Conference openers have become the vehicle of choice for many studios to show what they can do without an overbearing client or agency brief hemming them in. The creative contraints for conference openers are usually very loose (probably owning to the guilt organizers feel for not being able to pay anyone for their work), inviting experimentation and risk-taking that’s hard to find in the commercial world.
While the budgets may be low, the expectations are very high. And for a conference about “the art of the pitch,” the expectations are unusually high.
As usual, the audio deserves as bright a spotlight as the visuals — and in this case, the man behind the audio, John Black (CypherAudio) had a special role to play in this collaboration.
We got the inside scoop on the process behind the project from John Black, Anthony Scott Burns and Chris Bahry of Tendril.
Interview with Anthony Scott Burns, Chris Bahry (Tendril) and John Black (Cypheraudio)
John, let’s start with you, since it many ways this collaboration began with you. Tell us how that came about.
John Black/Cypheraudio: During my initial meeting with Stephen and Heather [of Stash Magazine, organizers of the Style Frames NY event], they asked me who I would be interested in working with to create the opening. I immediately suggested Tendril.
Sam Mason and Pete Candeland: Mazda “Incredible World”
Strange Beast put director Sam Mason and creative director Pete Candeland together on “Incredible World,” a stunning advert for Mazda and agency Garage/Team Mazda. The spot follows a new model Mazda CX-9 through seamlessly integrated landscapes rendered in lushly stylized CG.
Gabe Askew (Hornet) is no stranger to Motionographer. We posted his first break-out project here, an unofficial music video for Grizzly Bears “Two Weeks” that seemed to garner more interest online than the official video.
Since then, he signed with NY-based production company Hornet and has been developing his storytelling chops. His recently released short film, “Goat and Aaron,” shows the same penchant for tactility as his other work, but it contains something new for Askew: character dialogue.
We caught up with Gabe to get some insight into the process behind the project.
Q&A with Gabe Askew
The look for this short is beautiful. It seems to be the result of mixing many different techniques. Can you talk about the techniques you used?
Each shot began as an individual watercolor painting. I then projected that painting onto geometry and broke it up into sections in CG. I layered on additional textures and applied different shaders to create an abundance of materials.
I used Vray where I found it really easy to take a material from cloth to glass to wood without much effort. In post, I applied some real dust and grain, which I shot against black. I shot it towards the sun and trees so that the exposure seems to “swim” a little.
The world you’ve created for the short is brimming with lovely textures. What was the thinking behind building the world with such a tactile quality? (more…)
Prologue’s Creative Director Simon Clowes has crafted an elegantly sinister title sequence for CBS’ new series, “Elementary,” starring Jonny Lee Miller as a contemporary Sherlock Holmes. (It has tough competition in BBC’s “Sherlock,” also a modern recasting of the venerable sleuth at 221B Baker Street.)
Simon carries Prologue’s legacy of impeccably crafted title work forward. His penchant for live action elements reminds me of my favorite work from Kyle Cooper, Prologue’s founder. Both Cooper and Clowes’ work leverage visual metaphors to foreshadow elements of the narrative ahead.
Both also bring a graphic designer’s eye to their framing. Credits appear in perfectly shaped lagoons of negative space, nestled between gritty textures and golden light. It’s a subtle art, one that Clowes commands with a mastery befitting Prologue.
After working in relative obscurity for a year, Wolf & Crow recently launched their website. It’s full of high caliber work, quickly establishing the fledgling studio as a force to watch out for on the LA scene.
Our favorites in the portfolio are the trailers for Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth that debuted at E3 and Comic-Con.
Both trailers show off a wide range of skills, including deft character animation, nuanced effects work and beautiful environments.
Wolf & Crow is helmed by CDs Matt Berenty, David Bokser, Andrew Romatz and Chad Howitt, with former Logan EP Kevin Shapiro holding the reigns as Managing Director.
By now you’ve probably read Asylum Films’ open letter to Leo Burnett London, in which the production company accuses the agency of “reshooting” a job that Asylum had already completed for them. An excerpt:
[The newer spot] is essentially our piece of work reshot and redone with a bigger budget. Not only the concept, but lighting, the feel and shot selection are almost identical.
At no point were we consulted on this or even told about it happening as a courtesy, and certainly not asked about our ability to create this new version. We feel hugely aggrieved by the situation. It is hard for smaller companies to make the transition into doing work with bigger agencies, but we feel we have the experience and showreel to do so.
Leo Burnett London responded on their blog, citing “misinformation”:
We came up with the idea and the long, and highly-detailed, script for an ‘internal’ film to be played at the annual gala dinner held by Ronald McDonald House Charities. Obviously, there was a very small budget given that it was only going to be watched by a few hundred people. This meant we could only approach production companies at the cheaper end of the spectrum. Asylum’s Ben Falk did a great job for us. As a consequence, our RMHC client took the decision to invest a larger production budget to re-make the film with higher production values so that it could be aired on public media (cinema, if you’re interested). The higher production budget meant that the creative team could now interest production companies beyond the cheaper end of the spectrum.
Ouch. Leo Burnett London is basically saying that Asylum did such a good job (for the money) that they justified the client spending more money and going with a more expensive (read: higher end) production company.
