Saschka Unseld & Pixar: The Blue Umbrella Making-Of Holiday Calendar

The highlight of my 2013 advent calendar season was Saschka Unseld‘s The Blue Umbrella Making-Of Holiday Calendar.

Now that all twenty-four days have been revealed, enjoy a master class in making an animation short – from reading the original pitch to pre-enacting story beats with real umbrellas to early cinematography tests to story reels to color scripts to rain dramaturgy charts to amazing camera capture workflows.

Big thanks to Saschka and Pixar for sharing all of the hard work that went into creating this story!

Two Takes on Infinite Zoom with Psyop and Johnny Kelly

Enjoy the infinite zoom technique employed in two different styles — Psyop zooms into lush landscapes overrun with surreal details in Toshiba “Endless Performance” and Johnny Kelly zooms out through orthographic illustrations of a universe inhabited by books in New York Times Book Review “Holiday Books”. I particularly love the sound design moment by David Kamp where the cutting board syncs with the music.

For more zoom-a-zoom-zoom-zoom and a boom-boom, check out ZoomQuilt, ZoomQuilt II, and the classic Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames.

Toshiba “Endless Performance” Credits
Brief: Toshiba Encore Tablet
Client: Toshiba
Agency: McCann Enterprise
Exec Creative Director: Will Shepherd
Creative Directors: Mark McCall, Richard Dorey
Account Handlers: Kat Patterson, Tamsin Devereux, Fred Letts
Agency Producer: Holly Edwards
Production Company: Psyop
Creative Directors: Kylie Matulick, Fletcher Moules
Producer: Shannon Alexander
Designer: Paul Kim, Therese Larsson, Paul Mager, Chris Martin, Andrew Park, Velwyn Yossy
Lead Technical Director: Stephen DeLalla, Matt Lavoy
Previz Artist: Victor Garza, Brianne Meyer
Modeler: Larissa Docolas, Rie Ito, Wendy Klein, Brianne Meyer
Texture Artist: Larissa Docolas, Wendy Klein
Rigger: David Bokser, Sean Kealey
Lighter: Robby Branham, Stephen DeLalla
3D Generalist: Stephen DeLalla
3D Animator: David Bokser, Chris Meek, Brianne Meyer
2D Animator: Max Graenitz, Rachel Yonda
Storyboard Artist: Josh Wiesenfeld
Matte Painter: Chris Brock, Edmund Liang, Velwyn Yossy, Paul Kim
Compositor: Katerina Arroyo, Matt Lavoy
Flame Artist: Matt Lavoy
Editor: Lance Pereira
Assistant Producer: Jessica Schlobolm
Music Title & Artist: From Nowhere (Artist: Dan Croll)
Post Production: Psyop / Craft London
Sound Design: Craft London
Media Planning: Rocket

New York Times Book Review “Holiday Books” Credits
Production Company: Nexus
Director + Designer: Johnny Kelly
Producer: Isobel Conroy
Project Lead: Mark Davies
Animation: Sergei Shabarov, Michal Firkowski, Fabrice Fiteni, Mark Davies
3D Rendering: Michal Firkowski, Jeremi Boutelet, Mark Davies
3D Modeller: Florent Rousseau
Compositing: Elliott Kajdan
Client: New York Times Book Review
Art Direction: Nicholas Blechman
Music & Sound Design: David Kamp

Fortiche Prod: League Of Legends

Directed by Passion Paris duo Arnaud & Jerome, this promo for the online game League of Legends showcases their newest character, Jinx. The video was created by Fortiche Prod and produced by Passion Paris.

The directors and Riot Games worked closely together, exploring new animation and rendering and compositing techniques. By choosing to veer away from the more conventional CG gaming aesthetic they, together, brought an enormous amount of energy and enthusiasm to this project. The result of this collaboration is a visually astounding film, seamlessly blending CG and 2D animation, creating a never before seen graphic look.

