Thursday, August 10, 2017

An Adventure in Advertising!

I thought I would walk you through the production process of a McDonald's commercial that I worked on at Leo Burnett USA, after graduating from Columbia College in Chicago.

Here's a copy of the finished Halloween Pails :15 spot I worked on.


I remember knowing about the McDonald's Halloween Happy Meal pails back when I was in High School and later in life, my first commercial assignment was to come up with a :15 spot to sell them to the public in a clever way. In this spot, we also had to stress the "Glow in the Dark" ghost happy meal pail as well as other things in the :15 second spot.

Here's the brief for the spot...


In 1989, a :15 closing spot featured a cute Bat puppet who flies through the scene and tells you about the products was made. Here is the photo storyboard of the finished spot and the only thing I could find that exists that shows how the finished spot turned out.
I first got the assignment back early June in 1990, where my Creative Director, Joe DeVivo introduced me to the assignment and paired me up with a young copywriter named John Wilson. Our task was to come up with several ideas for the :15 spot and then pitch them to Joe in a week or two. I forgot what other ideas we had came up with, maybe another one using the same Bat puppet.

After the pitch, it was determined that the Happy Meal characters scaring each other would be the best idea to board up officially. Now again, this was a while ago, so there might have been a few other ideas that we pitched to our group for feedback and revisions. And to save you all the back and forth time revising the boards, I will skip to the point where we pitched the final board in the agency and got a green light. 

The Agency reviews all their work internally before pitching the ideas to McDonald's. There were several other boards taken out to the client and the ones that were sold were given the green light to produce them into final TV spots. 

Here was the production timetable.

Review 1 : 7/6
Review 2 Storyboards 7/13
Review 2 Storyboards 7/20
Bid:    7/23
Pre-Pro  9/13
Shoot     9/18 - 19
Edit        9/21 & 9/24
Ship: "Boo" 9/28

Here are the final boards that were pitched and sold. The Happy Meal characters are in Halloween costumes and are jumping out of different pails. In the end, the all pop out of the middle pail and the Happy Meal logo, also known as a bug, animates and scares the characters back into the pail.



When the boards were sold and producer was brought on to go over all the details that we had to shoot. As this process went forward, I discovered a whole new world called "Legal" which I never knew existed. This is were all the legal issues pop up and must be addressed or else the commercial you are shooting might not be allowed on the TV networks.
I also had to come up with the exact costumes the characters would wear and only had the McDonald's brand and then all the details to help someone create the costumes...
While I was doing the art direction for the spot, John was timing out his dialogue, finalizing the script and production notes. During this process, we discovered that we had to have less then 8 seconds of the puppets on the screen. Legal determined that viewers would assume that the puppets would come with the pails since they are on the screen at the same time. 
Also the "Glow in the Dark" had to glow in the dark on the film. Back then, all commercials were shot on film and transferred and edited onto videotape. No cameras at that time could shoot the "Glowing" pail without UV lighting. Legal demanded to see the "glow in the dark" shot and then would approved the glowing enhancement later on.
The production notes were given to the network lawyers to review and then they gave us notes if something wasn't allowed or was missing.

This was sent out with the storyboards to studios for the bidding process.


Other legal issues popped up! There might be a problem with the McDonald's Happy Meal bug animating to react with puppet characters on set. Legal then said, Animation characters pitching products is not allowed. What?! The Leo Burnett lawyers sent dozens of animated spots featuring animated characters pitching products. What is animation? Are the puppets considered animation? The bug would be an animation character. 

BTW, the Happy Meal box logo was never animated before, here's one from 1996, after my spot.

I also pushed a local animation company called "Calabash Animation" to be considered for bidding on the McD bug logo. The Producer, who had years more experience than me, wanted to give the job their usual LA studios and didn't want me to give Calabash the job. Calabash was just starting out, but could easily handle the animation of the logo since I had worked with them in the past. The Producer finally gave them the job, but told me if anything screwed up, it was on my head. So much for helping out local studios.
 
I got to fly with a group of Burnett pros to LA for the 2 day shoot. They shot the "Glow in the Dark" in natural lighting for legal and we even had the spooky fog on the set. There was a lot of popping out the puppets and popping them back into the pail as fast as possible. It was a long day of shooting but everything worked.

Calabash did several pencil tests and the animation was approved. The logo was cel painted and the final version was added to the edit of the spot. The editor was able to remove frames to speed up the cut and keep everything under the time limit.

