Project Description

VMAs 2022 Augmented Reality

Hidden Road Studios made astronomical leaps and bounds in crafting a zero-gravity augmented reality broadcast for this year’s VMAs.

Earlier this year, Trevor Burk of Visual Noise Creative and VMAs Supervising Producer and Creative Director Paul Caslin approached Hidden Road Studios to design work for the 2022 VMAs, from broadcast design elements to house screen material and, most importantly, the main show’s augmented reality.

The team worked for two months to settle on overall design aesthetics, including volumetric lighting, realistic reflections, surrealist colour palettes, and zero-gravity physics. Hidden Road began pre-visualising the show using rough layouts with basic camera moves. They designed, created, and sourced 3D objects in Cinema 4D and brought those files into Notch. The team then textured and lit their elements directly in Notch, adding a few Post-FX and other render nodes. In the beginning stages, they moved quickly and didn’t worry about playback optimisation. When their scenes were approved, the crew made simple adjustments to allow the heavier scenes to play in real time.

The crew had one more challenge to overcome: they needed to include a life-size astronaut in every scene and eventually build up to a great reveal of Johnny Depp as the MTV “moon person.” The team shot footage for Depp’s cameo and placed it in an image plane parented to the helmet of the CG figure. They animated the body to correspond to the dialogue and facial expressions of Depp and lit the astronaut to match the venue’s lighting setup. In the end, the work paid off, and the team garnered praise from the client and creative directors.

“We applied our VR video to the environment map within Notch, and our textures displayed real-time reflections of the actual arena and its lighting conditions. From there, we expanded on that process and used it for lighting objects. It was a huge step forward for us that could only have been achieved using Notch.”

Rowan Glenn, Creative Producer & Lead Designer, Hidden Road Studios

Additional press coverage:

Client: MTV & Paramount
Executive Producer: Bruce Gillmer
Executive Producers: Jesse Ignjatovic & Barb Bialkowski
EIC of Production: Alicia Portugal
Production Company: Den of Thieves
Supervising Producer & VMAs Creative Director: Paul Caslin
House Video & AR: Hidden Road Studios
VMAs Director (Broadcast): Liz Clare

VMAs Creative Producer: Trevor Burk
VMAs Screens Producer:
Visual Noise Creative
VMAs Screen Programmer: Kirk Miller
Lighting Designer: Tom Sutherland
Screens Project Manager: Emily Zamber
VMAs Technical Producer: Zak Haywood
Screens Director: Jared LeClaire
Screens Engineer: Ben Roy
Camera Tracking: stYpe
Server System: disguise