I was commissioned by Nike to create some soccer illustrations recently.

This was a fun project. Part illustration, part 3d, part design. The goal of the illustration was to show a somewhat moody image of a ball and a glove (2 separate images) within a stadium environment. The Inspiration I was given was a very dark night shot of a field (no stadium) with a floating soccer cleat, and a lot of photoshop work. It wasn’t a bad illustration per-se, but it wasn’t what I would call good.

My first thought is we needed some type of human form. A ball or glove sitting in the middle of a stadium is a bit odd to me. I thought the product needed a little more context. I mentioned this to Nike, and their worry was that the product would get lost if there were soccer players on the field, so my next step was to prove the concept with a sketch.

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We decided that the mood Nike was seeking was somewhat film Noire, with the high contrast, dark imagery. We pulled some reference images like the one to the left from the movie Sin City. Not the faces, but the black silhouette body forms. I sent some images like the image to the left to Nike to make sure we were on the right path.

Next step was to create some sketches of the 2 scenes, so I started building some rough scene elements so that I could visualize the scale this stadium would play.

00_stadium_render1The stadium was going to be an interesting challenge. Not only was a ball in the middle of a stadium an odd visual to me, but the ball inside an empty stadium was even worse! So the test for me was to create a composition which would show the stadium, but not the people. Ouch. I figured the dark scene with really bright field lights might somehow do the trick. I also started positioning some very basic 3d characters in poses/crops which worked well with the product + the stadium surroundings.

I realized very quickly that Vray would not be an option for this rendering, as Vray does not have the ability to render out volumetric lights. The Stadium lights needed to be volumetric, which basically means they need to have some visible shape.

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Initial pre-renders ended up looking like those above. Using a photo I took of my office mate Jason (medical illustrator) kicking a soccer ball as well as some other reference images, Jason helped me to pose the characters as accurately as possible. I then positioned them within frame, and rim lit them a bit.

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We then created some sketches that I used to get signoff on the concept from Nike. Shown here are round 1 and 2 of the soccer ball sketch. Nike thought that the ball in round 1 was much too small, so we had to come up with a knew composition. Once we had full signoff, I worked on rendering out the environment and the product, as Jason worked on the illustrating the final characters. Below are Jason’s final deliverables to me. They ended up brighter, and less contrasty than I had expected, but the scene’s would need some color, so I was happy with the result.

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The final illustrations are shown below. I think that the Ball illustration is the nicer of the 2 images. I did some fairly heavy post work on the images to get them where I wanted them. Lots of fake fog was painted in, grain was added, filters were applied in AE. Lastly, I did a lot of color correction and tweaking to get it all working together.

The ball and grass were rendered within Vray, and the stadium was rendered with Cinema’s AR3. The cleat was also rendered in c4d. Note that the glove, although slated to be modeled and rendered, ended up being a photo I took in the studio. The ball we had modeled from a previous product, and we ran out of time to model and texture a full glove.

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