Nexus Productions director Simon Robson has done it again, this time for the kids. “Clever,” a promo for Save the Children UK, is full of Simon’s characteristic visual wit. Simon’s sensitivity to message combined with his penchant for fluid transitions and lucid metaphors make this latest project a fine addition to his growing body of brilliant work.
As one of Motionographer’s crew, Simon scooped us a little behind-the-scenes information.
So how much freedom did you have with this project?
In terms of freedom; I was asked to pretty much develop the ideas and storyboards from scratch. This all started in December which was the pre-production period. We were originally given rough boards from the agency, but I was asked to start from scratch.
They had certain prerequisites, like using some of the “Barry”-esque camera moves and keeping the design for the most part simple and iconic. The thinking at the agency was that by keeping a clean, iconic style we could be very “matter of fact” about the “simple solutions” the commercials describe that can make a huge impact on kids’ lives.
I developed loads of ideas for the boards, these often had to change due to creative preference at W+K and changes in the script. Unusually for me, i had a lot of conversations / interaction with the client as well as the agency. This was really useful as Joe at Save The Children is incredibly passionate about his position and was able to help a lot in terms of hitting the right tone.
What kind of assets did they provide you? Was it a completely blank slate?
Graphically, Save The Children already had their character, the kid with the smiling mouth you see in the spot. We needed to include him, along with sticking to a blue, white and yellow colour palette.
Also, all their print graphics have a rough degraded edge to them. We needed to develop a process that would allow us to create an animated degraded edge to the graphics in post, rather than frame by frame in the animation.
How did you pull that off?
We developed quite a complex setup in After Effects, using several layers of matte effecting and expressions that we all “learnt” to use and apply over the comps. Apart from the above, we designed most of the graphics you see in pre-production with lots of approval stages from the agency.
In your other projects, there are nods to stylistic movements or graphic designers from the past. Any homages in this spot?
The stomach to organs to kid sequence was influenced by Ryohei Kojima’s human body illustrations. Some of our graphic design will be taken on into further print campaigns by Save The Children.
What was the timeline?
For 2 x 30 second spots:
Pre-production time: 2-3 weeks
Production: 5 weeks
Any technical challenges?
In terms of technical challenges, we had quite a few of interest. There’s loads of 2D hand animation that marries up with 3D. The whole kids to balloons to world sequence includes a complex particle set up in 3DS Max, where particles reference animated sequences (kids holding balloons) which then change to kids disappearing and balloons going into their flying “loops.”
There is then a mix of 3D particles taking off and 2D hand animation. As the balloons cluster together and make the world, all the flying bumping and jostling was done by hand in Flash and then exported as layers to make a pretty complex comp in After Effects where we could add shadows and so on.
Director: Simon Robson
Producer at Nexus: Luke Youngman
Producer at sixty40: Libbie Doherty
Graphic design: Dave Hughes
Compositing / animation: Gillian Oâ€™Connor, Mark Facchin, Jason Morice, Daniel Fitzgerald.
2D Cel animation: Evan Newby
3D animation: Guy Jamieson