“Artifactuality’s Fresh Design Package Meets MTV’s Fresh Meat” Leading Broadcast Design Firm‘s Addictive Stop Action Technique Makes ‘Well Done: The Fresh Meat Reunion‘ Stand Out
NEW YORK: In a world full of smooth moves and pixel-perfect graphics, it pays to know when to serve up a slab of something different. The innovative NYC-based broadcast design firm Artifactuality did just that with the latest design package for MTV‘s “Well Done: The Fresh Meat Reunion”, honing a decidedly analog stop action-style technique for a look that shocked the jaded digital airwaves.
MTV’s “Fresh Meat” is a series which consists of a set of harrowing challenges, where alumni from MTV shows “The Real World” and “Road Rules” pair up with brand new faces to compete for a $250,000 cash prize. Artifactuality delivered an original package of opens, transitions, bumpers and lower thirds to the latest season of “Fresh Meat” which drew to a close, the “Reunion” show – where cast members come back to debrief about their extreme experiences.
Artifactuality Co-Founders/Creative Directors Christine Moh and Robert Mickens applied their innate understanding of broadcast branding, graphics and animation, as well as multimedia expertise to create a package that cut through the clutter. In the pace-setting :15 open, a series of digital images makes an intentionally clunky analog stop-action style sequence that stars a pair of hands “reuniting” the meat parts of a pig and a cow puzzle, each piece with its butchering label on it (“brisket”, “flank”, “short loin”, “snout”). Matched to a caffeinated cut of game show-style music, the open is a show highlight in and of itself that gets even more entertaining with multiple viewings.
“When a show has a title like ‘Fresh Meat‘, you can‘t get too serious,” observes Moh. “We knew we had to come up with something quirky and not slick. We thought the approach should be something tactile instead, and since this was a ‘Fresh Meat Reunion‘, we realized it made sense to literally play off these words and reunite cow and pig parts by creating a puzzle game.”
Moh and Mickens produced the shoot on location in a suburban kitchen, where the talent assembled custom-created pig and cow puzzles. Mickens directed as he captured the still-frame sequences with a Nikon D50 digital camera. “In keeping with the ‘analog before digital‘ philosophy of this project, everything was done exclusively with still photography,” says Mickens. “Stop action is an old-school type of approach that‘s very playful – every kid experiments with it in some way.
“When we were directing the talent through the sequences, we would make sure there was a big difference between each shot: His hand on the right, then on the left. We didn‘t want smoothness, we wanted dramatic action, and we‘d tell him things like, ‘React to the word ‘fatback‘, react to the snout, and make a funny gesture with your hands.‘ The results are kind of jarring, but that‘s the point.
After we shot the stills, roughly 100 per sequence, we reviewed them on the Mac G5. If there was even one shot we didn‘t like, we rejected the entire sequence and reshot it to ensure continuity. Once all the sequences were approved, we edited and composited them into the final package using After Effects.”
The low-tech appearance of the pig and cow puzzles belies the intense craftsmanship that Artifactuality applied in putting them together. Assembling the tongue-in-cheek props was a time-consuming task that drew off of the team‘s expertise in working with wood and other materials. “Making that little cow and pig was a big deal – it took a lot of research,” says Moh. “After we created them as 13-piece puzzles in Adobe Illustrator, we had to track down a specialized carpenter who understood different materials and had the ability to work with very tightly detailed graphic cuts. After that, we had to locate the rare silk screener that would know how to do more than T-shirts and be able to silkscreen onto wood correctly. After the silkscreen process, we spent a day in our shop cutting the wood into pieces and painting them. The final pieces weren‘t perfect, but the little nicks and chips made it look like an antique toy, which worked in the larger context.”
After shooting the open, Artifactuality took advantage of the individual puzzle pieces to make the notable lower thirds. For “Fresh Meat Reunion”, cast members are identified not with a smoothly twinkling graphic bar, but instead with a pig/cow body part that lurches spastically across the screen before landing under its lucky owner and displaying their name. “We realized we couldn‘t be dainty with meat parts, so we made these big clunky lower thirds,” Mickens explains. “The content of ‘Fresh Meat‘ is not elegant, so our approach was different, but beautifully appropriate.”
The Artifactuality team again performed all music supervision duties for the open, searching out an easily licensable soundtrack that would lift the visuals to the next level. “We tried to find something a little quirky – MTV rock and roll with a bit of goofiness to it,” says Moh. “The piece we found is like a game show theme, with a lot of bright electric piano and hand clap rhythms. Everything had a beat just as each frame was going by – they were made for each other.”
Once everything was assembled, delivered and aired, the Artifactuality package, a healthy mixture of traditional media techniques executed with digital precision, proved to be the perfect setup for “Well Done: The Fresh Meat Reunion”. “With MTV, the mandate is always to be original, different and playful,” Mickens concludes. “For us, this project was a lot of fun. Instead of going right for the digital tool, we were working with materials on a prop in our shop, sawing wood, painting it, and assembling it. It‘s a little ironic, but ‘Fresh Meat‘ actually took us back to our roots as artists.”
Artifactuality is an award-winning graphic and broadcast design team based in New York City. Founded by Christine Moh and Bob Mickens, Artifactuality takes a multidisciplinary approach to creating effective and motivating onscreen campaigns, film titles, broadcast mapping and more.
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