Robinson’s ‘Birdhouse’ (updated with Q&A)

Last week I posted this cute little spot directed by Andy McLeod from London-based Rattling Stick. I finally managed to get my hands on some behind-the-scenes-info, and there’s a fair bit of really delightful facts here:

1. What was the agency’s initial brief?

‘Be Natural’ is a juice made entirely of natural ingredients. So the basic thought was that if Nature itself (here represented by the bird) could choose a juice, it would be Robinson’s ‘Be Natural.’

2. Describe the production process—what happened next?

The agency wanted everything to be done as ‘naturally’ as possible, to reflect the nature of the product, and I felt that was absolutely the right way to go about it as well. Pretty much everything you see on screen was done for real, in-camera, with as little CG and post as possible. It was hard work, but I think this made it more controllable, and more fun.

We had a bird trainer train six identical birds to do various set of actions. One was good at picking up the wooden toy and putting it in the basket, another was good at turning on the TV, another was good at going over to the fridge, and so on.

3. How did you get the bird to perform various actions? Tell us a few tricks to make it all look so believable!

The key to the trick was birdseed. To get the bird to ‘turn the TV off,’ you put a seed on the remote control, the bird then pecked it off, and you remove the seed in post later on. We also shot a real TV remote, scaled it down, and placed it over our miniature TV remote in post. Similarly with all the other actions: to get the bird to look at the TV screen, you place the seed just above the it, and so on.

We shot multiple takes of each action, picking the best bits out of them. It”s a more painstaking process than it looks on paper, and it took the trainer a couple of weeks to get the birds to do it.

4. Tell us more about the environment–was it all miniature?

Yes. We had a great production designer who designed the interior–we wanted it to be impressive, and tardis-like. Then we spent a lot of time working out the right dimensions of objects within the birdhouse, to get the scale right, and even more time building the whole set, so it looked absolutely real.

5. And how did you shoot it all?

The size of the birdhouse was approx. 10 square ft. We placed four mini HD cameras strategically around it, to capture the action from several different angles.

6. My favorite was the human cuckoo clock idea. How did it came about?

Well, we wanted the spot to have plenty of repeat-viewing value, so we built lots of little jokes into our set, and the cuckoo clock was one of them. That sequence also worked as a time-filler, between the bird going to the fridge, and sitting at the table for tea, because there was no way we could get it to set the table or pour the juice out.

Some of the other ‘jokes’ are: worm sausages, family portraits, bird news featuring a police arrest photo of a cat, bird-shaped wellies (waterproof rubber boots–ed) by the door, a stag beetle’s antler trophy, and a ‘Tweet’ Magazine.

7. That’s fantastic! Lastly, are there any other particular aspects of the spot that you paid special attention to?

I was keen for the bird to have ‘human’ traits, seeing as it’s already got a ‘humanistic’ apartment. So we spent lots of time at the sound studio trying to get the bird’s chirping to sound like human expressions: annoyance at having to tidy up, shock at the news story, giggling at tweet magazine, whistling along to the music. I think in the end there was a fair bit of my whistling blended into real bird sounds to get the desired effect!

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About the author

Lilian Darmono

Born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, Lilian moved to Singapore and eventually Australia for her studies, eventually graduating from Swinburne NID in Prahran, Melbourne. She then worked in print design before deciding to switch to the field of Motion Design in late 2003. Her obsessions include travelling, illustrating, and cats. She is currently in the London leg of her 'Mograph Tour Around The World', and calls Melbourne home.



The worm sausages are a nice and comical touch! Well done!!

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