Through the years
November 18, 2011

Through the years

When Detroit-based ad agency Doner wanted to create three new spots for client Sherwin-Williams and its line of Krylon aerosol paints, the firm turned to animation/postproduction facility Charlex. “We loved the boards,” says executive producer Meredith Machial, “and were enthusiastic about teaming up with them for the first time.” According to director Ryan Dunn, Doner was looking for a company “to handle the job from concept-to-completion; a one-stop shop to do it all.”
The agency initially approached Charlex with two concepts; the first had a graphic, streamlined aesthetic, while the second had a much more analog, DIY feel to it. Charlex pitched both concepts, and turned it in two separate presentations. “Doner ultimately sold through the second direction, and our treatment was the chosen direction,” adds Dunn.

The team spent a week developing and pitching the idea. “I created a stop-motion test as a proof of concept, which ended up being quite close to what I ended up shooting for the actual spot,” Dunn recalls. “Then we flew to LA for pre-production and the shoot.”

The first spot, “Brand,” features a dresser that moves through rooms and changes colors, illustrating both changing fashion tastes and the extensive color palette available from Krylon. “We shot for seven days on a stage,” explains Dunn, “and then spent the next three weeks in postproduction at Charlex, putting the pieces together.”

Prepping and executing the stop-motion—which features everything from miniature blue elephants to oranges that behave like a splash of water on the top of the dresser—took up the lion's share of the timeline. “We had a team of about 10 in the beginning: animators, grips, producers, and so forth,” reports Dunn. “Then when we went off to shoot a second Krylon spot for a couple of days on location, I kept a smaller second unit of animators and assistants back at the stage to finish up.”

The job featured several challenges, the biggest of which was the sheer scale of the sets, Dunn notes. "It's much easier to animate stop-motion when it’s tabletop and miniature. It gets trickier when it's all full-scale,” he says. “So we had to figure out how to get the effect to work seamlessly. In reality, it would have been nearly a 100-foot room slide, and that was just not possible given our stage and constraints. So a lot of time went into the logistics of how to work the camera and lighting, knowing that we had to reset our stage a few times during the animation."

Dunn also faced a second challenge: the density of the secondary animation. “There was a lot of it, which is my own fault, but it gives a certain density that I wanted and encouraged new discoveries upon repeat viewings,” he states. “It's also what takes a lot of time. So the simple idea of having elephant figurines slide off the table like dandelion seedpods becomes a very time-consuming task.”

The director also decided to shoot the dresser independent of the background. “Otherwise, I'd have been picking it up and moving it every frame, which would have created more irregularity than I wanted,” he notes. “So in order to split the two passes, I had to simulate the light from room-to-room on a locked-off object. We created a separate dolly track with two soft boxes at equal distance apart, then captured the effect by moving them over time. In fact, we spent quite a bit of time the first few days problem-solving when we should have been shooting!”

All the compositing was done on an Autodesk Flame, reports senior producer Nicole Stevens. “We had a lead artist in charge of main assembly and compositing, and two supporting artists who helped to cut mattes for the lead artist.”

“On the shoot we used [DZED Systems’] Dragon Stop Motion software to manage the stop-motion photography,” Dunn adds. “Honestly, we couldn't have finished the job on time without it.”

Summing up, Dunn stresses that “this represents a new direction for Charlex. It wasn’t so much all the stop-motion that first attracted us to this job, but the organic feel of this object telling a bit of a story. The inspiration for me was figuring out just how to decorate and adorn the dresser over the course of the spot, and how to transform the rooms in such a way that they reflected the personalities of these off-screen characters. I loved being able to create that story and look, and I’m proud of the fact that we were able to do just about all of it in camera—except for the wallpaper, which we added in post. That was a big goal for us, and I think we achieved it."

To View the spot CLICK HERE