Have you ever wondered what Mario would look like in real life? Well, I caught him during his commute to the Smash Bros tournament, running through Tokyo to the stadium before he joins the fight!

As a huge Super Smash Bros fan, ahead of the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS games release in 2014, I produced this fun spec commercial project as an homage to the game and characters. It was an incredibly successful project gaining over half a million views in a matter of weeks thanks to viral popularity among niche blogs and news sites such as Kotaku.

Shot on the Panasonic GH3, filming at various locations across Tokyo, I also captured reference photography and created spherical HDRI images of all the locations to allow me to recreate the lighting in 3D.

Using only my laptop, I spent 4 weeks working intensively on the project during the day and rendering overnight to get full use of the limited machine time I had and complete the project as soon as possible. To stay true to the games I used the model from the Smash Bros Brawl Wii game as a base reference and worked on the textures to ready the quality for full HD rendering. Using a reference-based workflow in Maya, I was able to rig on the fly to make changes during the animation stage.

This, combined with using a separately referenced look development scene to control the shaders and lighting, I was able to make changes to the character’s look in every scene by changing one file. Several of the shots are based on a run so I created a quick run cycle to give me a starting point before adding on the details.

My lighting setup was fairly straightforward with the HDRI images I captured on location and a few lights to mimic what was really there. Along with final gather, ambient occlusion, and a variety of passes available to me I could tweak the character as needed in compositing to integrate him into the back plates. In all, it took over 60 hours of rendering time to bring Mario to the screen. A significant amount of rotoscoping was also required at the compositing stage for Mario to run in between people and behind obstacles. The video below shows an example shot with a rough breakdown of the process from the initial footage through to completion.

Last but not least is the audio. It is 50% of the final product so I dedicated quite some time trying to get it right. I chose to use the music from Smash Bros Brawl on Wii as I always loved it and I felt it went better with the visuals than the Wii U/ 3DS trailer music. I scoured the internet to find some iconic Mario sounds and voices to help bring him alive and also went out and recorded a bunch of Foley myself, such as foot steps and slides.

In all, the positive fan reaction and high engagement has made this passion project a highlight in my portfolio.

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