Bigger companies were using Hierographics for the odd two or three scenes that they needed to get finished by the end of the day. Then companies with four productions would pass on one of them for trace and paint including the job of making up the colour models.
Hierographics was becoming paint, trace and co-ordination, with design elements. Says Steve, “After a year people knew they could rely on our experience. We could advise on the best sort of line to get a good view of it. People like Moon and Parrot would ask for our ideas. They’d say ‘We’d like it to look like that. What’s the best way you could do it?’ So we became more and more part of other peoples companies.
By April 1984 they had burst through the Wardour Mews doors and had to find another studio. They took on the basement in Wardour Street so that they were still in the West End near the studios.
Recently they started doing rock promos with a new company called Big Features. Steve is enthusiastic about this new work, “They have taken us to the limits and that has added to the experience of Hierographics tremendously. They really bring on the most exciting stuff. The thing they have never got is time so we have to produce the goods within a very short space of time.
“The rock band videos, through Big Features, is like jazz animation. You can turn out the weirdest things that you would never have the opportunity to do anywhere else. It is really good fun but you have got to be able to turn Out any style at any one moment. It could be anything from dip pen to felt pen. We use any trick possible to make something look totally different.
Pop videos have to be turned out extremely fast. You may have only three to four weeks to turn out the whole video including the live action and the animation, often less. Commercials used to take three months to do 40 seconds of animation. When we made the ‘Frankie Goes to Hollywood’ advert, Big Features did the animation in under three weeks. The artwork came to us and our part was turned out in under 7 days. We worked night and day mind you. That was 40 seconds of some very complicated animation.
A paint and trace job for Bevanfield Films, on a TV series lead to a pilot production of “Bill the Minder”, based on a Heath Robinson story. This was shown to Central who commissioned 15 episodes. Hierographics are doing the animation as well as the trace and paint. Another pilot for Telebug Enterprises led to a 26 episode series called “Telebugs”. Because of all this extra work they are now looking for a bigger studio.
Steve insists that although they are becoming more of a film company Hierographics will always be known as a service, “Within the word service, it is a company that is always developing what it has learned. It is completely styleless because it is chameleon in everything it can do. Everyone who works for Hierographics is freelance, it is done in-house but everyone is running their own business so everyone has to be concerned about what they are doing because it has got their name on it as well as mine.”
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Printed in Animator Issue 11 (Winter 1984)