Zoic Studios Creates Reverse Explosion Effect for Simon Cowell & Fox's The X Factor
Fox's new show The X Factor had a dramatic introduction during the Super Bowl as thousands of Xs came together to form the show's host Simon Cowell. The reverse explosion of Cowell was produced by Fox, Three (One) O, Park Village Productions in collaboration with effects powerhouse Zoic Studios.
To create the effect, a variety of plaster forms simulating Simon Cowell's legs, torso and head were detonated at high speed (1000-1500 fps) and shot on the Zoic Studios Stage. A week later on a London sound stage, high-speed principal photography captured multiple angles of Simon Cowell, both static and spinning on a turntable, against an all-black environment with heavy backlight.
Zoic Studios used the 3D scan of Simon Cowell in AutoDesk's Maya and used the Fracture-FX Maya plug-in to apply a procedurally event driven simulation to fracture and explode the Simon Cowell 3D model. The Fracture-FX software also gave Zoic the flexibility to break out individual pieces and hand animate according to specific creative direction. Along with traditional particle effect simulations and hand animation, Zoic was able to create a hyper realistic, reverse explosion of Simon Cowell.
During the 3D lighting phase, Zoic Studios used traditional techniques of projection mapping the principal photography onto the 3D textured pieces. Using The Foundry's Nuke Software, the compositing challenge was to integrate all the live-action elements from the explosion shoot, principal photography, and CG passes of Simon's fracturing shell, individual body parts, and various "X" shapes to create the illusion of Simon being formed from the ground up - a task made more complex by the high-contrast environment. After mattes for the live action elements were isolated, Nuke's optical flow time-warping tools were utilized to accurately match them to Simon's body parts. Separate smoke and debris elements were layered with the explosions and CG to create a unified, dimensional environment. Particular attention was paid to maintaining a specific depth of field, from objects tumbling in front of the lens to those pieces forming from behind Simon as well. Nuke's 3D capabilities were effective in re-projecting various elements onto 3D cards, a technique featured when Simon rotates 90 degrees and becomes fully formed in the spot's finale. Custom lens flares were also crafted for each shot per the client's creative direction. Final color timing was addressed at the end of the post process using AutoDesk's Flame.
Autodesk Maya & Flame
The Foundry's Nuke
The folks at Naughty Dog used Fracture when creating the Gameplay trailer for Uncharted 3. Great work guys!