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Televisual Storyboard

In this month’s Storyboard, Underworld says it with flowers; Rushes and Red Bee go back to the future for BBC1; Adams Trainor gets up close and personal with the old masters; Chopsy mixes on vinyl; Manvsmachine makes Nick’s future bright and orange; Dinamo Productions take the Wordles to the small screen; UFO and mathematic fly into space; Billy Goat tries to kick off a property boom and Assaf Hayut creates a perspex human

This is Underworld’s promo for Bird 1, three shots stretched over eight minutes from a digital time-lapse studio shoot set up by still life photographer, Peter Thiedeke. Tomato director Dylan Kendle brought in Glassworks’ Flame artist Duncan Horn to give the shots a painterly feel.

Rushes completed vfx work and grading on this Back To The Future-style promo directed by WHO? through Red Bee for BBC’s Turn Back Time: The High Street series. Hosted by Gregg Wallace, shopkeeping families are transported back to the birth of the high street in the 1870s. The trailer shows a Victorian street scene with a BBC1 minibus, mocked up to look like a time machine, appearing from nowhere, (bursting through a time bubble) and screeching to a halt along the centre of the high street leaving flaming tyre tracks in its wake.

The HD photo mapping sequences in Blakeway’s BBC2 arts series Renaissance Revolution were developed by Adams Trainor. Paul Trainor travelled to Vienna with photographer Rupert Truman to capture every square inch of Raphael’s Madonna of the Meadow using large format cameras fitted with 65 mega pixel capture technology allowing for microscopic interrogation of the surfaces. The detail is so microscopic a photographic print of Madonna of the Meadow using the images from the series would be 12 metres high and fully HD.

Nickelodeon HD from ManvsMachine on Vimeo.

ManvsMachine directed and animated this series of logo idents for Nickelodeon's HD channel. The brief was to create an evolution of Nickelodeon's “one-brand” to show-off the network’s recently added HD capabilities.

INTO THE COSMOS - Architeq/Chopsy from Chopsy on Vimeo.

Into the Cosmos by Architeq is Chopsy’s (Aardman’s Darren Robbie’s) first foray into the world of music videos. Using a combination of stop-frame, pixellation, live-action and time lapse animation, old records travel the streets of Bristol.

MTV's BEST HD LIVE PERFORMANCE - TITLES from steve Lewis on Vimeo.

Directors UFO, repped by Not to Scale, created the new intro, closer and bumper teasers, as well as the logo, animated titles and integrated wipes, for MTV show Best Live Performances. Post was at Mathematic.

The Wordles Pilot from Jessica Gunn on Vimeo.

Wales based Dinamo Productions is to go into production on its “multi-layered interactive word and sound association” kids series, The Wordles after winning a three way commission from CBeebies, RTEjr and S4C.

Property Pal Charlie from BillyGoat Entertainment on Vimeo.

Belfast based Billy Goat Entertainment created a series of 30-second commercials for Irish property website The ads see mascot, Charlie, visiting locations around Northern Ireland, planting Rent and Sale signs.

This four-and-a-half-minute film, The Perspex Human, was developed over five-months by animator Assaf Hayut and residents at Dower House, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust’s (SLaM) adult self-harm service.

Posted 28 October 2010 by Jon Creamer

The whole of the moon

Behind the scenes of actor/writer Mark Gatiss's HG Wells adaptation for BBC4

Can Do Productions, the indie set up by writer/actor Mark Gatiss and director Damon Thomas didn’t take the easy route for its first project, a vfx-heavy sci-fi/costume drama on a BBC4 budget

BBC4 has commissioned some award winning dramas in its time, but it’s not known for having the most luxurious budgets in the genre.

So a period adaptation of HG Wells’ The First Men in the Moon, in which the main characters shoot off to the moon in a Victorian spaceship and encounter an extraterrestrial race of insect-like beings, required some serious budgetary ingenuity from new indie Can Do Productions.

But, says Mark Gatiss, who set up the indie as a vehicle for his and co-founder Damon Thomas’s pet projects, that’s sort of the idea of the company. “We’d had fantastic experiences with likeminded crews of a can-do nature. It’s amazing what you can do on a BBC4 budget if everybody is up for it.”

The pair met while working on the incredibly tightly-budgeted docu-drama The Worst Journey in the World and went on to make ghost drama Crooked House for BBC4 that involved “three different time periods, shot in 15 days. Incredibly ambitious,” says Thomas. So the pair, it’s fair to say, had previous. But The First Men in the Moon was to be of a different order of budget squeezing.

