Territory Studio created graphic elements and narrative content to populate the real and virtual worlds of ‘Ready Player One’ with animated interactive UI on monitors, visors and HUDs.
Territory Studio Illuminates Ready Player One
Territory Studios has entered the UI/UX motion graphics work they created for 'Ready Player One' in the 2019 AEAF Awards. Check out the details of their techniques and tools below, and watch the video here. Don't miss your chance to enter your own team's work ahead of the deadline on 30 June - see the Entry Form here.
Territory Studio joined the post production team on ‘Ready Player One’ with a brief to create graphic elements supporting the story and vision for the production’s real and virtual worlds. Delivering more than 265 VFX shots and over 80 unique assets, the team’s work can be seen in most of the sequences that include interactive UI on monitors, visors, HUDs and 3D environmental signage.
Setting up two separate pipelines to deliver material matching the individual requirements of the two main vendors Digital Domain and ILM, Territory concepted the creative language and designed the graphics on a per shot basis. The team then laid everything out in a 3D environment, projection mapping onto plates for the real world, and animating and lighting full CG graphics in the Oasis.
Unfinished slap comps on plates were submitted for director review and approval before supplying to Digital Domain and ILM for final compositing.
The challenge was to create bespoke graphic devices and narrative-specific content that drove and enhanced the action and performance, and helped defined the characters and worlds of the book the film is based on, ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline.
Set in two worlds – the physical world and the virtual reality of the Oasis – the movie’s action and plot points shift between characters and locations in the real world, and their VR avatars and environments. Territory Studio worked with Digital Domain on graphic assets for the real world of Columbus, and with ILM to create CG graphic assets for the virtual world of the Oasis.
A primary task was to make audiences feel at ease transitioning between these two environments, enhancing that transition without losing track of the story line. Territory’s graphic elements were used as a ‘bridge’ between the CG environment of the Oasis and the earthly world of 2045,.
In the real world, to help establish the sense of a city that depends entirely on technological developments, they designed detailed UIs and UX for school, corporate, civil and gaming environments. Dense content layers support narrative context and storybeats on wall screens, tablets, table displays, surveillance systems, news announcements and commercial advertising.
To ensure that their bridge, composed of graphics and content, to the virtual Oasis felt consistent, Territory designed a visual language for the main characters and brands that appear in both the real and the virtual worlds.
Character HUDs are based on a generic Gregarious Simulation Systems (GSS) user interface. The creative concepts reflect Ernest Cline’s 1980s aesthetic, resulting in a look using the bright warm colours of early console and arcade games. The avatars’ logos, colour palettes and graphic style are personalised, or ‘character branded’, in a way that reflects personality, status and activity.
In contrast, the Innovative Online Industries (IOI) corporate identity feels cold, high-tech and militaristic, as revealed across all IOI characters and environments, including personalised features for the main IOI character.
From Real to Virtual – and Back
“The interface concepts for the visor / HUDs illustrate how graphic elements were used to bridge the two worlds. Looking at the visor UI from a product designer’s point of view, we considered game elements (power, game, points, score, inventory, damage and so on) and narrative content to give context to what the character was experiencing in the Oasis. Similarly, the HUD’s first-person POV put the audience into the mind and experience of the character, allowing them to share the excitement and energy of the action.
“Animated content layers add detail that helps to explain plot points and increase the viewer’s understanding of each character about their status and role in the Oasis. Tying into story beats from one moment to the next, these elements help to frame action and context, character interaction and backstories.”
In a similar way, they applied graphic devices to help viewers understand key narrative points. An example is a slit-scan-style digital tunnel transition from the real to virtual world as the hero puts on his visor and logs into the Oasis for the first time in the film. Viewers are immediately prepared for the excitement, contrast and potential of the VR world.
Slit-scan is a technique borrowed from film photography in which the aperture is obscured by a cover with a narrow slit in it. During recording, the camera is moved slowly past or around the subject. In post, the slivers of imagery are lined up, creating a stretched, curving image.
Territory’s creative director on the project Andrew Popplestone talked about the tools they used to get the particular range of looks they were after. “For example, for the ‘real world’ screen graphics, After Effects was the best option to create the intricate 2D animations, which were then projected onto geometry within Nuke. The HUDs in the Oasis, on the other hand, were created using After Effects and Cinema 4D, due to the complex combination of 2D and 3D elements.
“Different again, pure CG assets such as signage in the epic fly-through intro to the Oasis were created in Maya. These were supplied as assets to ILM to be incorporated in their scene, and Maya was the best software to fit into their pipeline.
“Cinema 4D is great for animating graphic elements. Its Mograph tool makes it incredibly powerful for this kind of work. Combined with the ease in which it works with After Effects makes it ideal for creating complex HUDs in a 3D environment. We could use After Effects for the 2D graphic animations that we pumped into Cinema 4D as animated textures, integrated within the CG.”
At render time, the artists used a library of Arnold shaders and templates they had created to allow a consistent look across a large number of shots and assets from any of the creation softwares. “Arnold is so robust that it could handle everything we rendered through it,” Andrew said. territorystudio.com