Finally when it was all done and the final spot was sent to Legal and the networks for final approval. To our surprise, one ABC executive came back from a bad lunch experience and would not approve the spot. The brief mentioned "spooky fog" and he thought it was more "mystical fog" than spooky. The legal team of Leo Burnett were once again on the phone and finally the executive agreed and gave his final approval.

So there you have it. I've had this items in a box for years waiting for a way to tell the tale of my first adventure in advertising. I hope you learned something from this and as always would appreciate any comments or feedback. Unless you're that same ABC executive.



 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Future Cinematography


Virtual Reality is here and the new 360 video format is being used more and more. And with this new format, new ways to shoot and edit shots together are being discovered. Here's a good example, with both live action and animated scenes to tell a story using this format. Use your mouse to click and move around the screen to see other parts of the view.

Bashir's Dream from RYOT on Vimeo.

It seems like this format will allow opportunities where you could focus not just on one story line, but also create several others for the other areas of the screen.

Have you had any experience shoot in this new 360 format? Please comment below.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Animation Post Production

Post Production for Animation



Animatic Workflow, Visual Development and Production Schedule

An Animatic is a rough animated blueprint of your final film and is created from your final storyboard. This Animatic can have temp or final dialogue and music. Sound effect elements can be added later.

Animatic Workflow and Visual Development

These two elements of production should be happening at the same time, one is creating the story and the other shows how key scenes will look in the final film before the animation process takes place.

Animatic Workflow:
 
1) Lock Picture: Once you have a "locked" Animatic, this is the point beyond which the edit cannot change. It’s necessary to lock picture so while you are replacing rough animation with final scenes, a sound designer and composer can score directly to the picture at the same time. If you change the timing too much or add extra scenes later, you must notify your sound designer or composer of these changes right away before they do too much sound work.

2) Scene Breakdown Chart: You need to go through your final Animatic, count all the scenes and make a Scene Breakdown chart. This should be a sheet or two with a column of Scene #s on the left hand size and a row showing each week at the top. You can come up with a color code to show the different phases of production on each scene. This will make it easier to keep track of where you are in the production.

3) File Naming Conventions: If you are using a program like Maya or Harmony, you need to name your files to keep them easy to organize in the computer. You must do this with Maya, since it sometimes can get confused if the files are labelled incorrectly.

Take the first 2 or 3 letters of your project's title followed by an Underscore.
Example: If your project is called " An Epic Film", then your 
Production code would be AEF_
And Scene 01 would look like this:  AEF_SC01_001, the last 3 digits would be your version number. So you would be able to make 999 different versions of Scene 01 if you had to, but hopefully not.
4) Scene Breakdown:
If you plan to use Toon Boom Harmony to complete your project, you will need to convert each scene from your animatic into a separate Quicktime file. These Quicktime Animatic Scenes should all be on one folder called Animatics_Scenes. 

5) Importing Quicktime files into Harmony:
You can importing these scenes into either Harmony, After Effects or Premiere. With Harmony, you can import an Animatic Scene as a movie into the timeline. Harmony will import the visual frames and sound file onto different layers, which can be moved on the timeline. 

Before importing an Animatic Scene, you need to move the red line on the timeline on frame 60, the default setting. The red line can move back and forth on the timeline, moving it to the right allows you to add more frames to your timeline. If you don't do this first, you incoming sound file will be cut off at frame 60.

After importing sound and animatic frames, you can pull the red line back to determine the end of the scene. You can add another drawing layer to make your clean up drawings from the animatic frames. Save the new Harmony Scene file as AEF_SC01_001 in a folder where you will keep all of your Harmony scenes.

Each Scene = a separate Harmony file

Once you have all your Harmony Scene files labelled and a Scene breakdown sheet filled out, you may now begin animating each scene. When scenes are completed, you can import them as quicktimes or as a TGA sequence into other programs like After Effects or Premiere.

Since writing this, I recently worked at a studio where they imported their Storyboard Pro timeline as one long scene into a single Harmony file. This was an imported animatic where they add their puppet rigs onto each scene.

This is a risky way to work since if anything happens to this file, all the animation will be lost. At least with the scene by scene method, there are more scene files to keep track of, but less risk of losing the work.



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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Michael Dudok De Wit

This was one of Michael Dudok De Wit's first animated films from 1994 called "The Monk and the Fish". Here is the entire film with a short documentary where the filmmaker explains his process.


