DJ: Can you tell me about the Irish Bank Commercial. It looks to me as if you used a combination of 3D animation and cel animation.
NL: The action was painted on cels, we achieved the appearance of depth by the use of multi-plane. We have been experimenting with multi-plane to overcome the inherent problems. When Disney did multi-plane his camera was designed specifically to shoot that and nothing else. It was an enormous beast that shot vertically down in the usual way for rostrum cameras. Each level was independently lit, had it’s own pressure plate and two operators. The camera moved through all the levels and as it came to each one they would have to physically remove it to allow the camera to carry on. After Pinocchio it wasn’t used much. They decided that it wasn’t worth the amount of work involved. This was long before computers came in, everything was shot totally manually, so any camera moves were manual, not only did they have to worry about the independent cel changes on each level but they also had to worry about repeating the moves. Each level was considered in isolation, but repeating moves without a computer was a real chore. These days computer control has made multi-plane more feasible. The first time we used multi-plane all the levels were lit at the same time and we shot it in one pass but it doesn’t work very well. It is better when you shoot each level separately and use it as a matte for its own level. You keep all the lights off upper levels and just shoot the base level, then you go through the sequence and film the second level up, and so on and that works much better.
DJ: How many levels did you have on the Irish Bank Commercial?
NL: Three on top of the background, so a total of four levels. With cut-out shapes you can often see the edges. To overcome this we had a little bit of animation on it so that the actual shape is continually changing. It certainly seemed to work.
DJ: The leaves looked so good I thought perhaps you had used realistic model leaves.
NL: There is one bit where a model rotates through the foreground, but that is the only one.
DJ: On your show reel there are a lot of crayoning type styles. Is that because you have been asked to do it or is it a style you like?
NL: Both. I suppose the trend started with The Snowman although before that there were the Dulux commercials. The beauty of using pencil only is that you can use 3D movement, because basically you are redrawing every frame anyway. There is no fixed background, so you can have semi-helicopter shots where the camera gives the effect of rotating, it always looks more interesting than a straight-on view.
DJ: Is it more labour intensive to use that technique?
NL: Well, crayoning things is quite labour intensive anyway because there is no way of avoiding the fact you are drawing for every frame, or every second frame. Whether it moves a lot or a little you still have a lot of work and it does not take a great deal more work to make it do something quite interesting.