If you tuned into Superbowl 2011, you may have seen a slew of dazzling commercials that caught your eye. Here at Motionographer, we where particularly impressed by the latest from Fx & Mat, Coke Siege. As luck would have it, we were fortunate enough to rope the directors in for an exclusive interview about the teams latest piece (full interview below).
“Our intention was to make an epic film using the codes of the fantasy world. As illustrators ourselves we love the energy we see in concept art for films, books and games and we thought this project had great potential for bringing that into motion. We wanted illustrated landscapes, integrating the characters as much as possible with their environment. Wherever possible, we wanted to use graphic tricks to create depth – using atmospheric depth and coloured haze, rather than very photographic optical depth of field.”
Artistically, what was the inspiration behind Coke Siege?
Our intention was to make an epic film using the codes of the fantasy world. As illustrators ourselves we love the energy we see in concept art for films, books and games and we thought this project had great potential for bringing that into motion. We wanted illustrated landscapes, integrating the characters as much as possible with their environment. Wherever possible, we wanted to use graphic tricks to create depth – using atmospheric depth and coloured haze, rather than very photographic optical depth of field.
How did you become involved in the project? Did the agency, Wieden + Kennedy, contact Nexus/Fx & Mat, or did Coca Cola rope you in themselves?
Wieden+Kennedy and Nexus had been discussing this project for some time as there is an ongoing relationship between the two companies. Nexus then proposed our names to see it through to completion, so it was great to be involved!
From concept to delivery, how long was the entire production?
MAT: Only 3 months! Which was a very tough schedule for the ambition of the project.
FX: If you take in account the night shifts and the lack of lunch breaks due to the amount of work that was needed, it was probably closer to 5 months worth of work!
With a piece so cinematic and so large in scope, there are likely to be many artists involved. How many artists, from pre-production to post-production had a hand in Coke Siege?
A fair few! From concept design to delivery, there were nearly 75 artists involved both at Nexus and Framestore- extremely specialised and talented artists for each specific role. This project was so huge in scale that everything needed to be planned extremely precisely, and it was partly due to the talents of the crew we had that we were able to hit the Super Bowl deadline!
Can you explain the creative efforts that went into the environment/production design of the film? And likewise, can you shine a light on how the character design process.
Our main enemy was time. We only had a few days to decide on a direction for the design, so we worked with several concept designers who we liked that despite having wide artistic backgrounds, knew the codes of the fantasy world. We worked with some really talented character designers on the project. As it turned out, some of the characters that made it to the final cut came from Florian Caspar who was a new recruit to the studio after recently graduating.
We had to write the story at the same time as preparing the storyboard, whilst also designing the characters… All of this had to happen in a very limited period, so we assigned goals to the different artists involved and our task then was to drive everything in a common direction.
The narrative development this was a very organic process between the Agency Creatives, Nexus owner Chris O’Reilly and us. It was great to be so heavily involved in this part of the creative process.
How did Framestore London enter the equation and for those who don’t know, please explain their role.
At the time the project came to fruition, we had several large jobs going through the Nexus studio so unusually we had to look at other partners to collaborate with us. Framestore felt like a natural fit, due to their relevant expertise in both creature animation and filmic fantasy worlds.
To explain Framestore’s role – Nexus initiated storyboards and designs, but worked in a close collaborative role with Framestore who led the animation and FX throughout the project. On this project, we had A-list artists from both the film and commercial departments.
How did you find working with such a robust post-production team in Framestore London? At any point, where there any significant bumps in the road during post-production? As well, what was the biggest technical hurdle in the film?
It was pretty cool actually! On past projects, we’ve often been involved as CG operators or compositors depending on the work involved, but we realised on a job of this scale it was important for us to focus more on the directorial overview – overseeing a group of artists, rather than getting heavily involved in the nitty-gritty of the work.
In term of technical challenges, well, we were supposed to make an epic film, so we took all the epic decisions: crowd, fur, ice, fire, smoke, painted landscapes, fireworks …In other words, every step of the film was a challenge in itself! So it involved a lot of R&D to make things feel illustrated rather than hyper-real, for example the fire FX. But everyone on the team at Framestore rose to the challenge.
What is the origin of Fx & Mat? What where the circumstances of the both of you meeting and later deciding to join forces?
We met at school, in Supinfocom and graduated in 2006 with a short film called En Tus Brazos (with another friend, Edouard Jouret). After school, we worked on our own for a while in Paris, still friends and seeing each other from time to time, complaining constantly about our jobs (like French people usually do). Then, in 2008, we got too bored and re- joined forces!
In terms of the creative dichotomy between Fx & Mat, what are each of your partners strengths? Do you split creative responsibilities? Is one of you better at one role than the other?
Mat: Knowing each other so well by now is an amazing thing for our work – we can talk freely, so the process gets faster and faster!
Fx: About our roles, there are some parts that we undertake entirely together, like the narrative/storyboard/direction. The pre-production/concept design is a process we collaborate on also, so we can test out more ideas, and have more choices!
Mat: Then, each of us have our specific strengths – FX is more into character design (he is a wicked illustrator as well!), I’m more into editing (another tricky part when there are billions of ideas to tell in only one minute).
Fx: Yeah, Mat loves trying a thousand options in editing and I love throwing a lot of ideas into the storyboarding, which makes the editing hell thereafter! Between us, we cover both beginning and end stages of a project!
Lastly, now that the both of you had such a big US showing with Coke Siege, have you become a fan of American football?
Mat: I still don’t get the rules, but those dudes are real modern warriors, with armour and stuff (they just need axes and swords)! I wouldn’t last more than 3 seconds on the field…
Fx: I enjoyed it, but had my doubts about Fergie at the half time break…