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Gradient Effects Earns MTV Music Video Award Nomination for Special Effects On Gnarls Barkley Clip

Trio of nominations for Chris Milk-directed “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” includes Breakthrough Video and Art Direction Categories

August 6, 2009 (Marina del Rey, CA) FX studio

Gradient Effects

created the tragic central CG character and the visual effects in Gnarls Barkley’s “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul,” which has earned an

MTV Music Video Award

nomination for best special effects. Written and directed by Chris Milk of, the music video was also nominated for MTV VMAs in the breakthrough video and art direction categories.

Earlier this year, Gradient’s artists earned a Yellow Pencil at the D&AD (Design & Art Direction) Awards for setting a benchmark in creative excellence for the animated character in “Whose Gonna Save My Soul.” Additionally, Gradient was a Visual Effects Society Award finalist for outstanding animated character for the Gnarls Barkley clip, which was also nominated for a 2009 Grammy for outstanding music video.

The VFX supervisors on “Save My Soul” were Gradient Effects co-founders Olcun Tan and Thomas Tannenberger, who got involved during preproduction, and employed a range of photoreal computer animation and performance capture techniques to create the character. They also wrote new software for the project.

The live action clip, set in a diner, begins with a woman breaking up with a man, who is crushed by the loss. He picks up his knife and cuts out his heart-a photo-real CG heart that sings the ballad and emotes the universal feelings of loss and grief that come with a broken heart.

The symbolic character was critical to the success of the heart-wrenching, sometimes humorous, and thought-provoking story.

“The guys at Gradient Effects designed, created and animated the photoreal CG heart character. It was important that he both conveyed emotion and realistically sang the vocal for ‘Who’s Gonna Save My Soul.’ Gradient got involved in prepro and were committed collaborators every step of the way. They even wrote custom software for the blood coming off the heart’s body,” said director Chris Milk.

On set, they created HDRI maps to enable them to match the lighting exactly in CG. “We explored how to get the character to look organic and wet, trying different techniques and algorithms that we applied on top of the organic surface,” explains Gradient’s Olcun Tan. The project was modeled and animated in Maya, rendered in mental ray and composited in Flame and Shake.

Performance capture-the technique of capturing the performance of an actor and applying it to a digital character–is perhaps most recognized in feature film production. The Gradient team applied several such techniques to capture the performance for the heart. Using ICT, they motion-captured singer Cee-Lo Green’s performance and mapped his face onto the digital heart. They also did motion-capture on an actor and used this to create the heart’s body language.

Cee-Lo’s lips were given extra animation by Image Metrics, who applied their proprietary performance capture technology to bring an additional level of realism to the singer’s mouth movements.

To attain blood spatter from the heart, Gradient developed a proprietary software system that analyzed stress on the heart’s geometry; the data was then passed through the pipeline into Real Flow. Matching the CG blood to the real, on-set blood, the process predicted where blood would fall from the heart.

About Gradient Effects

Located in Marina Del Rey, Gradient Effects is a visual effects studio with an integrated Digital Intermediate suite, dedicated to delivering dynamic visual artistry for feature films and other forms of entertainment.

Gradient’s credits include the upcoming Warner Bros. release “The Box,” directed by Richard Kelly and starring Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Oscar nominee Frank Langella; Warner Bros.’ “The Invention of Lying,” directed by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson and starring Gervais and Jennifer Garner; and Roland Emmerich’s disaster film “2012” for Columbia Pictures, starring an ensemble cast that includes John Cusack and Danny Glover.

Recent credits include the Katherine Heigl starrer “The Ugly Truth,” helmed by Robert Luketic for Lakeshore Entertainment.

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