POST-PRODUCTION SHARON REED, FRAMESTORE
As Guinness ’surfer’ continues to win yet more awards, Sharon Reed,
managing director of FrameStore, the facilities house responsible for
the ad’s stunning effects, is not surprised by its success. ’’Surfer’
entered the public consciousness and proved that there is still room for
big budget extravaganzas. The new angle is that there is more emphasis
on making the animation look realistic and organic. Now technique can’t
become a cliche because it is invisible. It’s a real shame when trends
like morphing take over and punters spot them. Now it’s all about
capturing people’s imagination.’
Reed says that the function of post houses has evolved considerably over
the last decade. ’We’re no longer just part of a finishing-up stage, but
part of the production process. We are constantly pushed to be faster.
This is indicative of the post-recession advertising environment.’
FrameStore is being offered more and more scripts featuring
Reed believes this is due to the special proprietary techniques the
company developed for the hit BBC series, Walking with Dinosaurs, which
required a team of ten animators working over a two-year period to
produce three hours of animation. ’Now we’re bringing these techniques
to ads,’ she says.
’And we have the ability to create all character animation in
pre-visualisation mode, which allows the director to add personality to
Also, a new software package allows us to take a photographed
environment and build a 3-D environment which will let us change the
camera move and track all pixels to be able to move individual elements
within this space.’
Reed also notes that the number of telecine suites in London has more
than doubled in the last decade. She believes this is because ’directors
are constantly searching for a new look. Ten years ago everything was
golden. Now the trend is for more restrained and muted colours. Telecine
is no longer a transfer but an effects session. Sometimes it does feel
that too much is resting on technique and then you do something like
’surfer’ and realise that’s why we’re in effects.’
ANIMATION MARK CRASTE, AKA PIZAZZ
Mark Craste joined the production house, aka Pizazz, three years ago,
producing work for clients including Nescafe, Orange and Procter &
He recently directed the NatWest Insurance spot, ’Mr Lucky’, for TBWA
GGT Simons Palmer, for which he won the 1999 British Television
Advertising Craft Award for animation.
Craste believes that ’there has been a huge change’ in animation
technology over the last ten years, especially in the use of computers
to trace and paint. The computer is now the central tool of the
animator. ’There are definite gains,’ agrees Craste, ’but the
possibilities for changing things at any point can draw the process
out.’ It sometimes encourages procrastination, Craste says, adding that
’the client has a lot more input’.
Needless to say, the biggest development of recent years is in the use
of CGI - computer-generated imagery. At first it was exploited rather
crudely, as with any new technological development, and so the viewing
public had to put up with jumping cereal boxes and dancing bottles of
bleach. Certain high-profile animation specialists changed all that.
’Pixar has shown that possessing true animation skills can make CGI work
better,’ says Craste. Toy Story used cutting-edge animation but infused
it with real life and character. However, Craste points out that CGI
still looks inferior in some respects to hand-drawn work.
According to Craste, there is still a tendency for ’agency creatives,
stuck for an idea, to just fling some animation in there’. He admits its
use is often pointless and making it seem necessary is a real challenge
in commercials work.
Craste sees new markets for animation in the continued expansion of the
internet and e-commerce. Developments in cable, satellite and digital
television will increase demand for all sorts of programming, including
animation. Computer-generated imagery will continue to improve and,
crucially, will be easier to use. There’s a great feeling of opportunity
among animators in London at the moment. ’Hopefully, this is not just a
passing phase,’ he concludes.
EFFECTS ANDY DELANEY AND MONTY WHITEBLOOM, BIG TV
Andy Delaney and Monty Whitebloom are unimpressed by the overall use of
computer graphics and effects in advertising. As the directing duo, BIG
TV, they are no strangers to weeks in the post suites and have been
inundated with requests to repeat the effect in their video for Mary J.
Blige and George Michael’s duet, As, which featured multiples of the
singers in a nightclub. But the pair bemoan the recurring use of effects
to disguise the lack of an idea.
’Effects are shorthand for no idea,’ they explain. ’When Jurassic Park
was big, agencies would say to us, ’You know the dinosaurs in Jurassic
Park? Well, we want that to sell insurance.’ Sometimes it’s like, ’Oh,
we’ve got to sell sugar, bring on the dancing spoons’.
’Effects have got so big,’ they continue, ’that there is almost no need
to go out and shoot anything and agencies love that because when you go
out to shoot there is a good chance that something will go wrong. Apart
from the work that Jonathan Glazer, Chris Cunningham and we do, it would
appear that everyone is obsessed with album covers by Hypnosis. When
people say they want surrealism they really mean that they want an
elephant with really big ears. All this space ship and alien stuff is
really dreadful and we reckon that it’s because too many people in the
advertising industry paid pounds 10 to go to a bad ELO concert and took
too many amphetamines.’
They defend their video for Lauryn Hill’s Doo wop that thing, which won
the best music video award at the MTV Awards, because it had a strong
idea. Through the use of split screen the video illustrated the
differences between a black New York street party in the 60s to one
Apart from talking babies (’sign of the Devil,’ they say) and floating
people, BIG TV claim not to mind ’crappy effects’ as long as they are
interesting. They dislike the current trend for amateur film. ’There are
too many ads where it looks as if they didn’t employ a DP - making ads
look like Crimewatch. In the US, the vogue is for taking footage of dead
celebrities and using computer graphics to animate them into a more
PRE-VISUALISATION CASSIUS COLEMAN, BLACK DOG FILMS
Although new to the industry, having only signed to Black Dog Films this
month, Cassius Coleman’s promo for Jamiroquai’s Supersonic has marked
him out as a director who does things with motion control and
pre-visualisation that even a jaded MTV generation hasn’t seen.