As it was their own indie making the film, some of that squeeze came from ploughing the production fee back into the budget. “If we’d done it with another company, the fee would be split and money would go out of the production and it wouldn’t have been achievable,” says Thomas. And “when you’re small, you can ask people for favours because you’re not seen to be a big company with a massive turnover.”

Potentially the most difficult aspect to achieve on such a tight budget was, of course, the extensive vfx necessary for a trip to the moon and alien characters. Luckily post house Rushes stepped in. The company agreed to create the 312 vfx shots needed along with the creation and animation of the film’s alien race of Selenites for the “challenging budget” that was available. Vfx artists “get into that business to create alien creatures on other planets,” says Thomas. “And most of them end up taking spots off models in commercials or animating crisp packets. This is their opportunity to make talking moon creatures.”

But despite Rushes excitement at the project, it still needed to plan carefully to make the job financially viable. Rushes first created an extensive animatic for all the big vfx scenes. “We blocked out all the scenes in complete to-scale detail,” says vfx producer Louise Hussey. “Often people bring you in halfway through a shoot but we saved so much time because everybody knew what needed to be done. It was a joy because the vfx team was immersed in the process” right from the beginning. Director Damon Thomas agrees that preparation is the key. “You've got to move so quickly to achieve the schedule. You can’t just say ‘I want to shoot this five ways’” and decide which was best afterwards.

It’s also important to be able to quickly adapt and that becomes easier when the writer, lead actor and director are also the exec producers, says Gatiss. “If you’re up against it, as the writer you can say ‘that’s fine, we don’t need that bit.’ It’s easier. You can work your way around [problems] because you’re there all the time.”

Another major money saver was creating a script that didn’t throw up ruinously expensive scenarios. Gatiss’s astronauts are strapped into their seats and wear magnetic boots, for instance, so there’s no need to show them floating in zero gravity. He also had to strip aspects out of the original story. “In the novel the moon has a massive jungle that grows and withers within the space of a lunar fortnight, we couldn’t do that. There were also gigantic moon calves that we couldn’t afford.”

“When you’re producing it as well [as writing it] you end up having arguments with yourself,” says Gatiss. “If I was just adapting it I might say ‘we’ve got to go for it and see what we can afford.’ But I’ve done enough lower budget things to know what’s feasible and what’s artistically viable.” And a low budget can’t justify a poor product. “If I thought it wasn’t going to look any good I would have said ‘I don’t think we should do this.’”

The Selenites
Initial designs for the Selenites were created by artist Carim Nahaboo. “They were really interesting,” says Rushes vfx supervisor, Hayden Jones. “But when we discussed with our lead animators about how they’d walk and move, because they were quite long limbed we were concerned about getting all of the different plot points out of the way they looked. So we started sculpting with Damon and Mark . We kept a lot of the feel of the original design. We kept it alien but with enough of a human feel so they could communicate and you could feel emotional about them.

Size Matters
“Quite often films feel small on a low budget,” says director Damon Thomas. And with the action set on the moon, that was something to be avoided. But scale costs and the set wasn’t huge. “Because of the size of their set they couldn’t get the scale of exterior shots that they wanted,” says Rushes’ Hayden Jones.  “So naturally everyone’s first assumption was to hang a blue screen up” behind the set and create vfx backdrops to be composited in later. “But on such a challenging budget, 50 blue screen shots eats up a massive portion of that.” The solution was to create matte paintings and turn them into huge 120 foot backdrops to hang behind the set. “I then put the camera right up in the top corner of the set and did some long lens shots of the characters walking along” with the backgrounds out of focus, says Thomas.

The Big Finish
“There are a lot of fantastic shots in terms of the quality of the grade,” says Damon Thomas. “I worked on that for a long time to perfect it. You have to have that attention to detail in the finishing processes. One of the things I aimed for was consistency across the whole film.” And that involved pushing Rushes to spread their efforts evenly across all the vfx shots, not just the hero ones. “Quite often people get obsessed with one creation, my job is to keep the consistency right through.”

