Live social press junket
In the 2018 holiday season, Cricket Wireless wanted to promote its biggest offer, 4 lines of unlimited data for $100/month, and further establish its animated brand heroes as a part of pop culture. To achieve it, we created “Four for the Holidays”, a short holiday film starring its animated brand heroes. The objectives was to promote the film just like a big Hollywood studio would do it and give people chance to learn more about Cricket’s brand heroes.
To launch “Four for the Holidays” film in a true Hollywood fashion and give people a chance to learn more about its stars, we created the world’s first live stream with animated characters combining live-action with real time capture technology on Facebook & Twitter. The press junket event was hosted and promoted by Mario Lopez, one of Hollywood’s most famous reporters, and live-streamed across Facebook and Twitter just hours after the premiere of the campaign. The actors behind the characters were transformed on-screen, in real-time to embody their animated counterparts and answer our influencer’s queries, audience questions and participate in social games.
We used real-time capture technology, the technique using suits on live actors with reflective markers where cameras can track and record there motions. These recorded motions are then placed onto the rigs/joints of 3D character models and as such providing the animation for the 3D actors. Going this route allows time to clean-up all the capture movements in conjunction with that of the 3D models.
We use this same baseline approach but doing it live adds many levels of complexity. With live performances, the movements are laid on top the 3D models in real-time and so no clean-up/readjustment time. To do this, the 3D body and face models and their rigs/joints are specifically created to align and translate all these movements dynamically and live including Dusty’s fur and Rose’s fabric skirt. The use of specialized real-time software, like the Unreal Engine, Xsens MVN Animate, IKinema, and Faceware Live are paramount to pulling this off.
The mixed reality element of using 3D actors with a live-action actor in this project was done by creating a virtual background set for the 3D characters that matched with the actual physical set that the Mario Lopez was performing in front of. We then simply composited the cameras shots of two sets together within the Tricaster switcher to create one set with all three actors in one place. Much like a live studio TV broadcast, we used a Tricaster switcher to handle this 3 camera shoot (one was a virtual camera coming directly from the Unreal Engine), all audio, and fly video clips, interstitials, title cards and chyrons. However, when doing a live stream simulcast, you also need a live streaming/video encoder and use the RTMP server protocol. On this job, we used Wirecast’s native integrations with Facebook Live and Twitter, and our designated stream keys for each of these two channels.
One of the biggest technical challenges with this kind of mixed reality undertaking was synchronizing the audio between all the players. There is a slight delay due to processing the motions from the mo-cap talent to the 3D model, particularly the facial capture which most importantly handles lip movement. However, the live talents’ voices have no delay. So to handle this, we use an audio delay box which allows us to sync audio with the 3D characters’ lip movement. Now, the real trick is syncing up the back-and forth dialogue between the 3D characters with the live-action talent. So there is no weirdness or disconnect between the two sets of actors, we needed to have them in separate rooms so Mario Lopez did not hear and respond to the non-sync’d audio in relation to the motions and gestures of the two 3D characters. So each set of player’s performed to monitors at the correct eye line to match the composited shot with all three subjects in the one setting. Mario’s monitor and audio earpiece of course contained only the sync’d audio with composited virtual camera feed and the mo-cap talent receiving the straight audio from Mario.
Over 5 million views
Over 11 million impressions
41% share of the category during the week of the event
The “Live Social Press Junket” was a part of a larger brand campaign which helped Cricket Wireless reach more than 10 million subscribers, an increase of more than 5 million subscribers in the five years since joining the AT&T family, making 2018 the best year in Cricket’s 19-year history.