It took Michelangelo a day to paint the Creation scene on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It took Nice Shoes almost a month to paint Kanye West into a :90 Italian fresco-style video to build buzz around the release of the artist’s new single “Power”.
When Stink London was in need of an additional creative collaborator for the post and VFX, they approached Nice Shoes for the task. The studio then embarked on the challenging process of expanding Kanye’s world using their myriad technical and artistic skills.
The video collage, which premiered Thursday, August 5th on MTV, engaged all of the New York-based studio’s creative services. Nice Shoes’ VFX, color grading and design teams spent a month compositing 400+ layers in Flame to depict Kanye as a doomed emperor presiding over a sensual, yet apocalyptic spectacle.
“Gradually each figure, with its own unique movement, creeps into the screen and it ends with a crescendo of fireworks and impending doom,” says Nice Shoes’ Creative Director Aron Baxter. “You see something new every time you watch it.”
Artist Marco Brambilla filmed Kanye along with numerous nude models individually against a greenscreen. Nice Shoes was called on to work with Brambilla to further develop the multi-layered moving painting by compositing the figures and camera-moves in this intricate and dramatic 3D landscape. Nice Shoes Creative Director Aron Baxter and his team introduced chiaroscuro lighting throughout the piece to create an increased sense of depth to the moving canvas and explored ways to heighten the overall sense of emotion in this tantalizing and macabre scene.
Midway through the project, MTV offered a broadcast debut, leading to the need for a “clean” version. So Brambilla and Nice Shoes devised interesting ways to creatively cover up the models by draping the female figures with strategically placed garments, jewelry and flowing fabric.
Each female figure required a different treatment depending on how she moved in the frame. For example, Baxter and his team painted bikini tops for some figures and tracked separately shot sheer fabrics that hugged the contours of other models’ bodies.
In the days before the MTV premiere, Colorist Ron Sudul worked closely with the VFX team to hone and tweak the color grade in real-time on the Baselight system. This allowed Brambilla to immediately evaluate and make changes based on a complete picture. As a result, Nice Shoes was able to help the director and West bring their canvas to life with a painter’s consistency.
“There was so much detail,” says Sudul. “We wanted to give it some density and richness but keep all the information, the shadows, the highlights and just let it be the beautiful piece of art that it is.”
“This was one of those projects that involved all aspects of Nice Shoes,” says Executive Producer, Maribeth Phillips. The VFX involved multiple Flames, 3D workstations and design direction before the final touch of color grading was applied to the fresco.”
Kanye said it best on his blog and Twitter page when he exclaimed, “It’s not a video, it’s a painting!”
Artist: Kanye West
Air Date: August 2010
Production Company: Stink
Director: Marco Brambilla
Executive Producer: Daniel Bergmann
Producer(s): Anna Smith, Jonathan Lia
Post/VFX: Nice Shoes
Creative Director/Flame Artist: Aron Baxter
Flame Artist(s): Jason Farber, Andrew Granelli, Rich Schreck, John Budion, Kevin Quinlan, Todd Gutridge, Elsa Tu
3D Artist(s): Jim Collins, Jep Hill, Orges Kokoshari, Pete Hamilton, Josh Krause
Color Grading: Nice Shoes
Colorist: Ron Sudul
Colorist Assistant: Phil Choe
Executive Producer/VFX/Design: Maribeth Phillips
Executive Producer/Color Grading: Pat Portela
Producer: Katie Boote
Production Assistant: James Carter
VFX Shoot Attendance: Art Jail
About Nice Shoes
NYC-based Nice Shoes is a full service, artist-driven design, animation, visual effects and color grading studio specializing in high-end commercials, web content, film, TV and music videos. Since its inception in 1996, the studio has prided itself on consistently reinvesting in its talent, technical backbone, and client experience to set the standard of excellence both creatively and technically. Key company principals include: CEO/Partner Dominic Pandolfino, Partner Joe Bottazzi, Managing Director Mike Donovan, CDs Brian Bowman and Aron Baxter, Colorists/Partners Chris Ryan and Lez Rudge, EPs Pat Portela and Maribeth Phillips, VFX Artist/Partner Rich Schreck, CFO / COO Julia Kisla, CTO Bob Keske, and VP of Sales & Marketing Travis Taylor.
More info: TRUST 646 452 3388 (NY) 310 451 5153 (LA) trustcollective.com