Cartoon Network: NBA Slam Dunk Contest
Nothing’s as thrilling as seeing great players showing off their skills live … except maybe creating a half-hour special the next day with composited animation and instant commentary from popular cartoon characters.
Cartoon Network contacted us to help them devise the mechanics for an almost-live rebroadcast of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. ForCartoon Network Special Edition: NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest Presented by Nike, the network wanted replay segments overlayed with exciting animation, along with in-studio commentary from the Teen Titans and courtside reporting from Scooby Doo and Shaggy. We gave the WarnerMedia Studios team a toolkit with many more dunk sequences than the show could require, as well as pre-scripted interstitials and characters designed for real-time animation.
We had some idea what to expect from the live contest, but there was also plenty of unpredictability. Knowing that the project would require a lot of pre-work in preparation for a tight, next-day turnaround, we divided into two teams, each handling a different aspect of the broadcast.
Our ANIMATION TEAM worked on the scripted segments, placing the Teen Titans on a modified version of the set for Inside the NBA. The animation team also created 2D components for the VFX team to use.
Meanwhile, the VFX TEAM animated the pieces for the toolkit as they built exciting, hyped overlays for dunk shots that had yet to be slammed.
While the script was still in flux, the ten-person 2D team was hard at work. They built the background for the Titans, illustrated dunk gags (like a ball transforming into yarn to the delight of playful kittens), created a dais for the judges (Justice League, of course), and began to animate commentators Scooby and Shaggy who only wanted to report on food. French fries dunked in ketchup, anyone?
The VFX team built a library of dunks which included themed gags with characters and goofy props like waffles, meatballs, Cyborg’s head, anvils and more. Not knowing what would actually occur at the live event, we made a total of 22 gags to provide a variety of options for the 14 that would appear oncreen. We tested the footage on scenes from the previous year’s event. Leading up to the big night we continued to submit new content so that WarnerMedia Studios team would be ready with a robust graphics toolkit.
The night of the live Slam Dunk Contest, our team was on call. While there were unforeseen missed dunks (three!), WarnerMedia Studios was able to work with the toolkit we created to build the cartoonified special on time, thrilling fans of hoops and tiny superheroes alike!