IBM: Ninjas vs Superbugs

1st Avenue Machine’s Nico Casavecchia broke out the paper and glue for his latest directorial effort, a quirky short promoting IBM’s work in bioengineering.

This spot is fiercely hybrid, mixing puppets and physical objects with traditional animation and CG. Mr. Casavecchia was kind enough to explain some of his process and some production work with us.

Nico Casavecchia on making “Ninjas vs Superbugs”

I tried to focus the resources we had and come up with a system that could allow us to tell the story with minimal resources. I decided to use a chessboard system in 3 sizes, this allowed me to recycle the landscape depending on the shot value. Close ups would be done in the small board, and wider angle shots in the biggest.

We created different props to match the sizes of the boards, so we had the little boots of MRSA for the wider angle moments, and a giant boot to fit the small board, when the ninjas cut his leg off. The props were created using a combination of techniques, some of them were traditionally sculpted and painted, like the kid and the cells, boots and doctors office, and the MRSA and Ninja polymers were 3d printed, due to the amount of detail required.

Magnifying glass
Magnifying glass
Red blood cells
Hospital props
Exam room

The hand made props were created by Tilburs & Gazz in Buenos Aires, they did an amazing job with the finishing.

We puppeted the props and used a free-motion, hand-held camera to achieve the shots, pretty much what you could expect in a live action shoot.

Character design

Back in NY, we shot the piece and worked on the animation locally in 1stAvenue Machine, adding details, additional characters and effects.

“Ninjas vs Superbugs” is a follow up to another interesting project for IBM directed by Casavecchia, a “Boy and His Atom” (full Q&A), the first animation ever produced at the scale of an atom.

Director: Nico Casavecchia
Production Company: 1stAveMachine
Executive Producer: Sam Penfield

Group Creative Director: Mike Hahn
Group Creative Director: Ryan Blank
Associate CD: Niels West
Associate CD: Ricardo Lopes
Copy Writer: Lauren Costa
Art Director: Ramona Todoca
EP: Lee Weiss
Producer: Alicia Zuluaha

VP, Brand Expression, Global Advertising: Ann Rubin
Advertising Lead, Global Advertising: Cindi Ellis
Marketing Manager, IBM Research: Kristi Kolski
Advertising Manager, Global Advertising: Cecilia Correa
Sr. Manager, IBM Chemistry Group: Bob Allen
Post Doctoral Researcher: Amanda Engler
Communications, IBM Research: Ari Entin
Sr. Partner, Group Account Director: Ty Kendig

Producer: Leanna Amos
VFX Supervisor: Greg Anderson
Production Supervisor: Kathy Hoffman
Asst. Prod. Supervisor: Lucy Gibson
DP: Eloi Sanchez Moli
AC: Cameron Dingwell
Art Director/Animator: Tammy Hahn
Prop Makers: Tilburs
Animators: Gazz
Gazz – Producer: Lautaro Brunatti
Gazz – Production Coordinator: Paula Moura Garcia
Animator: Masa Nakamura
Animator: Beau Burrows

Moth Collective: Amazonia Security Agenda & Sarah’s Story

London-based Moth Collective (David Prosser, Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits, Daniel Chester and sound designer Joe Tate) recently released work for two causes – the Amazonia Security Agenda and the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children).


For more about the making of the Amazonia Security Agenda, check out the excellent interview with Moth Collective by Rob Munday at Director’s Notes.

Sarah’s Story matches voiceover of a victim of abuse with a single POV shot out a train window. The landscape evolves to match the protagonist’s tale. I love how the illustrative style parallaxes and layers. The wind and rain in particular feel visceral.

