Fugitive Uses Commotion to Create a Stir

By Rod Ammons

Fugitive is a boutique motion graphic design and effects studio. Company principles Jay Torres and award-winning Designer Shimooi, bring a spirit of collaboration and love of the creative process to every project.

Fugitive produced "13 Hour Sale" a commercial for Dayton Hudson/Marshall Fields, featuring actors moving about at frenzied paces in a busy intersection.The quirky spot features some of the same actors in the same frame two and three times moving in different directions with many subtle hidden elements that allow the audience to see something new with each repeat viewing of the spot.

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OneSuch Films commercial production company in LA submitted director Jay Torres' reel to the client "Design Guys." Steve Sikora of "Design Guys" came to Torres facility, called Fugitive, to create a commercial promoting the stores' 13 hour sales that could run for a full year, without losing the interest of the viewer. Sikora liked Torres' reel because it showed his experience in altering the concept of motion and he wanted a "Twilight Zone" feel to the commercial. Torres saw that the story board included simple feet walking and thought it would be great to add some dimension and time effects.

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For what Torres wanted to do he did not have enough time for porting out green screens. He knew they would have to go offline to do rotoscoping to get the effects he wanted. He anticipated using Puffin Designs' Commotion and called Forest Key to be sure Commotion could do the job. Key assured Torres the commercial could be done with Commotion.

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In order to come up with a compelling final product, Torres shot over 50 different elements (including the leopards and balloons), using a motion control rig to composite into the spot. The motion control shots feature actors shot independently moving at varying speeds, backwards and forwards, and at different times of day with shifts in lighting. The challenge for Fugitive was to composite an enormous number of elements into one continuous shot seamlessly. Additionally, Fugitive needed to make 10 people who were shot separately appear to be around 100 people. Every element in the shot required articulate roto work, and Commotion's motion blur was used heavily on the mattes because a lot of the people were moving quickly.

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All the actors were composited together onto one clean plate of a busy intersection to appear as if they are all moving in the same space at the same time, Commotion and Composite Wizard came to the rescue in achieving this effect. In order to make this work, Fugitive's artists first used Commotion to clean up the motion control plates by painting out place markers from several shots using the application's Super Clone feature. There were over 20 passes with the motion control rig and each person needed to be rotoscoped out of the intersection and blended into the clean background plate..

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"We would typically go to a post house to do this type of work -- but it would cost a fortune to complete such a large amount of rotoscoping work in an Inferno suite. For rotoscoping, Commotion proved to be the best tool. It makes the most sense to use Commotion for this type of work, it is easy to use, the results are great and it runs on standard desktop Macs and PCs." commented Torres.

The commercial is heavy on special fx, but they are not visible because of the clean, seamless work. Most people who view the commercial don't give it much appreciation because they don't know everything they see was not originally there. Jay had freelance Commotion artists work with his in-house effects specialist and Co-Founder Shimooi Torres. The rotoscoping took about six weeks, gallons of coffee, and very little sleep. Torres states, "We only used Puffin's Commotion and Adobe's After Effects because their light raps and blur modes are so incredible that the tools blend everything together and you can't tell what was in the original footage versus what was put in later."

The commercial was edited on an Avid AVR77 with an online digital beta cam "topcard." Afterward, it was edited offline in Media Composer to send over to After Effects and Commotion stations via Ethernet. After everything was sure to work, they did detail rotoscoping and sent the footage back to the post house via Ethernet.

Most people use the Henry or Inferno to do rotoscoping. But the budget and the project would have been like spearing a buffalo with a missle. Jay says he uses the tools that are required for the job and his selection for Hudson was appropriate. He is currently preparing to shoot a three-package spot for

Recent Fugitive projects include two recent commercials ("Hip Hop" and "Virtual Playground") for popular shoewear company Skechers USA, a film for Silicon Graphics, which made its debut at SIGGRAPH 98 and two award-winning PSAs for the Utah Labor Commission. Over the past year, Fugitive has received numerous awards for their work, including: six Telly Awards, a second place certificate from the Mobius Advertising Awards, and a Gold Statuette and Silver Statuette from the Cindy Awards. Fugitive was also recognized recently by the New York Festivals. Fugitive can be reached at [email protected].