• 1.22.15

    Ars Thanea Scores with an Air Ball for Nike

    Air balls are embarrassing things. The phrase connotes those moments when a shot is taken in basketball and it is so far off that it doesn’t touch the rim, net, or backboard. It is a total miss. But the phrase “air ball” is tantalizing. The ball, the focus of the game, the object from which the entire game revolves, is energetically weighty, holding the hopes and anxieties of every player and fan watching. But an “air ball” is light, mobile, and agile. It is inherently a part of its surroundings. It’s a rich idea. 

    Nike asked Ars Thanea to interpret the idea of an “Air Ball” in a way that would express their latest line of basketball apparel. What came out of their creative sessions was a ball whose airness wasn’t merely attributed to the air that fills it, but rather something whose abilities and ambitions allowed it to carve through the air on its own whim. The result is a self-reliant machine that takes the guise of a regular basketball. But it is anything but regular.

    In their process to discover what this semi-autonomous could look like, Ars Thanea went through a process of digital sketching, examining different options from color to jet propulsion placement, to the throw of heat and light from its engines. The compositing process in a project like this is always lengthy and challenging, but we’ve included images from six different points of the process so you can see how the image develops over time.

    Selling the reality of CGI comes in the infinite details. Computers and vector are good at impossible smoothness and cleanliness, but they won’t feel real. To really sell the image, Ars Thanea had to lock down elements that are so wildly variable that they have to be real. The rich environment of a basketball court including court lines and nets is reflected in the glossy surface, while tiny inconsistencies on internal patterns look handmade. Even the intense “heat” off the engine warps the surrounding elements to inject a special layer of reality on the smallest elements. 

    “Air ball” is supposed to describe a shot that is taken and totally missed, but it can also mean something else entirely. As Ars Thanea explains, it can also mean, “giving the impression of the ability to fly and reaching the unreached.” Score.

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