Behind the Craft Magda Osinska

Behind the Craft: DFS 'Welcome in Spring'

Concept

Aardman has been producing the DFS campaign since 2016. Styled by our amazing Creative Director Steve Harding-Hill, it has a unique handmade look with puppets beautifully crafted out of fabric, and I was over the moon when asked to direct it.

We wanted ‘Welcome in Spring’ (my second commercial for the brand) to feel like a musical, with the entire country bursting into life as the new season arrives. The choreographed action is triggered by a dust sheet being whipped off a DFS Spring Collection sofa that sits in the middle of a newly decorated home.

In time with the music, the action spreads down the entire country as windows are flung open and spring is welcomed in…

DFS terrace scene

Process

Puppet design

I usually start by collecting lots of visual references. I create mood boards for character design, set design, lighting, props, etc., upon which the team uses as inspiration.

Below is the process of designing one of the characters, Dicky the Bird – designed by Kristina Litten – from rough sketches exploring different proportions and characteristics, to our favourite colourful ones:

DFS puppet design Kristina Litten

For the human characters we reused existing puppets but changed their clothing and hair. Here’s a selection of wardrobe options, also designed by Kristina:

DFS human puppets Kristina Litten

Once approved, the designs go into the hands of our puppet-makers, Nancy Jones and Chris Entwhistle. Nancy scouts fabric shops and charity shops for the perfect textiles, while Chris works on the armature and body shape. After a couple of weeks, it all comes together to form the final result, ready for the animator to work with:

DFS puppet making

Concept Art

Next, we created concept art for the exteriors and interiors. These are discussed in great detail. The interiors have to meet our client’s specific directions, and we design each detail carefully according to the style guide that goes with each sofa.

DFS ad concept art

Designs by James Grant

Prop Making

Then it was time to bring on the spring spirit: flowers, flowers, flowers – everywhere! To keep within the style of the whole DFS campaign, we made the flowers out of fabric, which meant researching different textiles and design techniques so they could be animatable.

DFS flower making

Filming

Opening Shot

Once the design work is approved, the fun on sets begins. The first shot was a challenge, but a very important one for me as it’s a key moment in capturing the audience’s attention, setting the mood, location, characters, style, season and time. I wanted it to look cinematic, epic, magical and inviting, so lots to fit in to those few first seconds!

The opening shot consists of several animation passes. We had a few flower animation passes, light pass (we animated the light manually on set), bird animation pass and the background. All the passes on this shot and the others are then brought together by our brilliant comping team: Bram Ttwheam, Jon Biggins and Fernando Lechuga.

Here’s a visual breakdown of how we did it:

 

DFS opening scene

Concept to final effect: Animator Adam Watts animating tiny petals to create the subtle movement of flowers blooming

Interior scene #1

Moving on to the first interior scene. In this shot, music builds to reveal the first spring/daffodil like sofa. As the sheets are whipped off, in comes an avalanche of colourful happiness; a dynamic spring montage, rhythmically choreographed and cut to the music.

DFS interior

The sofas are created by ScaryCat Studio and are miniature replicas of real DFS products

The lighting and framing helps set the mood, season and time of day. We also have to make sure the sofas are lit beautifully so the viewer can appreciate every detail. Here’s Director of Photography, Simon Jacobs at work:

DFS interior animating

Terraced House Scene

In this shot, windows along a terraced street fly open to welcome spring as the characters wave to a DFS van passing by. My intention for this shot was to have a street that shouts spring through the colours, lighting, and animation.

DFS terrace animation

Clockwise from top left: Puppets peer out of windows behind the set. Set dresser Rachel Bennett conversing with one of the puppets while painting her home in spring colours. Art Director Helen Javes installing plant baskets on the walls. Craig playing around with some branches to create beautiful shadows on the houses

Watering Flowers scene

The close up watering scene was shot in several passes: water pass, drops of water pass, and daffodils, daisies and pansies pass. This was to achieve the effect of water falling between the different flowers. It was also less time consuming to add the water drops pass in the compositing stage rather than for the animator to animate one by one on the set. The strips of water were made out of resin twisted tubes.

DFS watering flowers

DFS watering flowers

Watch the full DFS spot here.

To contact Aardman about developing commercials, please email: boards@aardman.com

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