A fun and unique way to showcase the best team of the year for MLS in 2018 - using players likenesses in the style of table football characters, an animation was used to reveal the team one by one in a dynamic way.

This project was created for the MLS, the domestic football league in the US, as a unique way to reveal the best XI players for the year. For something that is traditionally presented as a list, the social team at MLS really wanted to reach to create something new and engaging. Having partnered with the MLS social team before, when they approached me with the idea to create a little foosball table filled with the likeness of current stars, I knew this was going to be a memorable project. 


For modeling each of the players, I focused on a select few criteria - the overall shape of the head, the facial hair, small individual embellishments, and hair style. I did my best to find the balance between keeping the aesthetics of the players in the same world while making them each unique and recognizable in their own way. I knew from the start that I did not want to take a photo-realistic approach to the players faces, but they also needed more than just their club kits to identify them from one another. Below, you can see an example of the balance between the base model and individual likeness that I landed on for interpreting Josef Martínez into the final foosball models.


Alongside the animation, announcements for individual players were required. These were utilized by the different clubs and the league to announce players one by one as a supplement to the announcement video. The design of these cards aimed to leave ample opportunity to tailor the feel to the specific clubs while maintaining the environment and feel of a foosball table.


Below you can find an overview of the process from concept to completion, as well as stills from the finished piece.



The first phase of any animation is figuring out the basic timing and flow. I typically approach this step by drawing out rough sketches and editing them together to work out a pace that serves the final piece best.



The next step is to take the rough timing worked out in the storyboard phase and build out the animation. This step typically is done with proxy geometry, temporary lighting, and no materials. This allows me to focus solely on the movement of the piece before moving on to the finishing touches.


Shading and Lighting

After the motion is finalized, all completed models are added in alongside the materials and lighting. This piece was lit and shaded in Redshift, which allowed for the most flexibility with shader networks to re-use a basic painted wood shader for multiple different clubs and players.


Final Composite

The finishing touches utilizing the different layers from the final render come last. Combining the different lighting and color passes with lens distortions, motion blur, color correction, and any atmospherics brings us from a basic rendered 3D image to a final piece.



Client: Major League Soccer

Client-Side Creatives: Dan Stelly and JoLynne Holloman

Design / Production: Jake Wegesin