To achieve the finished look, the team combined cel and embroidery techniques, creating over 3,000 finished frames — a feat that would push any hard-nosed animation team to their limits.
Along the way they reached out for support via a Kickstater campaign that helped get them over the line. We caught up with Nicos to get some insight into their process.
How did you come up with the concept for the video?
Straight up inspired by heavy metal band patches and the denim “Battle” jackets metal heads wear.
Can you tell us a bit about the way this was made?
So the whole film was animated frame by frame into the computer using Flash. Each shot was then exported as an image sequence, taken into Wilcom DecoStudio to be converted to a stitch format. This is so the embroidery machines can read the images.
Then each image was taken to 1 of 3 Brother Pr 1000e embroidery machines, stitched out, then neatened up by a wonderful team of interns, who cut out little jump stitches to make sure each frame was perfect. Finally each frame was shot under a rostrum and then dropped back in the edit to create the final film. Basically repeat that over 3000 times.
How did you decide on the technique?
I tested the process out on a friends sewing machine that could do one colour embroidery at a very small-scale. I was in fact just making band patches and during the process, it clicked I could animate it.
Was there much trial and error getting the workflow right?
There was a huge amount of trial and error. Many things where going wrong from things going missing in the digitizing process. To the wrong colours being read by the embroidery machines and each frame coming out different sizes. Problem with tension of material, the list goes on and each process can effect the process further down the line and dealing with the sheer number of frames we were, things can get confusing.
How many people did you have working on the project?
It was Tom and myself full-time (after about 6 months of me working out the process and getting Brother, Wilcom & Madeira on board). Then once some funding came in we had two pretty much full-time animators. Otherwise we had people from all over the world working wirelessly trying to help with animation whenever they could. Alongside the impeccable Jen Newman who took complete charge of the embroidery with two months remaining on the film. We ended up with quite a large credits list as so many people helped here and there as much as they could.
What was the timeline for the project?
Initial pitch to Channel 4 was well over a year ago, I then developed the idea and process for a further 6 months between working other jobs, making sure it was possible. Then once I had worked it out and Tom jumped on board the whole thing rattled off in about 7 – 8 months.
How did you find the crowd funding experience?
Brilliantly. I really didn’t expect it to work at all. It’s such a great way to gauge if your project is even worth doing. The sheer amount of help people were willing to give was incredible. It really helped keep us going.
You can now go here and pick up your own original embroidered frame from the video. Sweet!
Created by: Nicos Livesey
Directed by: Nicos Livesey & Tom Bunker
Executive Producer: Harry Hill
Producers: Posy Dixon, Dan Keefe, Nicos Livesey
Lead 2D Animator: Blanca Martinez De Rituerto
2D Animation: Tom Bunker, Elisa Ciocca, Anne-Lou Erambert, Duncan Gist, Dan Hamman, Nicos Livesey, James Martin, Azusa Nakagawa, Nuno Neves, Joe Sparkes, Joe Sparrow, James Turzynski
3D Animation & Modelling: Luke Howell, Sam Munnings
Rostrum Camera Operators: Stefan Iyapah, Michalis Livesey, Theo Nunn
Embroidery Department: Liz Barlow, Rosy Maddison, Julia Owen, Victor Jakalfabet
Head Of Embroidery: Jen Newman
Interns: Daniela Alvarez, Daniel Matczak, Annalotta Pauly, Polina Sologub, Anna Streit, Lynn Yun, Jennifer Zheng
Sound Design: Alex Pieroni
Song: Throne “Tharsis Sleeps”
Graphic Design: Toby Evans
Digitzing: Tim Gomersall, Nicos Livesey
Supported By: Brother Sewing UK
A Lucky Features production in collaboration with Channel 4 & Dazed Digital
Special Thanks to: Steve Bliss, Martina Bramkamp, Amy Leverton, Ebru Oz, Clapham Road Studio, Kickstarter & All Our Backers.
Sponsored by: Bosh, Madeira Threads, Mother, Orta Anadolu, Wilcom Embroidery