'Visualise This' Revealed: How we did the tricky shots

I wanted to create a film using an eclectic mix of styles and techniques that make the viewer wonder… How did they do that or is that CGI or stop motion, where was that Graff painted on the floor etc.

Here are the Top 6 Cross breed techniques revealed.

The falling BRAND logo shot

This would have been quite a simple shot to achieve by having a falling canvas and compositing the graphics on after. Or create a CGI canvas with BRAND cut out and then texture it with my graffiti.

I wanted to create this ‘in’ camera.

So we cut the word BRAND out first, then replaced the letters as best we could and braced them at the back with green screen batons to be removed later.

I then graffitied the chunky framed, heavy white MDF board. Canvas would have been too light and I really wanted the falling wall to crash heavily to the floor. We were going to use flour to achieve a dust plume when it landed but on the test run, the floors natural dust did the job, so we managed to get the shot in the bag first time. Wahoo!


The glossy black oil shot

Where do I start??? Again I think this could be done in CGI with a very good team of modellers and lighters and compositors, but I wanted to achieve this in camera.

Firstly I secretly squirrelled away some of my son Vinny’s toys away to Aardman’s model making workshop and spray painted them black. Sorry Vinny!

I hot glued the black toys onto a black board (huge mistake!!) You’ll see why later.

Then I cleared Asda out of cheap cooking oil. 72 Litres of the greasy stuff.

I mixed it with black oil paint and poured it into a casket.

We then rigged the board of toys to a motion control rig. This would act as the winch to raise the toys out of the black oily soup.

Another Motion control was rigged to do the panning shot with the camera attached to it.

This way we get a nice up and across motion in camera. Great!!!

We lowered the board of toys into the black soup and the cables that held it up sagged and released the board of toys. Noooooo!

I watched them sink. Then to add insult to injury, the hot glue gave way and the toys floated up. How do you re glue something to an oily surface??? You don’t, you use screws. After much tinkering it was ready to be submerged again. After a couple of passes, it worked. I just love the way the natural glossy highlights move over the objects. All well worth doing in camera for real, and so much more rewarding. Could not have achieved this without the savvy tech support from Nat Sale and Adam Cooke.


The abstract floor Graffiti shot

This turned out to be quite a number.

Ideally I wanted to paint this for real and is a project I am pursuing with Bristol Council.

To paint abstract graphics over vast grey paved areas of the city.

Sadly time scales prevented this in my film so this is how we achieved it.

We covered some of Aardman’s car park area with green screen and set up the camera on a raised fire escape. I had to be four different Graff artists so had to change costume many times as we needed to film each artist in about 50 positions. This would give the illusion of time lapse. We then filmed a beautiful time lapse sky from 2pm to 6pm on the flat roof of the studio. We then used a cool HDR environment map of an exhibition space with a large open paved area outside.

After proxy planes were built in CGI we mapped on the HDR environment and composited the multiple versions of me roller painting the floor and the time lapse sky.


The giant cardboard robot shot

This was another shot I desperately wanted to do in camera but due to time and budget restraints was not possible. Believe me I got as far as buying 200 large cardboard boxes and working on technical designs for the spinning box rigs as well as hiring in a cherry picker.

After a lot of reluctance we went down the CGI route, using an HDR of a warehouse and the incredible lighting skills of Ali Dixon. So convincing, especially the reflections on the red shelving.


The defiant snail shot

They say never work with kids or animals but molluscs are the worst.

This snail with all his sucker power and slime could not for the life of him stay upright. The idea was to hand paint the little fella’s house, but I didn’t want to have the NSPCA banging on my door.

We composited, tracked and lit the artwork to feel as naturally painted as possible, adding some shell texture too. Ben Toogood’s convincing skills managed to pull this off most successfully.


My little girl Delphi and the tiny toy lady shot

They say never work with animals or children and your own two and a half year old is even tougher. I spent most of my morning negotiating with Kinder chocolate to convince Delphi to hold a match with a tracking marker on it. She wasn’t having any of it and you should see the amount of out-takes we had. We had to re visit this shot a second time a week later after a tiny tantrum.

We managed to film get her to keep till for 3 seconds which is all we needed but we struggled to get a close up of her hand keeping still. That’s when we recruited my boy Vinny (6yrs old) to do the close up. No one can tell the switch in the cut. The tiny toy lady and the diamond was then modelled lit and composited into the shot. I love the vignette soft focus on it. I was so pleased with the Tilt shift effect here. Great work Mr John Biggins.

A big thank you to the talented team involved in the making of ‘Visualise This’ which was achieved on down time, blood, sweat and a couple of toddler tears.

Animal welfare Disclosure!!

No cardboard cut-out kittens were harmed in the making of this film.


To see more watch the behind the scenes film


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