This project came about when a regular agency collaborator asked for a proof-of-concept film to help them pitch the concept of talking food to their client. We immediately (and ambitiously) set out to design and script a 30” blend of live action and animation, featuring our hero character, talking directly to the camera. And it had to be funny.
We were fortunate to have complete creative control over every aspect: food, scenario, design, characterization, audio selection and animation. Our principal reference was the early work of Aardman Animations, particularly their seminal series ‘Creature Comforts’, which animated claymation zoo animals to carefully chosen and edited documentary audio. Image and audio were cleverly, thematically linked which added resonance to the plight of these plasticine critters.
Early RND involved many different types of foods, from burgers to nachos, but we eventually settled on the hot dog. Because Chicago! It also fit perfectly with our chosen dialogue, a skit from talented Chicago comedian, Kate James.
The shoot was extremely fun, and sucked everyone from the Chicago office into its gravitational pull. Producers became the art department, Flame Artists oversaw props, colorists became DOP’s, animators became location scouts, and creative directors became “sausage wranglers.” Spec work and the creative freedom that comes with it is always fun, and this project gave us the opportunity to utilize one of our favorite processes: photo scanning, to generate the highly detailed CGI model and textures.
We first used 3DSMax to optimize our high res scan of the hotdog model, then we sculpted and rigged her face, hat and limbs to allow complete flexibility of expression and action. We sourced a base layer of mo-cap data to provide the drunken sway, and then hand animated and blended her specific gestures, like pointing to her Cubs hat, and of course the lip-syncing.
Coincidentally, the agency request came about the same time we were asked to host the November 2016 Cinema 4D meeting. We tweaked our production pipeline to incorporate as much C4D as possible so that it could be used as a case study on stage. The presentation was a huge success, culminating in a live-photo scanning of an audience member during the talk! And lots of drinks.
The entire project had an extremely swift turnaround, and we primarily had to find time during the evenings, around regular work, to make the agency’s deadline, but it was great fun and a perfect example of full-company collaboration.