October Magic

"In baseball, October is the month where hopes and heroes take their place center stage, is the month where magic is in the air". For me, this means the opportunity to create my own kind of "magic" directing the MLB Network opening for their Post Season games.

This year, the client approached me with the idea of having a kid and his dad coming to a baseball game. They wanted the kid to find a series of magical events leading him to a fantasy room to find the World Series trophy standing under lights, and then transforming into a platform projecting some of the greatest moments in playoffs history. At the end, the dad finds his son and all turns back to normal, leaving open visual cues between the reality and the imagination of the kid.

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This year challenge was to complete this "full-visual-effect-loaded-two-and-a-half-minute-open" in only two weeks, including preproduction, shooting, editing, all VFX compositing, and sound design.

With the first draft of the script in hand, I started drawing my storyboards to make visual sense of the piece. Boards are sometimes overlooked, or loosely done, but in this case I knew having detailed boards would help us greatly to speed up the production, and get the piece done in the short time we had. On the boards I preplanned every single shooting angle and the logic of the sequence. The boards helped me also to communicate the idea to the production team, the Director of Photography, and also my VFX team in post. Everyone was in sync with what needed to be done, and the end result expected for each shot.

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The shoot took place both at MLB Networks Studio 42 for the "magical trophy room", and at Citi Field for all the narrative scenes. We needed to have an authentic vibe on the shoot, so we picked a day the actual Mets were playing a double header, this way we could capture some of the actual anticipation and energy of people at a game.

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Sticking to the schedule and the boards was key to optimize the shooting. Working with kids is always a challenge, but our little talent was great taking directions and delivering for the camera. So we were lucky to "get" the shots fairly quick, and even do some variations on his performance.

The boards where followed with discipline, and every angle was covered. Here are a few translations from the storyboards to the final scene comps.

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Post production was coordinated through several teams. The rotoscope guys were in charge of cutting all the alpha channels needed for the comps, the team worked around the clock in staggered shifts to complete the many seconds of mattes needed. CGI was in charge of creating and animating the 3D trophy transformation, and to provide mattes for the final comps. I took the final edit and did the finishing on the Autodesk Flame Premium. It was a great collaborative effort spread through the MLB Network team, and the creative forces at REVEAL.

Often my favorite effects are the ones that are not seeing or perceived in the final product. The smoke and mirrors and "problem solvers", the ones that create a new reality. Where I get to create and force what is real to my will. In this open,  I've got to create computer generated "eyes" to force our talent to not look at camera in one of the best takes we had for the end scene. Also worked in hidding many logos, structures, and elements not desired in the scenes...

 A side by side of the original raw footage (left), where "Danny" accidentally looked at camera in the take where he was great for all the rest of the shot. I created a new set of CGI eyes to make "Danny" look to down to where I wanted (right).

A side by side of the original raw footage (left), where "Danny" accidentally looked at camera in the take where he was great for all the rest of the shot. I created a new set of CGI eyes to make "Danny" look to down to where I wanted (right).

 Another example of the collaboration of the teams involved in this production. My notes (above) where taken by the guys of creative services at MLB Network to produce a new reality. 

Another example of the collaboration of the teams involved in this production. My notes (above) where taken by the guys of creative services at MLB Network to produce a new reality. 

After racing the clock, sound design was added and the final opening went on air for the initial playoff game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros. A second version of the piece was done for the Yankees vs Indians game.

Another year of baseball, and another fun project to be part of. I'm proud of everyone who was involved in materializing this idea, and thankful for being able to collaborate with such talented people every year.

 Chris Pfeiffer, the mastermind behind this openings. Working together for over 13 years...

Chris Pfeiffer, the mastermind behind this openings. Working together for over 13 years...

HERE IS THE FINAL OPEN, LEAVE ME YOUR COMMENTS BELOW.... THANKS!!!!