To come up with a unique concept for the Super Bowl open, the class first dug in to understanding the FOX Sports brand and researching its aesthetic. Any designer has to retain this kind of information so that their concept matches the brand’s style.
The students finally landed on three different options to pursue and presented them to FOX Sports. FOX Sports decided to focus on Concept Two: Cleatus racing through New York City to arrive at an activation chamber, where he’d place his football to trigger the start of Super Bowl XLVIII.
With a clearly defined vision, and a healthy dose of notes from FOX Sports, the class began pre-production on the stylized world and story that will draw fans from the nachos to the TV for kickoff. First came the written treatment and laying out the specifics of the animation sequence. Even more important were the style frames and motion tests, which conveyed the style and pacing of the animation to FOX Sports.
Animating a giant football player robot is complicated for anyone, but Motion Capture technology gave the team the perfect tool to work with. They recruited local high school football player Robert Heyward to model the moves that an animated Cleatus the Robot would make along his journey through New York City.
The motion tests gave FOX Sports an idea of how the students would move Cleatus and the cameras in 3D. The students took the animated data and turned them in to motion clips, blending the movements together, or animating Cleatus, at 60 fps, which means for every second they created 60 frames, or images, each with a different pose. The class then rendered each frame and compiled them to create a complete animation.
The team spent a lot of time fine tuning the concept and creating storyboards. These boards showcased the mood, style, specific shots and camera angles in the opening sequence, which gave FOX Sports a scene-by-scene layout to approve.
But the most time-consuming elements of this project were the final design boards, which required several designers and countless hours to produce.
With each style frame treated like its own piece of art, the complete design boards exhibited a few significant scenes from the storyboard. Expertly composited of 3D, 2D, texture and lighting elements, the design boards were made to simulate the refined look of the final animation that you’ll see on Super Bowl Sunday.
Austin Shaw is a motion media design professor at Savannah College of Art and Design. He has worked as a creative director, designer, and animator for companies such as Süperfad, Digital Kitchen, and Curious Pictures, creating original content for the broadcast and advertising industries. His credits include numerous Broadcast Design Award and Emmy-nominated projects.
Over the years, Chris Mennuto (B.F.A., Motion Media) watched his dad struggle to tell the story of how he escaped Tower 2 during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. While interning in New York last year, Chris visited the 9/11 Memorial for the first time. Touching the names of his dad's fallen co-workers he was inspired to create a visual presentation of his father's escape. And so was born “18 Minutes,” a powerful two-minute short, which brought his father and his professor tears.
Chris's hand-drawn sketches capture his father’s ordeal with such precision and imbue seemingly cold and impersonal technical tools with a vibrant breadth of emotion. "18 Minutes," the amount of time it took Stan Mennuto to exit the burning building, is a testament to a son's love for his father and to the fact that digital art and storytelling are as evocative as traditional mediums.
To memorialize 9/11, Chris and his dad will show “I8 minutes” today at Indian River State College in Florida. Winner of several awards, “18 Minutes” has also been shown at animation and film festivals around the country.