Stardust Studios' Neil Tsai Directs Fuel Tv Signature Series ID 17

Stardust Studios' Neil Tsai Directs Fuel Tv Signature Series ID 17

Cardboard Robot by Stardust Studios 01

Bicoastal U.S. creative production company Stardust Studios recently delivered its latest Signature Series ID for FUEL TV, the country's only television network dedicated to the lifestyle of action sports. FUEL TV's Signature Series IDs, inspired by limited edition signature skateboard decks, have earned awards and accolades from action sports athletes and artists alike. Stardust's collaboration with artist Nathan Reifke on Signature ID number 16 earlier this year - which was led by the company's Santa Monica-based design director Neil Tsai - is part of a package that recently earned FUEL TV the 2007 BDA Gold Award in the Art Direction & Design, Image Campaign category.

Cardboard Robot by Stardust Studios 02

The challenge presented to Stardust for ID number 17 was to feature the work of Cardboard Robot, an art collective led by Mason Brown. "The brief for this project came in with Mason's art work, and at first, we weren't sure what this promo piece wanted to convey to viewers," Tsai explained. "But then we went to Long Beach to tour Mason's studio, and we quickly came to understand his man-versus-machine and anti-war sentiments, and how his military background influences his art. With this understanding, we decided to film the real robot, and create this kind of exploration of the city and mysterious industrial feeling."

"Because street art is so integral to the ideas behind Cardboard Robot," says FUEL TV Senior Producer Todd Dever, "we all agreed that we needed to convey that aesthetic along with the feel of some early experimental films which first brought the robot to life."

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The live-action shoot occurred in downtown Los Angeles locations and on-stage at The Source. "For this project," Tsai explained, "the location scout was the most creative idea bag. I went to scout the locations around downtown LA with my director of photography Jordan Levy and other members of our team. It was the perfect environment for this piece, and we all instantly began getting great ideas for the shots which I never would have gotten from sitting in my room and trying to design with online images."

To get their desired look for the original footage in-camera, Tsai and Levy used three different cameras, including Levy's own antique DeVry hand-crank 35mm camera, his Bolex Super 16mm camera, and a Panasonic P2 HD camera. "I mostly shot on location with my 1929 DeVry 35mm camera, shooting 5205 250 daylight film, and with my Super 16mm conversion Bolex SBM, using 7205 daylight film," Levy explained. "On stage, we used a Panasonic HVX-200 P2 camera, shooting at 720p - in 24 frame Progressive and Native formats. This was one of my favorite shoots, because we had a small team of about four people that worked together and went out of our elements to do anything to make it work."

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"With the film cameras," Tsai added, "we weren't able to view the results instantly, so we had to take as many shots as possible and try to imagine the results."

After receiving the transferred footage from colorist Beau Leon of The Syndicate, the rough cut was assembled by Stardust's Michael Merkwan. Artistic rotoscoping was then performed on selected live-action scenes, and original animation created by Tsai was composited into the finished sequence. Maya was used to create the original animation, and After Effects was used for the rotoscoping and final compositing.

Additional project credits for Stardust include creative director Jake Banks, executive producer Corey Cirillo, line producer Rob Knox and post producer Lisa Pierce. Along with Todd Dever, FUEL TV's team includes SVP and Assistant General Manager CJ Olivares, VP Marketing and Promotion Jake Munsey, and Director On Air Promotions Oren Hatum.

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The finished Signature ID featuring Cardboard Robot debuted on FUEL TV earlier in July, featuring a custom score created and mixed by the artists at Mophonics, and is set to continue airing over the months ahead. Complete credits are available upon request.

For more information on Cardboard Robot, please visit

Stardust is an award-winning creative production company, specializing in motion design, animation, visual effects and live-action production. Led by founder and executive creative director Jake Banks, Stardust's Santa Monica and New York offices continually redefine creativity for commercial, on-air, music video and in-store presentations. Their recent work - including projects for the world's top ad agencies, brands and recording artists - has earned numerous awards and worldwide editorial exposure.


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