The resounding success of ESPN and similar networks has shown that fans have an almost insatiable thirst for coverage of sports. That's where an athletic conference such as the Pac-12 hopes to use 3D animation to bring in fans of all sports for its end-of-the-week wrap-up show, "Pac-12 Final Score," on the Pac-12 Networks' cable channel.
To create the show's graphics package, the athletic conference turned to Burbank, California-based Cake Studios (http://cakestudios.tv/). Led by executive producer Jim Steinhaus and creative director Mannix, Cake has made a mini-specialty out of sports-related projects, including graphics for Pac-12 Network's football, volleyball, baseball and basketball programming. "The new graphics we made shared some of the Networks' elements but were also unique themselves," says Mannix, who primarily used Cinema 4D and After Effects for this project. (See highlights from the graphics package here: https://vimeo.com/150942982).
The 25-second opening segment of "Pac-12 Final Score" introduces the Pac-12's shield-like logo, then guides the viewer through a "mainframe," accompanied by key highlights of the day's football action.
The Pac-12 continually calls on Cake, not just for the quality of the studio's work, but also because they provide a toolkit of files that the show's graphics staff can easily update and revise. That's crucial for the Pac-12 Networks' team as they constantly juggle interstitials featuring photos and data of hundreds of Pac-12 football players. "We're not interested in gouging clients on versions," Mannix explains. "We provide them with a complete graphics toolkit including all of the assets they need, as well as source files to allow them total flexibility. "(See Cake's 2014 Pac-12 football package here https://vimeo.com/105785470.)
Because Cake and PAC-12 Networks use the same production workflow (Cinema 4D and After Effects) it's easy to hand off the easy-to-use After Effects toolkits and the underlying 3D source files and comps. PAC-12's internal team of creative artists can dig as deeply into the source files as they want, and the toolkits can be used to quickly create hundreds of versions for their broadcasts. Using the 3D source files, the team can pull out specific geometry, lighting or environments to create new segments as needed.
Cake was able to take some creative liberties with the PAC-12 logo, but presented the other school's logos in a uniform manner so as not to show favoritism.
Knowing they needed the graphics package to be flexible, the Pac-12 requested a tightly branded concept that would quickly and clearly present key information and sports highlights. Cake came up with the idea to create an elaborate "mainframe" environment that showcases the highlights while also connecting to the overarching network brand. The mainframe is introduced during the tease-based open sequence of the show, its corners and compartments serving as highlight beds and giving the viewer a sneak peak at what's to come.
By carrying over materials, lighting and cameras created for the master opening segment, Mannix was able to create a cohesive look for the rest of the package elements, including individual player and team profiles, team vs. team matchups and text-based interstitials. Transitions, general use backgrounds and sponsor-driven elements helped round out the rest of the package. Rendering was done in Cinema4D and comping and post work was done in After Effects.
Cake used After Effects to give the match-up interstitials an electronic feel.
For match-up interstitials, Cake gave the team logos an electronic feel without having to worry about those elements being built on in 3D. To accomplish that they created an After Effects toolkit where a vector logo could be inserted and the hybrid color/electronic treatment could be applied. "Once we set up the camera, lighting and materials within Cinema 4D it was easy to move to After Effects and drop the logo where it needed to reside," Mannix recalls.
Cake's toolkit allowed producers of "Pac-12 Final Score" to easily insert player photos.
For a single team logo interstitial, Cake angled the logo to give it a more "heroic" look. The idea was to have each logo inhabit a different area in the mainframe. "The way we designed this, it looks like there are several areas in this mainframe, and the environment is as unique as the interstitial itself," says Mannix.
The team logo interstitial showcased all of the diverse components of the graphics package, including the elaborate mainframe environment, team-centric 3D pedestal and the 2D/electronic treatment for the team logo itself.
Sports continue to be a focus for Cake. In addition to doing a recent graphics package for the Oakland Raiders, they are in the early stages of developing a similar project for the Philadelphia Phillies. "We like to give clients options visually," says Mannix. "Even if it's two looks that have things in common thematically, they have something to respond to and choose from. In the end, it's all about flexibility and functionality. Our clients need to be able to run with these packages and continue to create new elements all the time. With creative options and thorough source file delivery, we ensure that they'll be able to meet all of the challenges that occur in a live broadcast environment."
Dan Heilman is a St. Paul-based writer and editor.