X Factor


Howard Greenhalgh

Four armies ready for battle, the leaders stride forward commanding their troops in readiness for the competition ahead, meet the captains of the XFactor teams.

In this challenging project we were given the task of building the armies of Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh, Mel B and Cheryl Cole; with shoot restrictions on the number of extras and the size of studio we only had a certain amount of live action footage to work with so therefore we were challenged to devise a plan to amass thousands of people easily, quickly and cost effectively.

First off we needed to pre-viz the crowd shots as close to what the final shot would be and get these angles signed off.

We then would shoot the hero plates as usual, this would be all foreground hero plates and any near camera background plates, all to be shot in a green screen studio.

Our armies needed a bit more thought, we knew we couldn’t go down the CG route as there wasn’t enough time, so decided with the help of the pre-viz to use Nuke sprites and particles, or in this case we utilised the same principle but used Houdini to create our sprite crowds.

As the camera angles for each crowd shot had been pre planned, in the corner of the stage we set up an elements shoot involving green screen, a green tread mill and a locked off camera. We then shot as many people running, jumping, standing etc as we could in each position, these would then be keyed and prepped and with Houdini’s sprite magic made into vast armies. This method enabled us to create the vast crowds with ease and make client changes quickly, we could also incorporate camera moves to give the shots more dynamism as and when needed.

Digital Matte Paintings were created for our armies environment and extra atmos / dust elements were added as well as cg flags.

VFX: nineteentwenty

VFX Supervisor: Chrys Aldred

VFX Producer: Sally Pritchett

Nuke VFX Team: Graeme Eglin

3D VFX Team: Chris King & Joe Lawrenson

Director – Howard Greenhalgh

Production Company: Soft Target

Agency: ITV

Agency TV Producer: Charlotte Trottman

DMP Artists – Jama Jurabaev & Levente Peterffy

Colourist: Paul Harrison at Finish