The New York Knickerbockers provided a special present for fans when they recently opened their 66th season against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden.
To celebrate the launch of the 2011-12 season, the team partnered with The Famous Group, a full-service film and digital production company, to create a special first-of-its-kind opening video featuring 3D projection mapping that covered the entire Knicks basketball court. The Knicks are the first professional sports team in the U.S. to showcase the state-of-the-art technology at a game.
Just before team introductions and the season opening tipoff, The Garden lights went down and the 3D projection began to animate and transform the court, which started to move before seemingly shattering apart, giving the impression that the floor had caved in. Viewers then embarked on a wild, fast-paced optical illusion journey through underground New York before coming above ground and whizzing through city streets, past skyscrapers decorated for the holidays and giant billboard-size images of Knicks stars in action. The pace and excitement built to a fever pitch leading up to the final reveal of the Knicks logo at center court.
"We are always looking to enhance the fan experience at Knicks games by utilizing the latest technology," said Howard Jacobs, executive vice president, marketing and sales, MSG Sports. "For the Knicks home opener, we wanted to do something really special that captured the excitement around the team and brought to life the great city that they call home. Working with The Famous Group, we created a truly unique, engaging experience that brought the fans in The World's Most Famous Arena to their feet."
"The Knicks wanted to do something really surprising that went beyond the traditional introduction on video screens and ribbon panels," said Andrew Isaacson, executive producer, The Famous Group, based in LA and NY. "This project was exciting for us because it was more than just a series of visual effects. We got to use our graphics skills and technology to do real storytelling and lead viewers on an engaging journey through the greatest city in the world all decked out for the holidays, culminating in the tipoff of the NBA season opener between two great sports rivals."
In developing the project, The Famous Group conducted site visits to Madison Square Garden to make exact court size, distance and camera angle measurements, and then used those calculations to create a small-scale version of the arena setup in the company's Los Angeles studio. The company was then able simulate actual conditions and determine the precise locations and angles of projectors needed to achieve optimal viewing for both fans in the seats and those watching at home on the nationally televised broadcast.
The greatest challenge was to figure out the distance from court to seats and court to the broadcast camera. The company also needed to determine the math for the camera distortion so they could compensate for that when the videos were rendered. Dailies were all viewed through the lens of the simulated broadcast camera as well as standing and sitting in different spots to replicate what fans inside the Garden would see.
The Famous Group custom-built keystone tools within After Effects to easily alter and test new projection angles to find the perfect viewing angle. Other software used included Maya, Cinema 4D, Illustrator, Photoshop and Final Cut. Hardware for the project included Canon 5d Mark II Projector and HDMI Breakout Monitor.
Project: NY Knicks 3D Projection Mapping Home Opener Intro Video
Client: New York Knicks
Production company: The Famous Group, NY/LA
Partner/ECD: Greg Harvey
Creative Director: Jeff Levine
Associate Creative Director: Hemu Karadkar
Executive Producer: Andrew Isaacson
CG Supervisor: Brendan Eddy
Senior Producer: Michael Steinmann
Producer/Supervising TD: Sang - Jin Bae
Production Coordinator: Brandon Grabowski
Design: Tin Tran
3D Animation: Brendan Eddy, Joshua Pierce, Mike Fix, Jennifer Van Horn
Compositing: Tin Tran
Editor: Steve Davis
Storyboard Artist: Bryan Frank
Sound Design: Drasko Vucevic, Drastic Music