Electric Zoo, held on New York’s Randall’s Island, just under the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge was designed by Jonathan Goldstein and his team at StarLight Visual, including four stages dominated by video.
Most content creation was done by Skitch TV, including stereoscopic packages for Riverside, with some additional content done in-house by technical director Cameron Yeary, who designed all of the logo loops and EZOO-branded materials displayed on all areas of the site.
"This was the first year every piece of visual content was custom designed by my animation team, directed by William Heins from Skitch TV and me," says Goldstein. "One special design this year in terms of artist input and direction was on the Riverside stage. This is the stage—we believe it was the first time attempted in a festival setting—where we designed the entire show for the headlining artist as a unique set of visuals in 3D. Without artist integration on this specific design, we would have failed. The technology is cool and all, but without amazing content that has a creative direction cohesive with the music and artist specifically, things would fall apart after the first five minutes."
Goldstein started working with Heins on the 3D concept at least six months in advance, acknowledging there would be challenges, not the least of which included workflow, since 3D requires left-right independent images. "We needed two outputted renders, which meant two separate files," says Goldstein. "Those files were then loaded into the media server and played underneath an odd-even pixel mask that then played back on a passive polarized screen that was interpolated by the passive polarized sun glasses, and boom, we had 3D."
Another issue was how to realistically visualize and approve the 3D content in the studio without an LED wall, media server, and 3D glasses. As technical director, Yeary solved this with what Goldstein calls "a super cost-efficient workaround of me seeing 3D in my studio. The biggest part here is that we avoided making a separate rendered output file, which would have cost time and more money on the render farm to make happen."
In addition, the artists headlining in Riverside had their own unique visuals already created, so Goldstein’s team had to do a lot of reinterpretation and incorporation to avoid ditching an artist’s visuals completely. "Every day, I was handing William unusable and, in most cases, sub-HD 2D standard footage, and we had to either remake it or incorporate it into the content," says Goldstein. "William used multiple processes: rotoscoping of the 2D content frame by frame; putting the 2D flat elements into 3D space, yielding some totally stunning depth and 3D effects live; recreating their aesthetics entirely; and finally just plain old taking the 2D content, creating masks, and incorporating it as one of the many planes of 3D spatial difference on the Z-axis."
Goldstein also makes particular note of the use of animals in the content, part of the festival’s promotion graphics that started with hand drawn images, scanned for coloring and additional treatment. "They wanted to incorporate the creatures into the visual content tastefully and without the branded flare like this was a corporation, which can be hard because taking a low-resolution scan of a 2D image and making it something that looks great on screen is no easy feat," says Goldstein.
Heins and his team of 14 animators used the 2D images of the animals as a reference and worked in 3D using Maxon Cinema 4D, Autodesk Maya, Adobe After Effects, and a Canon 5D and RED Scarlet camera for the three-month project, sculpting 3D models of the actual branded images. "We had to remain as close to the real image as possible to not lose the branding elements but still be unique to our own design," says Goldstein. The creatures were created, textured, and rigged (moved around, in animation-speak) at Skitch and then sent over to Yeary where he composited and animated scenes using the animals. Content was rendered to a cloud site so that all of the members of the creative team could view what was in progress.
Heins’ goal was to create a visual experience that enhanced the music. "Since everything was digital and loaded onto a server, we were able to work right up to the day of the show," Heins says. "It’s always an incredible feeling when I witness the content played in front of a live audience. It makes the all-nighters well worth it."
Stay tuned for more coverage of Electric Zoo.