Channel: BBC4
tx date: 19th October 2010
budget: Tight - even for BBC4
on screen talent: Mark Gatiss, Rory Kinnear, Alex Riddell, Peter Forbes, Katherine Jakeways
cameras: Red One
post production: All vfx shots completed at Rushes with Ascent 142 completing post and sound design
studios: Pinewood Studios
locations: Ad director Howard Guard’s estate in Hertfordshire

Key credits
Commissioning editors:BBC drama controller Ben Stephenson and head of BBC4 Richard Klein
Production company: Can Do Productions
Executive producers: Mark Gatiss, Damon Thomas, Jamie Laurenson (BBC)
Director: Damon Thomas
Writer: Mark Gatiss
Producer: Julie Clark
Editor: Liana Del Giudice
Composer: Michael Price
VFX Producers: Louise Hussey, Warwick Hewett
VFX Supervisors: Jonathan Privett, Hayden Jones
Compositors : Dan Alterman, Noel Harmes, Anthony Laranjo, Simone Coco, Barry Corcoran
3D Animation: Andy Hargreaves, Craig Travis
Lead TD: Mark Pascoe
Sequence lead: Seb Barker
Matte Paintings: Matt Lawrence,Brad Le Riche

This article originally appeared in Televisual's October 2010 issue

Posted 12 October 2010 by Jon Creamer

Mr Happy sees red

Classic kids character Mr Happy turns nasty in a new Specsavers spot after he misses out on the optician chain’s biggest ever free offer.

Passion Pictures’ Darren Walsh was brought in by the creative director of Specsavers Creative, Graham Daldry, to recreate the exact look and feel of the original Mr Men cartoons.

In the new ad, Mr Happy wakes up in a grump (after missing out on the free glasses offer) and strides through the Mr Men world throwing a cake in Mr Greedy’s face, dumping a dustbin on Mr Messy’s head, pulling off Mr Bump’s bandages and tying Mr Tickle’s arms together.

Creative director: Graham Daldry
Copywriter: Simon Bougourd, Aaron Scoones          
Art director: Neil Brush, Michael Hutchinson
Agency producer: Sam Lock
Media agency: MEC
Media planner: Gary Caranay
Production company: Passion Pictures
Director: Darren Walsh
Production company producer: Debbie Crosscup
Post-production: Passion Pictures
Audio post-production: Simon Capes @ Clearcut
Composers: Anthony Hymas @ Joe Campbell

Posted 11 October 2010 by Jon Creamer

Pic Pic Andre Panic in the UK

Not To Scale directors Pic Pic Andre get a UK cinema release for their debut feature.

Pic Pic (Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar), best known for their Cravendale milk commercials, have bagged a UK cinema release for their 80-minute movie, A Town Called Panic.

The movie sprang from the five-minute TV episodes of the same name, that were produced through Aardman, and features the same cast as the series with Cowboy, Janine and Steven again taking starring roles.

"One of the biggest challenges was to write a story that would hold the audience's attention for 80 long minutes as opposed to the five minute TV episodes we were used to,” comments Pic Pic. “This meant adapting and adjusting not only our storytelling methods but also our way of working and animating.  We realised that if the film was to be shown on the big screen, we had to pay much more attention to the details and depth of the art direction so as to create a richer visual experience and a great deal of effort was therefore put into the design and construction of the sets.  That said, we wanted to stay as true as possible to the initial spirit of Panic, namely its spontaneous simplicity, its homemade feel and its childlike absurdity."
Panic will be on the streets of London and all around the UK from October 8th. 

Soho Curzon
Greenwich Picture House
Brixton Ritzy
Islington (Green) Screen
Everyman Hampstead
London Cine Lumiere
Birmingham Electric
Liverpool Picture House
Bristol Watershed
Brighton Duke Of York
Newcastle Tyneside Cityscreen Cinema
Sheffield Showroom
Edinburgh Cameo
Glasgow Film Theatre
Leicester Phoenix
Oxford Phoenix
Gate, Notting Hill
Manchester Cornerhouse
Little Theatre, Bath
Aberdeen Belmont
Exeter Picturehouse
Harbour Lights, Southampton
Birmingham Mac
Derby Quad
Nottingham Broadway
Norwich Cinema City
David Lean, Croydon
Regal Henley
Barn Dartington
Waterman’s Brentford
Flavel Dartmouth
Dukes Lancaster
Stamford Arts Centre
Campus West
Courtyard Hereford
Edencourt Inverness
Warwick Arts Coventry
Theatr Clwyd

Posted 07 October 2010 by Jon Creamer

Virgin Atlantic’s new spot

At last, a campaign that cocks a snook at recession with an ad that’s bold, inventive, fun, and, encouragingly, looks like it’s had a few quid spent on it. Virgin Atlantic’s latest ad – its first ever global TV campaign – comes courtesy of the same team that put together the airline’s award winning Still Red Hot 25th birthday campaign.

