These CG shorts created for the New York Mets, are both cinematically lush with beautiful attention to detail and design.
Directed by Marc Dominic Rienzo, he and his team at the recently closed Digital Domain Media Group, first crafted the original film “Amazin’.” The Mets loved it so much, they asked Marc and the team to make two more vfx-induced shorts targeting a younger audience, hence the birth of “Heads Up Display” and “The Ball Unleashed.”
**Recently updated with breakdowns.
I recently caught up with Marc to ask a few questions on the process and he was nice enough to share some great insight and fun imagery into the making of these films. Be sure to also check out the DD/Mets action figure and baseball cards! Love those.
Q&A with Director Marc Dominic Rienzo
These are not the typical baseball films we see promoting an mlb team. How did these come about?
“Amazin’” was initially created as a history-based, nostalgic, traditional baseball piece. It was so well received, we were then asked to do more. This time, they wanted the visual effects to be more visible and pronounced. The intent was to connect with a younger audience and show them baseball in a totally new and exciting way.
Where will the final films live? TV, Stadiums on game day? Web only?
All three spots play at Citi Field in NY, as well as online.
Were they looking for these specific ideas, or did you pitch them / write treatments?
We knew we were going to be creating something for the Mets, however the concept was still unknown when I came on at DDMG. I jumped at the chance and wrote treatments, created storyboards, concept art, style frames and then pitched it all to The Mets.
Did you do a lot of look development and concept art, especially for the UI and the futuristic world you created?
There was quite a bit of concept art created for these spots. I designed the characters and then Eric Sanford, CG Supervisor, led the 3D team on the model build and look development.
As for the HUD UI, Dante Rinaldi ran with the concept and is responsible for its design.
Did you do a lot of pre-vis on everything?
The spots were all previs’d in great detail, and we rarely deviated from it. I worked very closely with our Animation Supervisor, Tim Keon, on the animation and am really proud of the camera work we put together.
What can you tell us about the production process once it all was awarded?
There were so many moving parts that had to be in place at the right time. The Producer Lisa DelPrete and her production team managed everything from getting the right talent on the team, the schedules, dailies, sound fx, music, shoots, mocap, all of it.
What is the ratio of cg / composited shots to actual filmed elements?
“Heads up Display”and “The Ball Unleashed” were essentially all CG. The only photographic elements were some practical effects elements such as the water drops on the visors, bits of atmosphere, and some of the debri and fire in the big destruction shot at the end of “The Ball Unleashed.”
The grass on the field were also 3D projections utilizing photographs taken at Digital Domain Park. The philosophy was if shooting or matte painting an element was a viable option for us, we did.
How do the films differ in purpose and in story?
“Heads-Up Display” throws the viewer into this new exciting sci-fi baseball world, and we never explain any of it. You are given glimpses of it, and it is familiar yet very exotic. It quickly gets right to the story and introduces you to several characters in this world, and you see how they interact. This is very different than the baseball we all know, and it’s all over pretty quick considering how much information was just thrown at the viewer. It is really designed to leave the audience wanting more.
“The Ball Unleashed” shows another slice of life from the same world but this time centered around the Pitcher. It’s day time now, giving the viewer a clearer look at our sci-fi world. You also see recognizable features such as famous Mets numbers and the LaGuardia flights blaring overhead. It all builds to the dramatic crescendo which really raises questions about what the rules of this world entails.
Which is your favorite, why, which was the client favorite?
Everyone seems to like “The Ball Unleashed” the most. However, personally, I do really enjoy the design of the featured characters in “Heads Up Display” a bit more.
How did this tie in with the Southern Branch of DD, now closed..?
Well that is the bummer to this story. These were done at the now closed DDMG Florida Studio. It was an extraordinary group of talented artists, and for many of them this was their first job. They did an outstanding job.
I had too much fun creating these sci-fi worlds, and I have a lot more I want to do in this area. I am currently developing a feature sci-fi project to direct next, working with Scott Glassgold of Iam Entertainment.
Great Marc! Good luck with that and thanks so much for your time.