New York, NY — Dense white clouds travel quickly across the screen before revealing a mass of white feathers highlighted by two single bands of red ones. Two powerful wings pump twice as the camera rises up, revealing the face of the red-haired young woman who controls them. The pretty young avian is Maximum Ride, the heroine of prolific author James Patterson’s immensely popular fantasy novel series of the same name. The scene is one created by visual effects company Light of Day, via James Patterson Entertainment, to promote Nevermore, the eighth and final novel in the series for young adult readers. The result is a scintillating 15-second blend of live action, CG animation, and motion graphics that will have readers reading and buyers talking.
“Since this is the final chapter, our clients were looking for something that was both realistic and climactic,” explains Charles Nordeen, Creative Director of Development at Light of Day and Director of the new 15-second spot. “Past promotions for the books have tended to be more illustrative and stylized, but for the final installment, a more photorealistic, cinematic approach was in order.”
Light of Day handled the entire production in-house, beginning with the casting of an appropriately aged woman to play main character Max: “The live action shoot was vital to setting the right tone, and that meant getting just the right face,” says Nordeen. “At this point in the story, the characters are all growing into young-adulthood, so it was important to cast someone who looked more like a young woman than a child. We also selected wardrobe for a more contemporary and cool look, and based on input we solicited from online fans who shared their own idea of how she looks and dresses.”
Following casting, Nordeen and his team set up a rig in a Brooklyn, New York studio from which the actress could hang and be shot against a greenscreen: “It was so important to get the right angles on this close-up,” says Nordeen. “We needed to get one good, clean shot of her with the right actions, gravity, and some nice even lighting. We used a forklift so we could shoot downwards to her face, and an effects fan to enhance the illusion of flight. Once we had that shot, we had a lot of flexibility in what we could do in post-production and effects.”
Light of Day built a background plate of a city at dusk and created everything except the young woman herself, building her elaborate CG wings from scratch, together with CG volumetric clouds capable of passing through and around reacting to her in subtle ways. The team also performed all finishing, color grading, rig removal, tracking, and other effects work.
“Light of Day is proud to have handled this production from start to finish,” says Nordeen. “The single live-action shot was a very important one to get correctly because we had to match the CG element to a live action to create a seamless transition. You don’t want to skip a beat or you’ll take the viewer right out of the false reality you’ve created.”