Interview: Bringing the future of the Mets to life

We talk with Marc Rienzo about him and his team’s amazing work on the Mets videos you’ve seen us showcase here on FYI. Great insight, videos, and more after the fold.

Marc Rienzo (Marcrienzo) on Twitter

1. Hey Marc, thanks for taking the time with us! We love your stuff. Tell us a little about you and your team who worked on the CGI Mets project and what your Role on the team was/is.

Thanks—These spots were done by the VFX department at DDMG in FL. Eric Sanford was the CG Supervisor, and Gianni Aliotti the Lead Compositor who lead the 2D and 3D teams. It was a small but very talented group of artists that I enjoyed working with quite a bit, it was a great group. I was the VFX Supervisor there, but I also wrote and directed these spots.


2. How do you approach modernizing a project like this (baseball) so that it is relatable but bridges the gap between the idea you are trying to relay to the audience (the quality of the Mets baseball team)?

Great question. This was done very slowly and carefully. I never imagined we’d get to go so far with the sci-fi angle as we did. I never imagined we’d get to go so far with the sci-fi angle as we did. Once the Mets initiated that direction, I ran with it expecting to get reigned in honestly, but thankfully that never happened. But at the same time we grounded the spots in many ways. The umpire, who is a robot, still wears pads and the armored players still have leather gloves. We put in enough recognizable baseball elements so it still looked somewhat familiar.

Heads-Up Display from marc dominic rienzo on Vimeo.

3. How cooperative was the Mets organization? What kind of flexibility did you have, creatively, to explore different paths in this series?

The Mets were fabulous to work with and they were very open to new ideas. I initially pitched Amazin’ to them thinking the feel-good nostalgic baseball spot would be more what they’d want. Amazin’ was well received, but afterwards they asked if we could do something where the VFX were much more present and noticeable. 

The Ball Unleashed from marc dominic rienzo on Vimeo.

4. What is the greatest challenge working with 3D now as the CGI industry has grown and audiences have different expectations?

That pretty much explains the genesis of where these projects evolved from: The world is saturated in CG graphics of all kinds. We have CG creatures in everyday commercials, something that was once exclusive to tent pole films and mega budgets. So we set out to do big visuals for the sports world, one of the few true family friendly venues left with a huge audience.

I never imagined we’d get to go so far with the sci-fi angle as we did. Once the Mets initiated that direction, I ran with it expecting to get reigned in honestly, but thankfully that never happened.

Field - Visual Effects Breakdown on Vimeo

5. How much of this is mocap? Did you get actual Mets ball players to do some acting for you? Describe, briefly, the research phase in this series.

We motion captured both spots in their entirety, but there was also an enormous amount of character animation, led by Tim Keon the Animation Supervisor on both spots. The mocap was invaluable, especially for some of the background players.

We studied Tom Seaver’s and numerous other players motions and loosely used them as guides for the players body languages. Casey Bond, who played “Chad Bradford” in Moneyball, was our star player for both teams.  

Heads-Up Display on Vimeo

6. How well did the audience receive your quick narratives?

The audience response has been great, besides seeing it spread online it was really cool to see them play live at Citi Field.  It was also fun to see fans spotting the easter eggs:

Fans look deep Part 1
Fans look deep Part 2

7. Which was your favorite and why? 

It’s hard to pick between them honestly. I like Heads-Up Display for the character designs and the attitude of the players. I also prefer the night game look along with the rain, lens flares…there is a lot more style. The Ball Unleashed is more intense and epic, and judging by the online view stats, people like this one the best.   

The Ball Unleashed on Vimeo

8. What kind of software did you use?

These were all done using Maya, V-Ray, Nuke, Mari, Photoshop, and Houdini.  

Heads-Up Display | Visual Effects Breakdown from marc dominic rienzo on Vimeo.

Marc has been a busy guy with all the new press the Mets videos are getting. We really appreciate his time working with us and providing this insight! We really loved the videos the first time we featured them on For Your Inspiration.

Find Marc on twitter and vimeo.

We will be keeping an eye on Marc and seeing what else he and his team make. Which videos are your favorite? Do you like the futuristic style?