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ClickFire Makes Modern “Animagic” for PetSmart’s Holiday Card Campaign

This holiday season pet lovers have an opportunity to immortalize their furry family members in an animated family portrait that stylistically nods to the classic animated holiday specials we all know and love.

Produced by New York-based interactive design studio ClickFire Media for agency Bernstein Rein,

‘Holiday Pawtraits’

puts a contemporary twist on the nostalgic hybrid “Animagic” style by placing the card’s customizable, 3D-animated characters into handcrafted miniature model sets. Visitors to the site can customize up to three pets and five family members and choose from three backgrounds to create their photo-real holiday scene.

“There are an infinite number of possibilities when it comes to designing a dog or a cat: coat length, color, the style of their spots,” says creative director Nick Agderian. “Animal lovers are very adamant so we created a system of variables to approximate any breed – hybrid, purebred or mutt. You could spend no time engaging with the site or as much time as you want.”

The production took place over an intensive two-and-a-half-month period that started with meticulous storyboarding of all the character variations. “There was no set process for compositing and matching 3D characters with filmed model scenes so we forged our own path,” says producer Ephraim Kehlmann. “We combined 3D and Flash and compositing it back into video in Flash and rendered on the fly.”

Once complete, users can share their portraits via Facebook or email, rotate their scenes, activate mini-animations and hook up to Snapfish to order traditional photo prints. The animation’s timeless quality also gives PetSmart the option to build and add to the characters for future iterations of the experience.

Bernstein-Rein Art Director Travis Kleiner notes, “‘Holiday Pawtraits’ is the perfect holiday e-card for PetSmart. Not just because it’s customizable and shareable. But because it really celebrates the pet as a true member of the family, which every pet lover already believes anyway.”

Technical Details

ClickFire artists created eight approximately-1,200 polygon models in Maya 3D from an illustrator’s sketches, rigging and then animating each model, scaling the various adjustable human and animal attributes. Each of the models had to contain all possible permutations of its character – the single dog model, for example, contains information for leg, body, neck, head, ear, tail, mouth and tongue length, girth, size, type and position. ClickFire then exported each model as a COLLADA file from Maya to open-source Flash 3D graphics engine Away3D.

“There was no ‘how-to’ for any of this,” noted Kehlmann. “We developed the entire process in house based upon a combination of experimentation and knowledge from previous projects. We wrote all the code that gives the end user the ability to adjust attributes from scratch, since Away3D only knows how to render the model information given to it. The great news is that the entire application and all of our corresponding programs are completely scalable, so we can improve next year with even more variations.”

The studio also created a series of texture maps to ensure users would be able to create a likeness of their cat or dog, a fact complicated by the abundant variations in coat colors, patterns and lengths. The studio exported the basic texture maps (UV maps) from the original model, then created a series of basic skins or color patterns and overlaid layers that added hair patterns and spots that are dynamically placed by users within Flash. ClickFire shot the backgrounds rotating in stop motion, calculating the room’s virtual center point in the Flash applications 3D space so the 3D models could be match moved within the 2D background image sequences. “At the end of the day, I believe this entire process is highly unusual for a website and unprecedented for a holiday e-card,” stated Kehlmann. “It’s more closely related to game development.”

Visit ClickFire Media


Client: PetSmart

Title: Holiday Pawtraits

Launch Date: November 2010

Agency: Bernstein-Rein

Creative Director/Copywriter: Janel LaMonica

Art Director: Travis Kleiner

Executive Producer: Susan Neuman

Associate Producer: Darci Boling

Project Manager: Cassie Parker

Interactive Design Studio: ClickFire Media

Producer: Ephraim Kehlmann

Creative Director: Nick Agderian

Interactive Designer: Claudeland Louis

Lead Developer: Jason Tordsen

Flash Developer: Damion Murray

Server Side Developer: Matt Wilber

3D Artist: Jasmine Bobe

3D Texture Artist: Jane Kim

Model Maker: Peter Erickson

Illustrator: Justin Wolfson

Flame Artist: Liz Berndt

About ClickFire Media

ClickFire Media is an interactive design studio specializing in multi-platform, media-rich creative campaigns. CFM partners with agencies and entertainment industry clients in the conceptualization, design and development of fully-integrated, consistently branded experiences. Through insight and innovation, CFM combines that latest interactive technologies with the best design, video, animation and live action skills from Click 3X to deliver integrated solutions in the ever-developing media landscape.

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