Minneapolis broadcast design & animation studio motion504 recently completed the reception sponsor reel for the Minneapolis screening of the AICP Show: The Art & Technique of the American Commercial. The inventive title sequence created by motion504 introduces each reception sponsor through a cinematic narrative that imagines the craft of "moving type" via mechanical gadgets that look as if they were built a century ago. Led by Creative Directors Scott Wenner and Amy Schmitt, motion504 helmed the entire project, start to finish: concepting and storyboarding; direction of the live-action shoot; 2D & 3D animation; lighting and compositing.
Set in a world with a turn-of-the-last-century aesthetic, the visually striking sequence opens at the storefront of the fictional Verne Bros. Kinetic Type Company. Inside, the elderly protagonist earnestly works away during the wee small hours at his closed shop. His undertakings are a mystery until, suddenly, peculiar kinetic gadgets appear and unexplainably come to life. His compelling conjurations abound in the dusty workshop, as each unique gadget unravels with science-defying wonder, creatively introducing the AICP reception sponsors, one by one.
"motion504 has made a name for itself as one of the most unique motion graphics companies in the country," said Kirk Hokanson, President of the Minnesota Chapter of AICP & EP of Voodoo Films. "In seeking a company to do the AICP Show reception sponsor reel, I approached motion504 and they were very willing. I was thrilled to have them because of their expertise and artistry. We [AICP]
allow 100% creativity for companies to showcase work, as they contribute a huge amount of work within a short time period."
"The AICP Show brings together the best work in the industry and it is an honor to have our reel introduce the sponsors that help make the Minnesota screening happen," commented motion504 founder Andy Reynolds. "The project was an excellent opportunity to flex our capabilities and do something extra-special, start to finish, with limited creative restraints."
According to motion504, the concept behind the sequence was thematic. After brainstorming numerous ideas, motion504 eventually arrived at one that would speak to its intended audience and showcase what motion504 actually offers to the industry as a company: motion design, animation and visual effects. The end product strikes at the core of motion504's creative forte, while illustrating how design and animation can communicate in the realm of broadcast and commercial advertising -- through image-driven narrative.
Rather than building 3D models that transformed and unfolded, motion504 instead opted to create simple machines that look hand-made, yet function just beyond the realm of possibility, while retaining their outward purpose as kinetic type. The gadgets, along with production set and props, were designed with Victorian influences to evoke the work of an artisan.
"As a huge fan of films like Delicatessen and City of Lost Children, I love the aesthetic of combining elements from different time periods, mixing the old and the new," says Wenner. "While the period is purposely unknown, this is how we envision the earliest motion graphic designer. The gadgets he creates are curiously self-powered, each with a distinguished look and kinetic function. We specifically designed them to engage and encourage the audience to use their own imagination to explain how the gadgets work."
The studio arranged for a one-day live action shoot using the RED Camera. "Having a snorkel lens was crucial to get the close-ups that we needed to create the right feeling," says motion504 Executive Producer Eric Mueller. "Our studio worked closely with the production team to ensure the gadgets would look like they belonged in the space. The end result is a visual tour-de-force. "
BWN principal Carl White, who had the unique challenge of making the devices feel real, but still evoking a feeling of magic, handled sound design. "BWN did a fantastic job of figuring out how these gadgets would really sound if they existed," says Mueller. "They are true sound artists."
Wenner modeled the 16 3D gadgets in Cinema 4D, motion504's primary 3D package for graphics. Each unique gadget features Victorian-influenced detail, flourishes and decoration, which Wenner hand-painted in ZBrush. Amy Schmitt, who worked closely alongside Scott from the project's outset, including the live action shoot, handled a majority of the intensive tracking lighting and rendering required by the project.
According to Wenner, the biggest challenge motion504 faced had to do with the AICP's only caveat: sponsor names may change at any time during production. This meant the 3D models must be built flexible, interchangeable or even newly created at moment's notice, with a fast turnaround.
"The project certainly required us to be nimble, but the creative liberties we were given far outweigh the technical parameters," concludes Wenner. "Creating the AICP Show reception sponsor reel is something we were very excited to do. With everyone involved we answered the call and created a piece of which we are incredibly proud."