Bi-coastal creative production studio Stardust has put its unique and quirky spin on the holidays in a TV campaign for RadioShack via ad agency Butler, Shine, Stern and Partners (BSSP). Stardust's Los Angeles studio leveraged its multidisciplinary chops, handling everything from the live-action shoot with Stardust's Brad Tucker as director, to designing, animating, editing and finishing eight spots, which feature a cornucopia of filmmaking techniques, animation styles and even rapper Biz Markie.
"When RadioShack unveiled its 'The Shack' branding this past summer, part of this repositioning was giving the brand a fresh, new voice and a distinctive creative look," said Jake Banks, executive creative director and founder, Stardust. "So when BSSP started envisioning The Shack's 2009 holiday TV campaign, they came to us knowing we could embody the brand's irreverent and fun-loving vibe and be able to execute the campaign in-house from beginning to end."
Directed by Stardust's Brad Tucker, The Shack's holiday campaign has a little something for everyone. Some spots are fully animated in a stop-motion style inspired by beloved children's holiday specials, while others feature beautifully shot live-action enhanced with CG. Yet other spots mash up 2D animation, still photography and live-action for a cheeky, lo-fi aesthetic familiar to a generation reared on viral YouTube content.
In the spot "Paraphone Troopers" a CG elf rustles an army of Motorola Cliqs out a military plane as they parachute down to the phone city below. "Astronaut" shows breakdancing spacemen composited into an urban 2D environment as a Sirius Stratus 6 pumps out the jams. A chubby everyman's REM sleep includes dreams of donning a tutu and embracing a Palm Pixi as he dances in "Sugarplum Fairies," and in "Oh, Snap," rapper Biz Markie takes digital photos of blinged-out penguins, a DJ'ing squirrel, and bearing his own face, a dancing elf and Christmas tree.
Said Tucker, "Our mandate from the agency was to keep a visual rawness to our stories, which was an interesting challenge, since we're known for giving imagery a designed, stylized look. So we had to constantly check ourselves to make sure we weren't over-refining shots. This enabled us to inject a lot of fun, innocence and playful energy into the spots, which creatively, was what the campaign is all about."
Tucker and his team oversaw an initial two-and-a-half day live-action shoot to capture the 40 different products featured in the campaign. Half of the third day was spent on a greenscreen shoot with rapper Biz Markie, whom Tucker praises for his good-humor and willingness to allow himself to be dressed in a Christmas tree get-up that required having to wear green tights. The remaining actors were filmed during a fourth day of shooting, including a challenging session involving a custom-built astronaut suit that had a tendency to overheat the actor as he was dancing, precipitating Stardust to bring in an A/C unit that would blow into his suit after each take. Stardust oversaw a final fifth day of shooting for the "Lit Up" spot.
Stardust's toolkit included a Sony F35 HD camera, Autodesk Maya for 3D modeling and animation, with keying and rotoscoping done in Autodesk Combustion. Autodesk Flame was used for compositing and color-correction for the spot "Lit Up," while Adobe After Effects was used to composite the remaining seven spots. In total, the RadioShack holiday campaign comprised 15 spots, with Stardust responsible for producing eight of these and Cleaver handling the remaining seven.