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Pilsner Urquell ‘Legends’

It’s Alive! The ‘Manta’ Motion Control System

By | Behind The Scenes, Compositing, Design, Innovation, Motion Control, Pilsner Urquell 'Legends', Post-production, sony, stop-motion | No Comments

 

Introducing…

The Manta Motion Control system, a portable camera crane with animation, time-lapse and live action capability.

Motion Control and Why We Love it

Over the past 18 months, we’ve been developing our own Motion Control Rig. As self-confessed geeks of anything with motors, gears, and computery bits which control them (just take a look at our logo) we welcome any opportunity to impart motion into a shot to make it more dynamic, balletic, emphatic… (insert suitably OTT adjective here). You get the picture. We’ve already used the Manta rig with great success on three projects for Sony; the Moviemix channel ident is a cheery, seasonal campaign involving 10 x identical camera passes capturing different stop-motion elements which were composited together. ‘Till Death Do Us Part captured a 6 day time-lapse of wilting roses with a single, creeping camera movement running safely during the whole time. True Crime – ‘Women That Kill’ moved the camera on a ‘forensic journey through the evidence’, stitching 4 linear camera passes (IE, no fairings) end-to-end.

(Left) Moviemix Christmas stop-motion Ident. (Mid) ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ Time Lapse. (Right) True Crime VFX

‘MoCo’ Know How

Motion Control (‘MoCo’) has been around for a good many years since the Star Wars days, pioneered by the genii that were John Dykstra and  Richard Edlund. After growing up in the thrall of dog fighting X-Wings and TIE-Fighters, I later had the privilege of training as a Clapper Loader/Motion Control Assistant learning from the superlative VFX Director of Photography, Peter Tyler, working on Red Dwarf series 5 and 6. What better way to spend your Uni summer break than blowing up Starbug?

Since making the move into animation, the advantages for using MoCo in stop-motion were obvious – where you can incrementally move the camera as you animate, thus creating the illusion of a move in real time when you play it back. While it’s always tempting to move the camera just for the sake of it, we always try to use it judiciously. For example…

Using The ‘Camera as Character’

The direction, duration and speed of a shot matter a great deal. These will set up the correct audience point-of-view whether it’s obvious why the camera is moving (Eg, moved by implied impact of something moving in shot) or subtlely exploring a world to let the action wash over you. The Animal Book opening sequence was comprised of shots which moved the camera in a clockwise direction, to complement the clockwork, mechanical nature of the production design. The stop-motion paper world of Pilsner Urquell Legends (below) took the camera full circle from the town square to lush field, referencing the point of origin with the cathedral in the background.

From darkness to light. The iconic Pilsen cathedral was the focal point for signifying Czech provenance throughout the sequence.

My Motorbike (below) was a sleight-of-hand deal which moved the set, not the camera with composited backgrounds to give a drone-style whizz round the mountain, and Bechtel’s The Engineering Machine used MoCo as a time-cheat device for layering up live-action with stop-motion.

Behind the scenes of ‘My Motorbike’ where the set rotated on incremental control. (Right) Composited end result.

Introducing…

With all this in mind, we worked with engineer Rich Sykes to bring the Manta into being. From a bunch of ‘fag-packet’ sketches and long but affable phone conversations, the 7-axis rig was slowly brought into being through Rich’s patience and ingenuity. Our spec required that the rig perform live previews for stop-motion, a function missing from similarly sized rigs on the market, requiring specialist motors and drivers. Its axis capability covers linear tracking motion, rotation (or swing), boom elevation, pan, tilt and roll (for extra dynamism), plus the necessary focus control. The camera head will take any model of DSLR and will comfortably accommodate a Red Dragon or similar. The most weight-bearing axes: track, swing and boom were upcycled from some older, but incredibly robust, mechanics which in a previous life had borne the weight of a Mitchell film camera mounted on a vertical rostrum. This hefty track bed sits on a raised chassis which gives it an ideal reach over raised set decking. The rig is big enough to give a dramatic reach over a stop-motion set, and also to cope with larger life-size 1:1 sets, such as with the Sony Moviemix channel idents. It’s portable and yet rock-steady when locked into position. We’re proud to say that the Manta is one of a kind. 

