April 14, 2017
behind the scenes

Watch: How to Create a Realistic VFX Army From Only One Person

Under Armour's viral 'Rule Yourself' campaign was created using state-of-the-art technology and old-fashioned ingenuity.

Under Armour's inspiring 'Rule Yourself' campaign, featuring Misty Copeland, Stephen Curry, and Jordan Spieth, and produced in collaboration with Droga5 and director Wally Pfister, features an army of athletes training. But there wasn't enough time or resources to film hundreds of people. So how did they pull it off?

In a new video, production company The Mill shows how its employees cloned the athletes with plates, clever camera usage, and VFX.

To create the crowd of people, the company first rigged a five-camera array that maximized the number of plates they could shoot. While setting up, they had to ensure the cameras were evenly spaced and that the plates didn't overlap. Once they had cast extras who could perform the athletic drills necessary for the shoot, The Mill matched the extras' skin tone and hair to the athlete they wanted to duplicate.

Then, the company created identical clones of the featured athletes, scanning them head to toe to make CG agents. They used motion capture to ensure that the models' movements looked natural. Using various keying technologies and rotoscoping, The Mill then extracted the athletes from their original backgrounds. Finally, matte paintings were created by extending the environments shot in-camera.

As the company details in the video, because the shoot took place during a small window of time, it was nearly impossible to create uniform lighting conditions throughout each spot. To correct this, they replaced all of the skies, individually color-corrected each of the plates of the athletes, and manually added shadows.     

Your Comment


Short answer: With an absolute ton of high level compositing work.

April 15, 2017 at 7:14AM


Right? Pretty lame. You can however probably pull off something similar making multiple shoots of the subject to fill the closer, more definable areas in the foreground, and then fill the background with digital doubles. There's a great free open source plugin for the free open source modeler Blender 3D called MAKEHUMAN that allows you to make fully rigged digital doubles and other humanoid and creatures (aliens, monsters, etc) on the fly that would be pretty handy on a project like this. Watch this video and see as some kid(!) gives you a quick overview on how it's done:

April 15, 2017 at 11:46PM, Edited April 15, 11:51PM


He was trying to say it was impressive that they did not use any green screen tech... But it is all compositing... Even the motion capturing is overlooking the BG for the rigging dots.

April 17, 2017 at 1:57PM, Edited April 17, 1:57PM

Kyle Dockum
Videographer and Editor

This seems to be overly complicated, totally understand they wanted 5 different plates but beyond some of the two shots with somewhat complicated movement it could have been doable with only one and that would have taken less time setting up all the camera equipment.

But the results look good.

April 17, 2017 at 2:03PM

Kyle Dockum
Videographer and Editor