silver screen. “Doing a live event, the ability to be interactive was key. Using physical switches and buttons just wouldn’t cut it. Resolume Arena is a lot more intuitive, I could just point and click, which gave me instant access to my media library,” says John.

In the end, the 50-foot large-scale video display, featuring eye-catching circus-themed 3D elements, motion graphics and dynamic transitions, helped the American Heart Association deliver an impactful message to an engaged audience, bringing much-needed awareness to their cause. “I’m very happy with the outcome, and so is the client. It definitely added that ‘wow’ factor they were looking for. To create an experience that every guest enjoys is what it’s all about for me,” says John.

Getting More Done in Less Time – Taking on New Design Challenges

For designer John Nierras, the key to improving workflow is eliminating unnecessary steps, not the creative design software at his disposal; “It’s not that I had to use all of these different design programs, but I like to have the creative freedom to use whatever I want, when I want,” says John, adding, “All of these programs do certain things well, and to create certain design elements it’s just easier and faster to use the programs I know work best. You can color correct using Adobe After Effects, but for me it’s much more efficient to use DaVinci Resolve for this.”

Always on the lookout for new ways to save time, John wanted to push the capabilities of his Cintiq, helping him do more; “One of the things I really wanted to experiment with during this project was using the Cintiq as a control surface. Using Resolume Arena, I wanted to see if the Cintiq would let me work faster, while still providing the same capabilities as a Lighting Control Board, it did everything the control board does and faster, with a more intuitive and easy-to-use interface,” says John.

As with most designers, John says, “My goal is to keep things simple and mobile. The Cintiq allows me to do more on one device, eliminating the need to jump back and forth between several different devices. This saves time, time I can better use being creative and getting ready for that next big event.”