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Competition and Color Collide in Breathtaking Season Lauch Promos for Spike's “Ink Master”

To launch the seventh season of its successful reality-competition series, “Ink Master,” Spike turned to 2C Creative (“2C”) for a stand-out promo campaign. The network wanted a new, visually engaging way to drive excitement for a familiar fan-favorite, something that had never been seen before. Season 7 of “Ink Master,” hosted by musician, filmmaker and artist Dave Navarro and judged by tattoo icons Chris Nunez and Oliver Peck, premieres on March 1 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Watch the promo HERE.

The concept imagined going into the blood of the artists to see that tattooing and ink were really a part of their physical being. Once inside, ink streams would appear, collide, reveal and erase the competing artists and celebrity judges. More than a transitional device, the ink would also be a character that showed attitude, aggression and personality.

“We really wanted to push the boundaries for how the familiar genre of tattoo shows is promoted, and it needed to be something entirely fresh and groundbreaking,” said 2C Creative Director, Brian Eloe. “From the beginning, Spike really challenged us to create something never seen before, which also took a huge leap of faith on Spike’s part since we couldn’t fully demonstrate what it would look like upfront.” 

Everyone involved wanted a level of organic magic that could only come from capturing these elements in camera. In light of that, 2C opted for a practical shoot in lieu of CG for creating ink elements.  Adding to the challenge of execution, shooting the artist portraits would have to take place as part of a larger ”Ink Master” promotional shoot. In that format, 2C would only have about 30 minutes with each artist to get special performances and attitudes unique to that character that would then be used to create a custom ink element to match.  Things like hair color, wardrobe colors, body movements and attitudes would all be characteristics used to plan the ink effects shoot.    

2C worked closely with VFX guru and Cinematographer Chris Webb and VFX Ink Specialist Makoto Aoki to create an animatic of performance selects that would help narrow the shot list and inform the planning of the ink days.  Shooting the intricate ink simulations instead of generating them in CG meant limiting the amount of carefully executed experiments.  Even after all the meticulous planning, the real magic started once the ink was injected into the tank.  As predicted, the team got spectacular organic results while manipulating the velocity, colors, cloud intensity and deflections.

“When we saw the natural movements of the ink and the secondary offshoot surprises, we realized we never would have imagined that in a CG simulation,” said Design Director Luis Martinez. “We were absolutely getting the real organic results we dreamed of and the color mix was indescribable.”

In post came the arduous job of linking the ”Ink Master” talent portraits and ink shoot elements together, a process that took many weeks in post of keying, masking and roto-scoping to get the seamless blend 2C wanted. To enhance the composites, nuances of atmosphere—ECU shots of tattoos from the actual artists, special color grading, particle sparks and light flare overlays—were added, the end goal to make each frame a work of art.

“With a focus on incredible art and great characters, Spike’s ‘Ink Master’ has become a cultural phenomenon with ratings increasing each season,” said Spike’s SVP, Brand Creative Terry Minogue. “For the launch of ‘Ink Master: Revenge,’ Spike wanted to bring the outstanding art into the campaign itself. Working with the team at 2C was a collaborative process and the attention to detail throughout is evident in this beautiful creative.”

In all, 2C delivered one 30-second promo, as well as 20- and 15-second cut-downs and a complete graphic tool kit for use in the episodics throughout the season.

Project Credits:

Frank Tanki - EVP, Brand Marketing and Creative
Terry Minogue – SVP, Brand Marketing and Creative
Iness Pleuss, SVP, Operations Brand Marketing and Creative
David Phillips – VP, Brand Creative
Eric Jones – Creative Director
Andre Razo – Creative Director, Design
Michael Sutton-Long – Senior Art Director
Emily Scalfone – Project Manager, On-Air Design
Robert Monfroto – Production Manager
Patrick Hogan – Production Coordinator

Chris Sloan – Chief Creative Officer
Brian Eloe – Creative Director/Live Action Director
Ben Frank – Senior Writer/Producer
Marni Wagner – Supervising Writer/Producer
Luis Martinez – Design Director
Dmitri Zavyazkin – Visual Effects Artist/Compositor
Carlos Lopez – Visual Effects Artist/Compositor
Andy Fernandez – Motion Graphics/Visual Effects Artist
Frank Quadreny – Director of Operations

Chris Webb - Cinematographer/Visual Effects Supervisor
Makoto Aoki - Ink FX Artist
Chris Stoerchle - Line Producer
Hector Espinosa - Senior Graphic Designer (Style boards)