Is It Really All Stop-Motion?

Watch “Building” | Watch “Contents” | Watch “Motor”

When I first watched these three commercials by Australian director Liz Murphy and TAXI for RAC Insurance, I thought, “Man, this is awesome 3D!” Then, when Liz told us that it was all real props, shot on full scale built sets, animated frame by frame in one continuous shot, I was convinced that this was a winner.

All three spots are mind-bogglingly, painstakingly animated. I especially love the small, detailed secondary animations (specifically in the “Contents” spot); they add a lot of personality to the spots. As far as I know, these spots are among the largest and most technically challenging stop motion commercial projects out there.

Liz was kind enough to give us a little inside info on the whole process:

We used the new Dragon Stop Motion software to capture all the images—saved us so much time—and used two Canon 1D MkIIIs and a Canon 40D. Since both have “live view” features, we could onion skin really easily between previous frames, and frames about to be taken. This made moving the camera far more achievable, and prevented making major mistakes as there wasn’t much chance of going backwards once we started doing some major dismantling and camera movement. The car and building spots were shot in reverse.

The camera movement was pre-plotted with hundreds of meters of measuring tape on the floor, on set walls and on a variety of portable stands. Each camera and dolly or crane had a minimum of three lasers measuring tiny increments of camera movement on up to 5 axes at once throughout each set—sometimes moving the camera less than one millimeter per frame.

Each animator was permanently armed with a ruler and calculator to plot and co-ordinate the movement of thousands of objects in tiny increments throughout the sets. A small army of over 25 animators, 10 technical crew manning laptops and cameras worked on the 3 commercials, plus three mechanics who were on hand when the car was shot being dismantled.

Post production was handled by Cutting Edge studio, and the realistic sound design was foley recorded with the actual props from the shoot by Pete Jones.

Make sure to block some time off to enjoy all the spots, such meticulous work requires some real frame by frame viewing. Quoting one of our fellow contributors; “PES would be proud.”

Watch “Building” | Watch “Contents” | Watch “Motor”

Pre-viz videos: “Contents” animatic | “Building” animatic | “Motor” animatic


Agency: The Brand Agency, Australia
Creative Director: Dale Simmonds
Copywriter: Kurt Beaudoin
Art Director: Josh Edge
Agency Producer: Paula James
Production Company: Taxi Film Production, Australia
Director: Liz Murphy
Producer: Andrew Wareham
DOP: Susan Stitt
Post Production – Cutting Edge
Sound Design – Pete Jones

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  • Justin Floyd

    Amazing. You know you are looking at something special when you ask yourself, “How did they do that?” Stop motion on such a large scale makes the piece very tactile and provides a “something” I can’t quite describe that get’s glossed over with computer animation. Very inspiring.

  • gad. and normally you associate the words ‘stop motion’ with others like ‘simple’ and ‘lo-fi’. astonishing.

  • these are nuts! when they got to the kitchen, it made me think of that scene in sword in the stone. oh, i wish my dishes put themselves away.

    but this really is a beautiful campaign, great job everyone!

  • Absolutely brilliant. So difficult. But thats what makes it so good!

    I also love the sound – it really brings it to life. Especially the insulation foam entering across the floorboard.

  • Cool, I really like it. Especialy cause im working on a stop motion atm. This is really inspiring.

  • Its funny, but I don’t and have never associated stop-motion with ‘lo-fi’ or ‘simple’…done well its extremely effective and ‘real’. I think that’s its most enduring quality, something that CG isn’t that good at and nor should it be. take a look at hosefilm.com to see what I’m talking about…

  • barret

    This year’s “Honda Cog”…

    • “Honda Cog” wasn’t Stop-Motion…

      • oeuf

        I think he meant in terms of it’s amazing execution.

        While I really like these spots part of me wonders why this wasn’t done with CG. And yes, before I get drop kicked with responses like ” you can’t achieve this with CG”, allow me to elaborate. We’ve all seen stop motion spot’s done completely with CG with success to some extent, I think, with some extra R&D perhaps that these spots could be done completely in CG.

        By the way, that Dragon Stop Motion software looks really cool. Looks like using that would help production along alot faster. Interesting that they don’t show that dragon and knight spot on their site, if the software was used for that, that spot is fantastic!

        • lucie

          The Dragon software was actually developed just after the Dragon spot was created. As far as I know, the directors’ brother helped him come up with some simple programming to speed the Dragon spot along, and afterwards, they began to put realize the potential. They then got to work on the Dragon software, and yes, its pretty incredible.

        • lucie

          oh and yeah, I kinda agree about the potential of CG here. Overall though, I think the concept is what stands out, rather than the execution of the animation itself. I can see the desire to do this in stop-mo, but I can’t see that a well done cg spot would have necessarily drawn away from it, so long as it was mimicking stop-mo. It might have even made it a bit more compelling, in this case

  • MA

    That deserves a double-wow…

    “Wow, wow.”

  • Rooster

    You know what’s sad? There were 25 animators working on this thing down on their hands and knees with rulers plotting every move for hours and they didn’t even make the credits. What’s up with that? Very awesome spots though.

    • oeuf

      ^^^Damn. That sucks. Someone please post the complete list.

  • Yep. VERY impressive. amazing stuff.

    And thanks for the heads up about Dragon, always figured there’d be a solution like it, just never heard about it.

    Awesome.

    Today will be a great day.

  • ila

    Why not CG, well, maybe some very nice people trying to keep Stop-Mo alive, I salut them! please keep making Stop-Mo films even if its harder, time consuming and more expensive.

  • KGB

    But….in “Building”, given the time needed to animate, if it were animated with stop motion as they say, the sun should move. It doesn’t, static shade outside.

    Nope, somethings afoot.

    • From Liz Murphy:
      “The building one had a BG comped in as it was shot on green in a studio, and the fence in the BG was done in 3d – all the rest was in camera. And the other 2 were done completely in camera, only post was a bit of stabilizing and rig removal…”
      Hope that clarifies a couple of things. :-D

  • hehe great work and all, but it totally doesn’t sell me on insuring my home with “RAC”. It just sells me on the concept of thinking about it, and doesnt tell me jack about why this company would be better than any other company…

    • Although it makes the spots no less impressive, this is a very important point.
      Perhaps you could argue that it is implied that the attention to detail demonstrated in the animation is a metaphor for the care of the insurance company, but I think it’s a stretch.
      Unfortunately, for me, what makes this company unique and persuasive is lost in the messaging.

      • Sean

        These are image and brand spots. They get you talking about the spot, and in turn about the brand, and then the company. You’ll remember these the next time you see that bright yellow endscreen on another spot, which may have more of a conventional “sell” to it.

        I think these spots are very effective in getting the message across. You car is not one big piece, it’s a bunch of smaller parts, each one a potential problem. Your home is not just a place, it contains all your “stuff,” which insurance also covers.

  • Didn’t they use a motion control?
    It looks pretty hard to make such camera moves with lasers and mesuring tape if you can also just insert the same movement from the animatic into a motion control and do the whole thing without many problems… or did they use one?

  • inspiring stuff. i’m dabbling in stop motion myself, and actually bid on a similar type of job that went away (had a man sitting in his couch as his house disassembled around him).

    why not 3d? because photo-real 3d to this scale would cost just as much, and it’s so much more fun to get rulers and lasers out, and only have 2 weeks of post!!

    per the motion control comment. probably budgetary restriction. laying that much track for motion control would be pricey, and perhaps some areas restrictive. i did a spot using a 35mm dolly on track, with two lasers and marks on tape, worked great, near precision.

    nice work liz!

    …ryan