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.