Of course, the whole reason that Asylum knocked themselves out on the project (presumably losing money on it) was so they could get repeat business and be Leo Burnett’s go-to prodco for bigger and better projects.
From one perspective, you could argue that Asylum misjudged the opportunity. They saw it as an entry point to bigger budget work, when it fact it was only a one-off gig. They rolled the dice and lost. Them’s the breaks.
From another angle, you could argue that while Leo Burnett London wrote the script, Asylum was responsible for the look of the project, and the right thing to do would have been to at least give them a shot at the bigger budget version. Of course, as LBL points out on their blog, they own the entire concept and both of its executions. Asylum’s hurt doesn’t come from business contracts, though; it comes from what they feel are ethical obligations.
And there’s the rub: Agencies are often justified — from a purely business point-of-view — in doing what they did with Asylum. But when they carry out their actions with impunity, they can come across as bullies.
The agency/vendor relationship is a strange one. Agencies have the ultimate power, insofar as they write the checks and manage the client. Yet vendors have power, too: the power of creation. Many agencies have attempted to cobble together in-house prodcos and studios, and nearly all of them have failed. It’s harder than it looks to run a studio, especially from within a massive corporation owned by an even larger holding company with thousands of shareholders.
So vendors are needed by agencies and vice versa. The difference? There are, in the eyes of agencies, countless vendors to choose from. They’re interchangeable. Expendable, even. That’s as true at “cheaper end of the spectrum” as it is at the expensive end.
The price for Asylum’s protest is yet to be determined, but you can be sure Leo Burnett London won’t suffer much from it.
What do you think?
There’s much, much more to be said on this general topic. What’s your take?
Valve’s latest promo for Team Fortress 2 proves that sometimes you just need to shift your perspective and voila! — the world is a magical place.
“Meet the Pyro” is part of the long-running Meet the Team video series that introduces gamers to each of the Team Fortress characters. The Pyro was the only character who didn’t have his own video. Until now.
This project was created with Valve’s Source Filmmaker:
The Source Filmmaker (SFM) is the movie-making tool built and used by us here at Valve to make movies inside the Source game engine. Because the SFM uses the same assets as the game, anything that exists in the game can be used in the movie, and vice versa. By utilizing the hardware rendering power of a modern gaming PC, the SFM allows storytellers to work in a what-you-see-is-what-you-get environment so they can iterate in the context of what it will feel like for the final audience. [Source]
EXCLUSIVE: Making of King and Country’s Motel 6 “Metamorphosis”
When King and Country’s Motel 6 “Metamorphosis” spot hit the web a while back (above), it made a big splash. With nearly 1,400 likes on Vimeo, it put King and Country in the spotlight (again) of our little community. They were kind enough to share some exclusive making of action with Motionographer and answer a few questions for us.
Making of “Metamorphosis”
From the creative and technical standpoints, what were the most challenging aspects of this project?
RICK GLEDHILL (K&C DIRECTOR):
This spot was a perfect fit for our studio, We are a soup to nuts company that directs, produces and edits the live action for all of our spots in house at K&C and that’s where our strength lies, in combining that live action with motion graphics, animation and VFX . We go in armed with a fully realized previs, leaving nothing to chance. We know during our shoots what can and can’t be done in post so we can direct with great efficiency. All of this prep and knowledge behind the camera allows us the necessary time to really focus on the performances.
From both a technical and creative standpoint, the most challenging aspect of this spot was to transition through five decades in just 30 seconds. It involved a deft blend of VFX, slick edits, and camera trickery. From CG to CG car changes to hidden wipes and quick camera moves, we called upon a variety of old and new school techniques.
In “Spirit of the Euro,” director Carlos Lascano and Bent Image Lab crafted a madcap romp through a cast of zany characters for Coke and agency Santo.
Carlos explains one of the challenges in producing the spot:
My proposal was technically very demanding, since it required the use of real eyes on 3D characters with massive head rotations and a wide range of expressions …
There is a saying that goes that eyes are windows to the soul. Well, by using real eyes I am not only animating these characters, I am also providing them with a soul. This technique that I have been developing for the last few years gives me the chance to work with actors and the intention of their gestures. There is a wide range of small ocular moves that cannot be achieved in animation.
Some technical details from Bent Image Lab:
Bent’s CG team, using 3D Studio Max, supplied tracking markers for the character eyes to the compositing department. The pre planning was extensive. Halfway through production, (after blocking the animation) the live action eyes were shot, selected and locked. Using this tracking data, Lascano applied the eyes of his choosing to each CG character using After Effects.
Thereafter, the animators worked with the eyes to add subtle facial expressions to achieve the performance that Lascano was after. Then, using both After Effects and Nuke, the compositors incorporated the eye comps and CG animation into the finished cinema 3D stereo production.
Gorillaz, Andre 3000, and James Murphy run amok in a London flat for Gorillaz’ latest audio-visual release, “DoYaThing.” The video was created in partnership with Converse, who have a little more info on their site.
The project was apparently directed by Jamie Hewlett and produced by Passion Paris and Fortiche Studios. If you’ve got the full details, please e-mail us!
UPDATE: An intrepid reader, Anthony Snitzer, found this impressionistic making-of video: