In the preliminary stages of the pandemic, I obsessively thumb-swiped the news between looking at Motionographer submissions. Two separate entries stopped my wandering thumbs, grabbed my attention, and amazed me to discover they were both from the same studio– Not Real.
Each project had distinct personalities with shared traits of accessible hipness, in all the right ways. Grace – a beauty brand with empowered messaging of self-care and body positivity, used negative space, smart typography, and relevant color blocking to attract modern consumers. Nike – one of the biggest brands in the world, was crafted with clever nods to the avant-garde Memphis Design Group with pumped-up energy and a contemporary palette for the broad market.
I was now officially distracted from the COVID-19 news and dug deeper into Not Real’s straight-forward and charming website. I happened upon this animation that summarized my then state of mind:
I’ve since recovered from that “insane” mentality, attained enlightenment (just kidding!), and reached out to the minds behind these eye-catching projects.
Coincidentally, on our first of many Zoom chats, we had all just returned from abbreviated trips to New York City and bonded over the unknown. Roberto Connolly, Executive Producer, was confined to his office, removed from his wife and kids. Valeria Moreiro and Milton Gonzalez, Creative / Art Directors, were co-quarantine-ing in their shared Buenos Aires apartment. It was evident this crew was not only comfortable but effective with communicating over video conferencing. The Not Real team has always functioned this way–remotely.
Not Real is a merger with the studio formerly known as Kasana and came to full-fruition at the end of 2019. The tight-knit crew is composed of 6 members and expands with freelancers from around the globe when the project calls for it. Having recently completed the Nike project, and receiving rave reviews in Motionographer’s Quickies section, we chose to examine the making of this piece with teammates all under separate roofs.
The Nike project came about through Cinco Design (Portland). Cinco and Not Real have developed a strong relationship by way of their aligned creative visions, despite being 6,830 miles apart. The Nike project had a tight, crazy tight, schedule. Cinco was familiar with Not Real’s process and capabilities and confidently shared samples of their work with Nike. The job was awarded to Not Real.
Vale and Milton quickly began building their mood boards from their pinterest and IG collections and conjured up a team from their trusted roster of freelancers. The real feat was discovering how to push beyond the initial concept from the client and make an artistic impression that does not distract from the established brand. The pairing of Nike + Not Real is so vibrant, so smooth, so contemporary– it’s like when Fernet met Coca-Cola (aka Fernet Branca con Coca, a popular Argentinian combo). Each entity is distinct but goes oh-so-well together, making a new flavor explosion with some kick!
That “kick” in this instance is the Not Real team going beyond the ask. Using the photographs of the Nike Airmax shoe that were intended to be used in the finished comps, the Not Real team constructed an accurate 3D rendering of the shoe. They now had complete control on the build-out of the scenes.
There were 12 people working remotely on this Nike job. The majority were based in Argentina with a designer in Portugal, a 3D modeler in India, and a rendering service in Poland. And they insist their team keep normal office hours of 10a – 6/7p! (but Vale and Milton have been known to sleep in the studio on occasion)…
The Not Real team has a motto, “The more precise, the more predictable”.
To make something this slick, it takes organization. To ensure topics and tasks do not get hijacked in a thread, the Not Real team avoids internal e-mails. These are the tools they use to stay in clear communication:
- A quick Zoom call with the entire team first thing in the morning to check-in and task-out
- Asana to assign, track progress and keep an ongoing feedback-thread on tasks
- Each task is assigned subscribers, so when there are updates to a task, the follower is immediately alerted and can add input.
- Whatsapp for quick chats and catch-ups throughout the day
- Dropbox for file sharing and syncing
- Notes / Feedback need to be precise, especially for people on opposite time-zones
- At the end of the day, each member posts their daily progress in Asana
- By keeping organized and following a method, the steps leading to the big picture can always be visualized.
When it comes to execution of the design and animation, all hands are on-deck starting from the top. Milton and Vale prepped the design team with a starter toolkit. This included the mood board, storyboard and initial C4D files made with placeholders to indicate camera angles and scale. This worked as a container for the creativity, the boundaries in which the team could play inside.
Style Frame Development: 1) design 3D layouts in clay quality. 2) Apply lighting, shading and color, 3) Vale and design team exchange tweaks, swap colors, & unify shaders until each frame is refined and consistent.
For the Animation team, Milton and Vale developed the “Dirmatik”– the spine. This acts as the main guide from the Animation Director to the team with precise camera movements and actions of the main elements. The animation team then builds upon these preliminary renderings and focuses on the speed, easing, bouncing, overlapping, etc. Because the Animation Director made the first moves, they are attuned to the needs, the rhythms, and style of the project and can effectively guide the team to the finish line.
The final elements were then dissected and used as an in-store print campaign across all of Nike’s retailers as well as across social media:
The Not Real folks say there were 2 main lessons learned on this project:
- Never under-estimate the render times of a still image
- Take risks like taking the initiative to build out the 3D model Air-Max shoe
And I’ve learned that as we are living in a time that can feel unreal, the Not Real team is very real. With a quick-fast turn around for Nike, the nimble Not Real delivered on time to a happy client with a stand-out project to add to their reel. Their tried and true methods of communication paired with project management show that they have respect for what is real– both the product and the makers behind the product.
I remain astonished by the sentiments that are still translatable over a video chat. While talking to Vale, Milton, and Roberto I could clearly feel that they’ve got each other’s backs. Need more proof these folks are for real? Watch this BTS video of the Grace project where every member is in deep collaborative mode. Want even more proof?
Not Real is taking over the Motionographer Instagram account April 30 – May 2!!!!
Valeria Moreiro – Creative & Art Director
Milton Gonzalez – Creative & Animation Director
Roberto Connolly – Executive Producer
Eugenia García Montaldo – Accounting Partner
Lu Borzi – Designer & Junior Art Director
Joana Cabrera – Coordinator & Junior Animator