Come play…

If you have an idea for a shoot which you think could be enhanced using the Manta rig, then we’d love to hear from you. We’re always looking for new ways to use the kit and the technique to best effect. Please get in touch through our ‘Contact’ page for a full spec and rate card.

The Fundamentals of Animation

By | Design, Food for thought, Pilsner Urquell 'Legends', Press, Publication, stop-motion, Uncategorized | No Comments

A nice thing happened recently. The second edition of The Fundamentals of Animation was published and our ‘Legends’ film for Pilsner Urquell was covered in some great detail in the book’s ‘Design as Concept’ section, together with a feature on the studio in general. Enormous thanks to Samantha Moore and Paul Wells for allowing us to be part of this. It’s one thing to be ploughing your furrow, often in the dark (metaphorically and literally) and so focused on the aims of the storyboard, that you don’t think you’re ever breaking any ground. Being interviewed by Sam and having the Legends project broken down in such granular detail made me realise that we did actually try a few new things. We’re genuinely honoured to be featured in such a staple industry publication.

We Won a Panda!

By | Awards, International, Pilsner Urquell 'Legends' | No Comments

We’re delighted to announce that Pilsner Urquell ‘Legends’ has been given an International Award for Animation by the Sichuan TV Festival in Chengdu, China.

Founded in 1991, the biennial Sichuan TV Festival (SCTVF) is the leading international content market and awards in Asia. It is hosted by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and Sichuan Provincial People’s Government and organized by Sichuan Radio, Film and Television Bureau and Sichuan Radio & Television.

Throughout the twenty year History of the festival, it has encouraged the participation of media companies, associations and cultural representatives from around the world. It has become one of the most reputable TV festivals and the most effective platforms to access the most updated TV and film marketing information in China and Asia.

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History of The Awards for Animation

For more than 20 years, Sichuan TV Festival has promoted itself in structure, scale, branding and social influence. The fast-growing event has developed itself into one of China’s grandest and most influential TV galas. It not only witnessed TV media’s great reform and development in China, but also made important contributions to the communication, cooperation and development of the TV industry between China and the world. As the main event of Sichuan TV Festival, while enhancing its reputation and influence both at home and abroad, International “Gold Panda” Awards for Animation encourages China’s original animation production and promotes communication between Chinese and overseas animation. The entries’ number, quality and category as well as the number of entrant territories increase year by year, gradually developing itself into a reputed international animation awards of influence, authority and credibility.

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Pilsner Urquell Legends nominated for Royal Television Society Award

By | Festivals, Nominations, Pilsner Urquell 'Legends', RTS | No Comments

After winning a British Animation Award and being in competition at this year’s Annecy International Film Festival, we’re thrilled to add that our ‘Legends’ film has been nominated in not one, but two categories in the RTS Midlands Awards this year! It has been shortlisted in the Best Promotional Programme category and is also in the final selection for Best Production Craft Skills. This is the second time the studio has been nominated in these awards since the short film, ‘The Animal Book’ made it through back in 2007.

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In other news, the film is also in competition at this year’s KLIK Animation Festival in Amsterdam in the International Commissioned Film Competition. The festival takes place between 12th and 17th November. This makes September a triple nomination month for this film. Thanks again to all the crew who worked so hard on this project enabling the film to keep on trucking round the world. Biscuits methinks…

Pilsner Urquell ‘Legends’ in competition at Annecy 2013

By | Annecy, Awards, Festivals, International, Pilsner Urquell 'Legends' | No Comments

Since winning the British Animation Award last year in the Public Choice Category, we learned this week that our ambitious paper animation for Pilsner Urquell ‘Legends’ has made the official competition selection at Annecy 2013. It’s another great testament to all involved, especially to Co-Producer Jim Turner. It will be screening amongst a selection of 22 other commissioned adverts from around the world on three occasions during the festival.

June 10th Theatre “MJC Novel” 14h00 (02:00 PM)
June 11th Theatre “Decavision2″ 18h00 (06:00 PM)
June 15th Theatre “Salle Pierre Lamy” 18h00 (06:00 PM)

Incidentally, ‘Salle Pierre Lamy’ (name of cinema above) is the namesake of a puppet duo created by Ian Whittle, one of the Lead Animators/Trojans/Nightshift Hero’s from the Pilsner shoot. We rather like that.