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Out of the embers

Nexus directing duo Smith & Foulkes on the behind the scenes pain and pleasure that's involved in creating award-winning commerials for the likes of Honda, Coca-Cola and The Observer

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Variety. Nearly every script requires a unique approach. We’ve never been known for one particular technique or style of design, so we're free to suggest solutions which are either "daringly unexpected" or "a bit off-brief", depending on your point of view. This also gives us the chance to work with a smorgasbord of uber-talented designers across all disciplines.
The pitch process is often the most enjoyable part of any job as that's where the story and visual dynamic is shaped, and it is useful to have many of the details and gags already in place before going into actual production.
But the final days of a job are equally as satisfying. Our productions inevitably follow the same course. We spend three months showing the client poorly rendered low-res wrongness. No matter how much the project has moved forward, all we are aware of are the things that aren’t yet there. When directing animation, there is no reassuring glance at the rushes to know that everything is looking great, so a certain amount of client trust is required before we can finish the film as intended all those months ago.

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Pitching animation can be a time consuming process. The hours pass as each idea progresses through excitement, doubt, confusion and derision before being tossed onto the fire. One minute we’re convinced that animated Russian glove puppets are the solution, five minutes later it’s live action sheep. Then, from out of the embers, something emerges.
We can see it play out scene by scene in our heads, but we only have an hour to put it down on paper and convince the client. Which is fine.
But sometimes a client wants to know exactly what the end product is going to look like before they are willing to commit. So it is suggested that maybe it would be a good idea to just perhaps design all of the characters, then model, texture, rig, light and pose them in a series of fully rendered backgrounds. And maybe they could just, you know, move a bit too? It's a bit like asking a director to pitch a live action idea by hiring a full cast and crew then flying them out to the chosen location where a top DP takes a nice photo. Not sure that happens too often.

Posted 22 March 2011 by Smith Foulkes
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