For this series of seven spots, Blacklist called upon us to collaborate with the creative team at HalRiney and documentary director Chris Wilcha (well known for his work on the Showtime TV series This American Life). The idea behind the spots was to capture a series of 'testimonial' style moments and then spice them up with playful animated elements. In some cases the animated elements correspond directly to what is being said, and in others they more generally underline the benefits of USCellular's rewards program.
The live action was shot over the course of two separate shoots in a large studio in NYC with two Arri Alexa's and a number of beautiful and very natural-feeling sets. Between the two cameras we were able to get a good combination of talking head and tabletop coverage to allow room for exploration in the editing and animation phases.
Although we went into the shoot with most of the elements designed and roughly storyboarded, many of the details and specifics of composition were intentionally left open until after we got a rough cut of the footage. This approach allowed the performances and personalities of the talent to dictate (to some extent) how the animation would play out in each scene.
As shown in the various progress sketches and boards shown below, we had a lot of fun exploring different possibilities for each spot and tried to give each a different flavour. Although all the animated elements are CG, we wanted them to have hand-made charm. We eventually got what we wanted by establishing a palette that consisted of everyday materials like cardboard, construction paper, balsa wood, balloons, plasticine, string, and wire. On the animation end, we created stop-motion feeling for some shots by animating on two's and in a few places creating and swapping unique 3D geometry for each frame of animation—a kind of 3D simulated claymation.