The red carpet, the stars turned out, flashing cameras, spot lights — when you watch the Emmys, images of glamour and glitz are meant to dazzle your mind. This type of eye-catching show of light was exactly the look that Scott Bryant, Senior Creative Director at Steam, wanted to convey in the broadcast package he prepared for the 2008 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards. The Creative Arts Emmys are a class of the award ceremony recognizing technical achievements in American television programming. With the help of Trapcode and Knoll Light Factory, Bryant added sparkle and shine to the production for a spectacular Hollywood gala effect.
Bryant first landed the project by showing a demo reel loaded with Red Giant Software’s plug-ins to Spike Jones Jr., the Producer of the Creative Arts Emmys. “My demo was actually very simple,” Bryant recalled. “It used Shine and Knoll Light Factory throughout to animate stills in After Effects. When Spike Jones saw the footage, he said, ‘wow, if you can make my show look like that, you got the job.’”
For the Creative Arts Emmys, Bryant was charged with executing the whole broadcast package: opening and closing credits, wallpaper, bumpers, inserts, featured show frames, and an animated looping lower third design. He also generated seven different color themes, which were then applied by the production’s Lighting Director to design stage set lighting in colors that would tie into those used in the broadcast package.
The original show design featured the Emmy statue amid swirling ribbons. Using this guideline, Bryant created his design boards in Photoshop. He shot actual footage of the Emmy and real ribbons, later applied in transitions, using a RED ONE digital camera in HD and then brought the results into After Effects for customization and visual effects.
When Bryant showed his early design direction to Spike Jones, the Producer asked for two creative changes. First, Jones liked the light quality achieved by using virtual ribbons and particle effects, “I love the ribbons, and I love the particles.” Jones also wanted to fill the screen with graphics.
“This was a challenge. Filling the screen can be tricky,” said Bryant. “So, I really had to use the plugins creatively — to design something that was additive and cohesive, not subtractive. I needed a way to fill space, yet not detract from the overall design.”
Bryant sought an approach that both satisfied his artistic sensibilities and met his client’s request. The Producer of the Creative Arts Emmys had asked Bryant to fill the screen with visually interesting images. As a solution, Bryant aimed to find a creative and tasteful way to meet Jones’ demand. “As a designer, I look for a balance of negative and positive space. So I thought, why not use more particles? Fill the negative areas with light. Create an ambient, glistening world that conveys action. Even the sky and all the negative areas would have a quality of light and movement. From there it all came together — the Trapcode and Knoll Light Factory plugins I selected were made for just that,” said Bryant.
Trapcode’s Particular plugin is a powerful 3D particle system that creates a wide range of effects — from natural smoke and explosions to geometric or organic abstract elements. “In Particular, I used the bubbles preset. I shut the bubbles down to smaller particles and let them float up … and it looked great,” continued Bryant. “It also saved me a lot of time. When you first open the Particular control panel it’s like a stealth fighter cockpit, but then you just pull down the presets and you see how easy it is. You select a preset that is close to what you want, and then you adjust it from there.”
Shine is a 2D plug-in that simulates 3D volumetric light effects within your editor. TV and movie pros use it to create light rays that sweep through logotypes or any kind of footage. Bryant used Shine on the Emmy statue to create a golden glow. He recalled, “Shine is most commonly used for its rays aspect, but that’s not how I applied it. Instead, I used it to treat footage, which is a nice way to tint and add glow to metallics.”
“For me, Shine is like an old friend. I have lots of experience with it. When the chips are down and I really have to deliver something, I go to one of my trusted standbys — that’s what Shine is. I find it easy to use and it renders fast, which is crucial in designing, making the process organic. It’s so fast, it’s like working with a light paint brush … and it gives you great results.”
With 3D Stroke, users can create glowing, swirling shapes and lines, then fly the camera through them. It is broadcast TV's secret weapon for animated logos and sophisticated write-on effects. “3D Stroke is like the Vanna White of plugins,” commented Bryant. “It’s a great way to lead the eye across the screen to accent things. Also, when it passes over other lit elements, it completely changes its nature. It acts like you are on a real stage and working with real light in the way that it interacts with other light sources and with footage elements.”
“Trapcode and Knoll Light Factory are the modern designer’s lighting studio,” added Bryant. “When I begin designing, I start with black and I work my way out of black. I continue adding light and color until I am happy — then I stop. With Red Giant Software plug-ins, you can experiment. You can move things around until you say, ‘ah, that’s really beautiful.’ That’s the way I approach my workflow … I aim to make the process additive, expanding creativity as I add visual effects and depth.”
The Creative Arts Emmys were a great success and Bryant’s broadcast package received positive feedback from the Producers of the other Emmy shows. “Ultimately, it’s about satisfying the client. In this case, the client said they look forward to working with Steam on future projects. And I must have done something right, since I got full production credits, third row seats at the show, and an invitation to Governor’s Ball,” concluded Bryant.
About Scott Bryant
Owner and Senior Creative Director of Steam for over a decade, Scott Bryant specializes in innovative live action and graphic design spots. Before earning his bachelor of fine arts degree in theater and film at the California Institute of the Arts, Scott worked in production at ABC television for five years. After graduation from CalArts, he joined Bandar-log Studios, where he produced experimental films and commercials for three years. He is always exploring emerging technologies to make his workflow more complete.