Design CD Simon Cassels at Smuggler handled post, VFX, design and animation on
an imaginative spot promoting the Android-powered Samsung Behold II mobile
phone. The :30 advertisement, Graphic Artist, continues Samsung Mobile's campaign
to show off practical uses for their smart phones in everyday life.
|Graphic Artist stars a comic book illustrator wandering city streets looking for sites that inspire his imagination. When he sees a gargoyle poised on the side of a building or a jogger running in place, he uses his Behold II to snap photos, which then morph onscreen into fantastic graphical monsters or action heroes, showing how real life inspires the artist's work.
“We began this project with the agency's storyboards as a launching point for our own research and timing tests for the spot,” said Simon. “We built up extensive reference, cataloguing various comic book styles and techniques to derive a look capturing the mood and atmosphere of the story. We also explored the artistic process that goes into creating a graphic novel. Making all of our transitions seem authentic and organic took a lot of experimentation.
First we built our own story-boards and delved into character look development. To expand on the agency's vision we studied illustrators that we felt would be a good fit for the project. One major early influence was the location of our live-action shoot, Prague. Its striking architecture helped direct our approach to graphic sequences and characters.
We started developing characters as soon as we got the agency boards. At that time we were developing drawing styles as well and choosing artists to work with. We knew we didn't have much time on the back-end so it was important to have as much locked-down as possible before we finished shooting. But it remained an evolving process.
Pencils, pen & ink were our tools during the character development and story-boarding phase. From there the images were scanned along with other organic textures and elements to be incorporated into final product for a more authentic, analog feel.
The opening transition was hand drawn from the shot plate. The drawings were pencilled on a light box and scanned in increments as the artist drew them. They were then sequenced together, creating the animated development of the drawing. As the pencil completes, ink and colour are added to the mix. These were really quick transitions but we felt we showed the entire development process, from the original photo to comic book illustration.
We kept everything in the 2D world, feeling this was the right approach conceptually. We toyed with the idea of animating the characters throughout but in order to stay true to the style of a graphic artist, we had to keep the images themselves static and only showed the creative process moving from pen to ink. Because of this I wanted to make every single image worthy of being ‘Cover Art’ stylistic enough to be interesting without animation. As for that punch at the end - we couldn't help ourselves on that last transition.
Concurrently, we assembled an animatic for previs using the agency's storyboards laid over temp voice-over and music. Using a combination of Final Cut and After Effects we generated a working edit that grew to accommodate our own assets as we blocked out the pacing of the animated sequences. I think this is a vital step in any complex production. Everyone can align their ideas and troubleshoot potential problems at a very early stage. We can finesse timing, structure and story in a way that helps inform the live-action shoot. At the same time, it was important to retain some flexibility to develop ideas along with the production.
I travelled to Prague with the directors, the Guard Brothers and coordinated on set with Stanley Ng from the Asylum art department in LA who continued to develop looks and characters for the spot. The agency could approve each element of the spot as we completed them. The night shoot was more challenging than anticipated - we started at 4.30pm and shot through 4:30am in extremely harsh conditions. The production had planned to shoot digitally but, when the camera failed due to extreme cold, changed to film. Nevertheless the cast and crew persevered and - one of the best aspects of the project - everyone got on, could be creative and trusted each other’s strengths.
Once principal photography was complete, the film was transferred in Prague and the tapes shipped to Chicago where the spot was cut by Jan Maitland at Utopic.
Asylum then began post. Our compositor Tim Davies worked on colour-grading, cleaning up and tracking the footage while the design department was illustrating the final images for the comic book and finalising animations and transitions in After Effects. Our lead illustrator, Colby Bluth, sketched initial images for the piece while another artist, C.P Smith redrew and inked those illustrations in his own style. This workflow allowed Colby to focus on animation and allowed us to trial various ideas as we developed the story.
Once completed, these final inks were dropped in the cut. A challenge was retaining a feeling of progression and movement while keeping the images themselves static. Tim created set-ups in the Inferno that allowed us to easily update our footage as he continued to work. We tested out animations and camera moves in After Effects before bringing them into the Inferno. From start to finish the entire job was completed in just four weeks.