The 90-second TV and cinema spot was again devised by RKCR/Y&R’s Pip Bishop and Chris Hodgkiss, with Partizan’s Traktor again directing and MPC taking on vfx duties. Featuring the strap-line ‘Your airline’s either got it or it hasn’t,’ the campaign takes the viewer through a surreal and glamorous world of airline iconography that aims to dramatise “how it feels to fly with Virgin Atlantic.”

The campaign was filmed over six days at Pinewood Studios with four post experts on set throughout. MPC’s VFX team was led by Rob Walker and Tim Civil and was involved from an early stage starting with a complete pre-viz to help determine the timing of the shots, camera moves and transitions between scenes.

Most of MPC’s work focused on the ad’s complex composites with all the various elements shot green screen using motion control and then put together in post.

And here are some of MPC's "making of" pics

Posted 01 October 2010 by Jon Creamer

The Apprentice: the new season

And so to the launch of the sixth series of The Apprentice where a screening of the first episode, in which contestants had to make and sell sausages, reveals that the show and its format have sensibly not been changed by one little jot.

Nick Hewer’s back still tutting from the sidelines, Margaret, of course, is off studying parchments but Karren Brady looks like a worthy replacement despite being yet to develop a shtick to rival Margaret’s raised eyebrows. And, of course, there’s Surallan, who’s now morphed into Lord Sugar, a name that sounds more suited to a Mr Big character from a 70s Blaxploitation movie than a businessman and Labour peer.

The 16 contestants are the usual bunch of shy, retiring wallflowers describing themselves variously as “supremely intelligent”, “charismatic” “fantastic” and claiming that “everything I touch turns to sold” and that “my first word wasn’t mummy, it was money.”

To reflect straitened economic times, the line up includes those who’ve been hit by recession including people made redundant, or who’ve gone bankrupt and graduates who can’t find a job to “prove it’s possible to come through and be a winner,” said Lord Sugar at the post screening Q&A.

When asked about the danger of ending up with a group of candidates more interested in getting on telly than working for him, he said the show had “overcome that a long time ago. Occasionally one slips through the net” but “generally I can spot them a mile off.” He said that this series he’d “insisted on some credible people that had achieved something” and that he was “very conscious of having contenders who are potentially good business people.”

The series TXs on BBC1 on Wednesday 6th October at 9pm with The Apprentice: You're Fired, now hosted by comedian Dara O'Briain, on BBC2 after the main show

Posted 28 September 2010 by Jon Creamer

Aardman sets tiny record

Aardman has set a Guinness World Record for the 'Smallest stop-motion animation character in a film', with its new short Dot for Nokia.

The film, directed Aardman collective Sumo Science (Will Studd and Ed Patterson), was shot on the new Nokia N8, with the film showcasing the phone’s 12-megapixel photography capabilities and also the CellScope, an invention by Professor Daniel Fletcher that can attach to a Nokia handset and help diagnose fatal diseases in remote areas of third world countries.

The film features Dot, a tiny 9mm girl who wakes up in a magical, magnified world to discover her surroundings are caving in around her. She escapes the encroaching wave of destruction as her world unravels via a path made up of tiny, familiar objects such as coins, pins, pencil shavings, nuts and bolts, until she finds peace by knitting herself a blanket from the very matter that pursues her.

To create ‘Dot’, Aardman’s in-house production technology engineer, Lew Gardiner worked alongside the Physics Department at the University of Bristol to create their own CellScope production camera. Aardman used Rapid Prototyping 3D printing technology that uses a computer-generated model of an object or character and then prints it in full 3D using a plastic resin material. The entire set was no more than a metre and a half long. The film was painted under a microscope by modelmakers and animated using tweezers. Heather Wright was the executive producer. The agency was W+K.

Posted 16 September 2010 by Jon Creamer

Sky Arts' particle perfection

Brighton's Artillery Design produced and animated the 3D and effects for one of Sky Arts' new series of channel Idents. It was directed by Jon Yeo from BSkyB. Artillery's Val Wardlaw used bespoke scripting and N Particles in Maya to produce the spot and render farms had to be used to cope with the immense weight that the large HD particle systems generated. It was composited in Nuke by Mike Connolly.

Posted 14 September 2010 by Jon Creamer
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