In shooting Supersonic, Coleman utilised motion control rigs for complex
camera moves, as well as to physically hurl the members of Jamiroquai
towards and away from the lens. Such simultaneous movement would have
been impossible to co-ordinate before the invention of pre-visualisation
software such as 5D’s Android, which allows the moves to be modelled on
a computer beforehand and then tested for feasibility, based upon the
specific kinematics of each rig. In the case of Supersonic, the moves
were programmed the same way that graphic equalisers encode sound as
The song was broken down into 11 tracks, each of which was encoded as
one particular movement. As the music pulses, so do the musicians.
Despite this high-tech starting point, Coleman doesn’t want to be
straitjacketed by post-production intensive work. ’It’s difficult to
know when to stop and start with post,’ he says. ’Having the right
collaborators is the key.’
Coleman believes the future will see a greater degree of collaboration
between production houses and post-production houses, with the
distinction blurring as the latter become involved in creating even the
initial idea for a project. For all his recent experiences with
state-of-the-art effects, Coleman talks glowingly of shooting Jamiroquai
on the road using Super-8, digital video and 16mm and his values remain
traditional. ’The power of the script should be at the core of a
EDITING PAUL WATTS AND BRUCE TOWNEND, THE QUARRY
The Quarry was founded by Paul Watts and Bruce Townend in 1993 and in
six years has reached the enviable position of having to turn work
One of Watts’ recent success stories has been the ’the world chooses
British Airways’ ad.
Editing has, of course, been revolutionised in the last decade by the
introduction of non-linear systems such as Avid and Lightworks. ’With an
Avid you can absolutely confirm that the cut you’re showing to the
people in the room is the best possible,’ says Watts. Whereas
previously, it was time-consuming and expensive to strike a duplicate
print in order to show alternative cuts side by side, now there are no
Such flexibility does not necessarily make the process faster, Watts
points out. He says: ’When there are 100 ways of going with something,
you still need to retain some discipline. You still have to go through
each and every frame of the rushes.’ Such diligence is something Watts
feels editors ought to apply to other stages in the post-production
process. ’I’ll go to telecine and certainly to important stages of the
dub,’ says Watts.
Watts is concerned that the unstoppable march of technology may put
unnecessary pressure on the editor’s role. He is keen to maintain a
distinction between edit and facility houses and admits that ’we are
being pushed into a situation where we aren’t just editors anymore but
are expected to finish the job too’.
A GUIDE TO THE VOGUISH AND THE PASSE
It seems a long time since the silver flying logo represented the
cutting-edge of film effects. However, it still makes the occasional
appearance, notably in Central European sports broadcasting. Here
Campaign presents its bullet-point guide to what’s hot and what’s not in
- Effects that don’t look like effects. Seamless effects, which evoke
fantasy and where the joins are invisible.
- Character animation - expect more talking animals (especially goldfish
and dinosaurs), and babies delivering the brand’s message.
- Pseudo cinema verite and wonky hand-held camera techniques - all
achieved in post of course.
- Selective focus.
- Multiples of central character in film.
- 60s retro graphics.
- The obvious use of post-production in films and TV series. Hugh Grant
walking through four seasons down Portobello Road in Notting Hill,
directly influenced by Blackcurrant Tango’s ’St George’.
- Dancing kitchen utensils.
- A selection of faces representing sociological differences seamlessly
morphing into each other.
- A golden, cosy hue telecine and watery greens.
- Certain uses of the time slice. Please, no more jugs pouring milk.
- Floating people.
- Lens flare.
- Multi-layered type.
- Picking out one-coloured object from a black and white scene.
- Background seamlessly changing as the spokesperson moves ’unaware’
through a changing environment.
- Frantically cut commercials.
- Giant people walking through a landscape.
- Seamless pull-back.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SEMINAL TECHNIQUES
Oh dear. Best used to good effect in seminal 70s movies and TV series
such as Shaft and The Brady Bunch, this device is more commonly used now
in kitsch, ironic spots that evoke the era. That’s fine, but the device
rarely offers anything to the narrative.
See BIG TV’s Doo wop that thing video for Lauryn Hill to witness the
effect put to good use.
The granddaddy of effects. Devised as a transition and fix-it tool, the
morph has been used to within an inch of its life over the last decade
as an effect. So commonplace has been the use of the effect that the
term ’morphing’ has entered into the vernacular and a table turning into
a lion no longer fools punters.
Still, used subtly to form a natural transition the morph remains in
The Time Slice
A beautiful device but, like the morph, relied on far too much. A
live-action effect in which everything except the camera’s view appears
frozen in time. Very impressive when used to freeze things like
overflowing liquid, people mid-jump, people rushing around in urban
environments, and a pot falling. One of the best examples of multiple
time slices put to great use was in Michel Gondry’s ’Smarienberg’ spot
Colour processing systems such as Da Vinci, Pogle and a new wave of
telecine systems, the Spirit and C-Reality, have all contributed to
telecine operators becoming colourists and having a more significant
role in the look of commercials. Plug-ins - added-on software filters -
also contributed to the process enabling soft glows, speed and blurs.