A wildly unpredictable and fast game show, “The Wall” features more than $12 million on the line every night. NBC brought us in to create a fun and exciting one-minute explainer video to show how the game could change lives in an instant. The animation would promote the Chris Hardwick-hosted show online and through all NBC’s social media channels.
Just one issue: NBC needed for the premiere of the show in two weeks. A crazy deadline…could we hit it?
Putting pen to paper is how all of our projects begin. And we couldn’t wait to start sketching, and not just because the clock was ticking. The energy on the project felt very proximate with the Nerdist Showroom, co-founded by show host Chris Hardwick, located right across the street from us at Meltdown Comics, one of our favorite places in L.A.
The condensed timelines of the project called for us to execute parts of the project out of our usual workflow order. Using Chris Hardwick as our muse, we first worked on illustrations of the lead characters so we could quickly get the look locked in and approved by NBC.
As seen in the illustrations of Chris Hardwick above and the show contestant to the left, the art was drawn with a simplified look upon request from NBC, which wanted a flatter, more pop-inspired look to appeal to a younger audience.
Storyboarding out all of the intricate movements was essential to mapping out the plan for all motion in the video.
Originally slated to be part of the video, we also illustrated and animated executive producer and NBA superstar LeBron James.
With many moving pieces and a looming deadline, we didn’t take our usual linear approach. Our team pieced together different sections as soon as we finished them.
At four stories high, the wall towers over contestants, with up to $3 million on the line in a single heart-stopping drop. If they get a question correct, a green ball falls down the fall and they add to their winnings. However, if they get a questions wrong, a red ball drops and deducts from their team’s total.
We constructed the entire wall with each and every peg in AfterEffects. We were able to replicate all of the movements for use throughout the video.
We felt that the only way to represent the way the ball dropped was to actually simulate it, using programmed physics (with potentially a nudge or two to make it fall where we wanted for instructional purposes). We created The Wall in After Effects based not on supplied dimensions but on footage evaluation. We watched, paused, played and re-watched every clip supplied to us to recreate it. We ended up positioning 190 pins and added collision-detection code to interact with the ball. Adjusting for springiness and the weight of the ball (as well as gravity) just by analyzing video clips, we honed in the physics to be as close to reality as possible, but still represent our animated style.
To convey the excitement and fun of the game, we wanted the contestants to be able to express emotion and excitement.
By using groundbreaking animation technology, we were able to puppet players movements and facial expressions through audio and video inputs, as seen here. The characters were animated to sway, gasp and awe like they were on the show.
Jamming the entire two weeks, we hit the deadline. NBC splashed the animated video across their social media channels including Twitter, Instagram and Twitter to promote the show and get people excited. The show was a hit and renewed for a second season.
–Tina Shaw, NBC