Later in 2000, Father and Daughter won an Academy Award, the BAFTA award, the Grand Prix at Annecy, the Grand Prix at Animafest Zabreb and many other festival awards that year. 



De Wit continued making short films and made dozens of animated commercials like these...




In 2016, "The Red Turtle was his first animated feature and was nominated for an Academy Award. Below is a very good review of the Red Turtle won't any spoilers.



And here's a very interesting interview with the director of all three films.

If the real Michael Dudok de Wit would like to contact me for an interview, please email me at heyjimr@gmail.com.

Did you like this post? Where you educated by the animated process show above? Follow this blog and let us know you like it or leave a comment below.

 

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Freelance Animation 103

Sometimes a project you are working on might be cancelled or the Client might change their mind about your work. I'm reminded of this from Dr. Suess's "Oh the Places you will Go!", when things don't go the way you thought they would.
Except when you don' t
Because, sometimes, you won't.

I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You'll be left in a Lurch. 

It happens every now and then, but sometimes its good for both you and your client. And as long as you are both in agreement, there shouldn't be any problems when things don't work out. 

With all freelance jobs, you need to find out certain things from your Client. When you first meet them in person, in email or on the phone, you need to find out what they need from you. You need to listen and take notes if needed. If the job is something you have never done before, its ok to be honest with them now, rather than say you can do it when you really have no clue. They even might ask if you know of someone else who can do this job.

After this stage of the meeting is over, the Client will want to see your portfolio and ask you questions about each piece. Sometimes they are in a hurry to meet with you and a list of 20 people behind you. Don't take it personal if they rifle through your art and animation samples while asking you, "How much did this cost to do? What about this one? Can you give me a ballpark figure?"

The above situation recently happened to me. the Client had a roomful of people to see, 1 every 15 to 20 minutes. The guy is in a hurry to see people and hopefully find someone he would like to work with. All interviews are different, some may be short and simple. 

"Do you know Illustrator and Cinema 4D?" 
"No, I don't but..."  
"Thank you for coming in, Next!"

If you feel rushed during your interview, you can also send a thank you email and include links or answers any questions that you couldn't answer during the interview. You still might not get the job, but this may be enough info to help the Client remember you. 

Need Content for Freelance Animation 104

Have you ever had an awkward interview or did you have an interview that you learned something from? Any Interview advice? Please share your bad or good interview memories. You can email me heyjimr@gmail.com

____________ 

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Animation Visual Development 1

Visual Development: Is a way to explore and figure out the look and style of your final film before beginning the animation process. Visual Development isn't just the background images, but the characters, the props, ways of moving a character or object, the environment and the world that the story takes place in.


Here are a few early VisDev designs for Disney Pixar's "UP". Here are a bunch of simple head designs of an old man... An idea of the House in a different location by Lou Romano.

Another Lou Romano design, Its night and the two characters are talking about what is shown on the right of the image. Your eyes start in the middle, drift to the left to see the horse and night sky in the window and then over to see the house on the mountain with a waterfall.
What starts off as simple concepts and drawings, eventually becomes more visually defined.

As the storyboard is locked and the Animatic is being assembled, Visual Development begins about the same time the storyboard is being created and Character Designs are coming together. Visual Development keeps on going through the rough animation process to figure out how the rough props or environments will look. The Director is the one who is approving what the visual look will finally be.

Your visual development must be explored to make it as interesting to look at as possible and which fits the story in general. 

Here are character designs from "Inside Out" by Chris Sasaki. See how the character designs for Disgust evolves into her final look.

From a Cartoony look...
to a little more realistic...
 A combination of both...
 After all the revisions, redesigning and tweaking, we finally get to our final design!

____________ 

LEARN SOMETHING NEW?  

Did you know Animateducated is about to hit 25,000 views? We need to do something big for this occasion, don't you think? Let us know your ideas!

Subscribe to Watchcat Films!
Visit our Youtube Channel Watchcat Films and click to become a subscriber to see future episodes and show your support!
And Thanks for Clicking! 
Did you know that by clicking on the ads, Google will give us money that we can donate to a local animal shelter. Everytime you visit this blog, click away on the ads to show your support and help us help some animals in need! 

This week, we got 4 clicks which yielded .39 cents which is the most clicks we have had in a while. Right now, were only at $26 bucks and Google won't write us a check until they get $100 or more in clicks. So click the ads whenever you visit this blog! Thank You!