As covered in previous blogs such as 2014: A TRG Odyssey and CGI 101 – What is CGI?, there are a plethora of aspects to the artistry of computer-generated imagery. For this TRG blog installment, CGI Manager Marty Horvath along with his team CGI Specialist Ryan Peticca and Video Editor Bobby Dorrance show us, via a time-lapse video, the process of modeling, texturing, lighting, and rendering a CGI object.

Fellow TRG photographer Tim Smith captured an incredible shot of Cleveland Brown’s Linebacker James-Michael Johnson, which inspired the creative team behind the video. They focused their attention on the 3D creation of the football Johnson is catching, hence the term “modeling.”

First the men studied a real football in order to become familiar with all of its details. Horvath noted specifically the tiniest of features: the bumpy texture, the stitching of the seams, the laces across the top, and the placement of the logo. They even looked up the official NFL measurements of the ball. Peticca then cut the football apart and shot the texture maps.

From there, several other factors were considered when implementing the object into a video sequence. For instance, lighting. Questions about where the light will hit the object, where the shadows will be created, or how the light will play across the surface of the object as it moves needed to be considered.

Once an object has been rendered in the CGI world, the possibilities for placement and movement are limitless. In this video, the modeled football is seemingly created from scratch. As the long moments speed by with the help of Bobby’s editing, the familiar object begins to take on its trademarked appearance. Gridlines become recognizable texture and perfected shading, which in turn become a flawless CGI version of the football sailing into Johnson’s grip.  

To capture a moment like this on film in real time is quite challenging, but with CGI, a static product has the ability to become dynamic. By creating a computer generated image, the object can be controlled, the lighting perfected, and the “camera” angles varied for a more dramatic impact.

“It’s really fun to watch an idea come alive; it’s a good way to learn” said Horvath about the entire process. “It’s what makes working in this department really fun.” And of course, with CGI, artists never have to worry about broken equipment or unruly conditions. “No one kicks over a light stand and ruins the shot,” Horvath chuckles.

So, without further adieu, the “CGI Football.”