Amazonia Security Agenda Credits
Directed by Moth Collective
Written by Global Canopy Programme
Sound Design: Joe Tate
Animation: Daniel Chester, Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits, David Prosser and Jonathan Djob Nkondo
Additional Artworking: Thea Glad, Iria Lopez, James Hatley
English Voiceover: Yolanda Kakabadse (President of WWF International)
Portuguese Voiceover: Camila Pitanga
Spanish Voiceover: Gustavo De La Hoz
Client: Global Canopy Programme

Sarah’s Story Credits
Directed by Moth
Design, Animation, Compositing: Daniel Chester
Additional Animation: Anna Ginsburg, Maryam Tafakory
Sound Design: Joe Tate
Agency: YCN
Client: NSPCC

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Haynes “Beans”

This mock commercial is just too much fun not to share. I only wish real clients had the guts (pun intended) to fund this kind of work.

Cinesite created this project as a showcase for their artists. With superb comedic timing, lushly rendered animation and brilliant creature work, I’d say it’s a slam dunk. The short was written and directed by Animator Alvise Avati and produced by Animation Director Eamonn Butler.

Cinesite on the look development:

The look of the lunar environment is based on NASA film footage and actual lunar photography. Eamonn says, “At the start, the film is quite serious in tone and then it develops, becoming more dramatic as it progresses before ending on a surprise. To support this, the environment needed to be photo-realistic. We also wanted to push the animation and effects as far as we could to make the film as dramatic as possible before the payoff.

Tip o’ the hat to Todd Akita.

Written and Directed
Alvise Avati

Eamonn Butler

VFX Supervisor
Richard Clarke

Art Direction
Jean-David Solon

Concept Art
Andrea de Martis

Modelling and Rigging
Grahame Curtis
Royston Willcocks
Richard Boyle

Alvise Avati
Eamonn Butler
Peter Clayton
Tom O’Flaherty
Adam Bailey

Texture Artists
Nicolette Newman
Gary Newman

FX Animation
Andreas Vrhovsek
Luke Wilde

Lighting and Compositing
Zave Jackson
Nikos Gatos
Jonathan Vuillemin
Dan Harrod
Joel Bodin

William Marshall-Wilkinson
Christopher Learmonth

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Main Road Post: Stalingrad VFX Reel

Stalingrad is a Russian WWII drama directed by Fedor Bondarchuk. Main Road Post, headquartered in Moscow, is responsible for all the VFX work on this film.

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Impactist: Cartoon Network “Halloween” and “Winter Holiday” Bumps

Love that Cartoon Network Summer Video? CMYK alums Impactist (aka Kelly Meador and Daniel Elwing) put together eight Halloween-themed promos for Cartoon Networks shows using characters and themes from each series. BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE. Nine winter-themed promos plus a new Impactist music track, Wintertone!

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Carl Krull: Walker

We’ve posted Carl Krull‘s beautiful time-lapse drawings before. Love the camera motion in Walker, a spot made for a campaign focused on traffic safety. Sound by Simon Steen-Andersen.

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Louis Morton: Passer Passer

Synaesthesia? Yes, please. Louis Morton‘s Passer Passer caught my eye in Cartoon Brew’s excellent Sundance coverage. It kicks off with echoes of Oskar Fischinger, but then compellingly walks the line between representational and abstract images, layering them visually with the elastic logic that works best in animation. Amazing sound design provided by Katie Gately.

For more of Louis’s work, check out Shape Dance (co-directed with Amy Lee Ketchum, the deliciously physical Adobe First Frame opener (embedded below), and more synaesthesia in Platter.

Hat tip to Cartoon Brew.

Passer Passer Credits
Directed & Animated By: Louis Morton
Sound Design: Katie Gately
Faculty Mentors: Kathy Smith, Sheila Sofian, Christine Panushka
Additional Advisement: Candace Reckinger, Mike Patterson, Tom Sito
Production Supervisor: Mar Elepaño
Additional Animation Assistance: Josh Weisbrod
Additional In-Between Assistance: Jake Zhang
Clean-Up and Shading Assistance: Simo Liu
Sound Consultant: Bethany Sparks

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