When Detroit-based ad agency Doner wanted to create three new spots for client Sherwin-Williams and their line of Krylon aerosol paints, they turned to Charlex. "We loved the boards," says executive producer Meredith Machial, "and were enthusiastic about teaming up with them for the first time." According to director Ryan Dunn, Doner was looking for a company "to handle the job from concept-to-completion; a one-stop shop to do it all."
The agency initially approached Charlex with two separate concepts; the first had a graphic, streamlined aesthetic, while the second had a much more analog, DIY feel to it. Charlex pitched both concepts, and turned it in two separate presentations. "Doner ultimately sold through the second direction, and our treatment was the chosen direction," adds Dunn.
The team spent a week developing and pitching the idea. "I created a stop-motion test as a proof of concept, which ended up being quite close to what I ended up shooting for the actual spot," Dunn recalls. "Then we flew to L.A. for pre-production and the shoot."
The first spot, 'Brand,' features a dresser that moves through rooms and changes colors, illustrating both changing fashion tastes and the extensive color palette available from Krylon. "We shot for seven days on a stage," explains Dunn, "then spent the next three weeks in post-production at Charlex putting the pieces together."
Prepping and executing the stop-motion - which features everything from miniature blue elephants to oranges that behave like a splash of water on the top of the dresser - took up the lion's share of the timeline. "We had a team of about ten in the beginning; animators, grips, producers, etc.", reports Dunn. "Then when we went off to shoot a second Krylon spot for a couple of days on location, I kept a smaller second unit of animators and assistants back at the stage to finish up."
The job featured several challenges, the biggest of which was "the sheer scale of the sets," Dunn notes. "It's much easier to animate stop-motion when it's table top and miniature. It gets trickier when it's all full-scale. So we had to figure out how to get the effect to work seamlessly. In reality, it would have been nearly a one hundred foot room slide, and that was just not possible given our stage and constraints. So a lot of time went into the logistics of how to work the camera and lighting, knowing that we had to reset our stage a few times during the animation."
Dunn also faced a second challenge - the density of the secondary animation. "There was a lot of it - which is my own fault - but it gives a certain density that I wanted and encouraged new discoveries upon repeat viewings," he states. "It's also what takes a lot of time. So the simple idea of having elephant figurines slide off the table like dandelion seedpods becomes a very time-consuming task."
The director also decided to shoot the dresser independent of the background. "Otherwise, I'd have been picking it up and moving it every frame, which would have created more irregularity than I wanted," he notes. "So in order to split the two passes, I had to simulate the light from room-to-room on a locked-off object. We created a separate dolly track with two soft boxes at equal distance apart then captured the effect by moving them over time. In fact, we spent quite a bit of time the first few days problem-solving when we should have been shooting!"
All the compositing was done on Flame, reports senior producer Nicole Stevens. "We had a lead artist in charge of main assembly and compositing, and two supporting artists who helped to cut mattes for the lead artist."
"On the shoot we used Dragon software to manage the stop-motion photography," Dunn adds. "Honestly, we couldn't have finished the job on time without it."
Summing up, Dunn stresses that "this represents a new direction for Charlex. It wasn't so much all the stop-motion that first attracted us to this job, but the organic feel of this object telling a bit of a story. The inspiration for me was figuring out just how to decorate and adorn the dresser over the course of the spot, and how to transform the rooms in such a way that they reflected the personalities of these off-screen characters. I loved being able to create that story and look, and I'm proud of the fact that we were able to do just about all of it in camera - except for the wallpaper, which we added in post. That was a big goal for us, and I think we achieved it."
Air Date: June 2011
Agency Producer: Adam Simmons
Agency Creative Director: Valerie Foley
Agency Art Director: Natalie Bierl
Production Co.: Charlex
Director: Ryan Dunn
Senior Producer: Nicole Stevens
Lead Flame Artist: Marc Goldfine
Lead 2D Animator: Jose Fuentes
Lead Smoke Editor: Alan Neidorf
Stop-Motion Animator: Andrew Hodges
Stop-Motion Producer: Kelli Bixler
Executive Producer: Meredith Machial
Charlex is a full-service creative studio based in New York City. We specialize in visual effects, animation, design and live-action. We've thrown fancy mission statements out the window and simply embrace versatility. Our motto is design and build. We can take any seed of an idea and bring it to life.
Making great work is the product of forging great relationships. Our team prides itself on fast, efficient work at the highest level of excellence. Our reputation is founded on a commitment to creating compelling imagery, regardless of the assignment. We are experts at building a seamless experience from concept to completion, from client brief to end result.
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