There is a deal of preparation before the animation can start. “On this particular job the model makers upstairs are contributing a great deal by making special inbetweens. The chaps head changes into a lion’s head so they have made me ten heads for changing. It is probably a bit more Vintoney to make all the inbetweens. In the past I would probably have taken one head and just modelled it under camera, which is an equally valid way of going about it,” says Peter. “In this sequence the transformation is so quick that I can just stick on one head after the other. I will probably have to make some adjustments. I’ll be using the TV screen, that will become important as well. On the screen I’ll draw where his nose is and where his eyes are, so I can make sure they follow smooth lines through space.” The picture on the TV screen comes from a video-assist camera viewing through the lens of the 35mm film camera. “Again, I don’t think that is the proper way to animate but for certain jobs like this it is a very useful tool. If you want a sequence like that to be as smooth as possible this is the safest way to do it,” he adds.
When Peter is working on a commercial he is much more inclined to use state of the art equipment to monitor the progress of the animation than when he is on an entertainment production. “On Going Equipped a lot of the time I didn’t use video-assist at all. I just did it the old fashioned way, by head as it were. It doesn’t matter if you make a slight mistake, you are your own director and you decide if you can live with it. With an advert you have to please your masters, so you haven’t got as much freedom of movement.”
There are big budgets involved in the production of commercials so it is understandable when an agency demands top quality. However, Peter believes they are a little more tolerant now than they would have been, say five years ago. “There is room in adverts for more than just immaculate slickness. People would much rather see flair than slickness, which is how it should be,” suggests Peter.
The studio had quite a bit of creative input on the cream egg commercial. “The agency has given me a song to work to, so the skeleton is clearly there. The structure of the film is very obvious. I do the storyboard, so I get to affect that structure, which is nice. We have quite a lot of freedom: to design the characters, to do the storyboard, to do the timing, to do the animation, but obviously the basic script, the basic concept is clearly laid down from the start and we work to that,” declares Peter.
The art director on the cream egg commercial was Richard Goleszowski. I asked him how he set about designing the models. “You do loads of sketches and send them to the agency through a Fax machine. The agency may say we need this one 10% more realistic, or 10% more cartoonic so there is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing. The model you want to make isn’t necessarily the model the agency wants so it is always a slight compromise. The agency supply a rough drawing of what they want. Each character is a sign of the zodiac. For example: with Leo, the character transforms into a lion and bites the egg.”
The commercial is animated to an old Floater’s song ‘Float On’. They were making two commercials with four characters in each. I wondered why they were only doing eight of the twelve. “They chickened out of the Virgo one, because he came on and said I am Virgo and this is my first one,” jokes Richard.
The film Ident in the Lip Synch series was directed and animated by Richard. One particularly memorable sequence took place in a pub with the characters turning into dustbins and drinking pint after pint of beer whilst delivering some humorous dialogue. Some of the other scenes were played in mime and I asked about the underlying theme. “I was scared you were going to ask me that,” responds Richard. “It started off as a logical story about a day in the life of the character. He has a confrontation with his pet and then his wife. He wears a relevant mask for each situation, whether it is with his wife, his friends at the pub, his boss and then in the end he is confronted with everybody and can’t cope. He tries to put on a mask and entertain everybody but it doesn’t work.