London animation studio Hu_Sh have been producing distinctive commercials for the Scottish whisky producer Ardbeg for some time now and while to date I've been providing storyboarding duties on several previous spots, 2023 began with some involvement on a new campaign that included storyboarding but also provided me with the opportunity to actually ANIMATE on a spot that is designed to be part of a kind of "extended universe" concept where the brand is moving into areas such as graphic novels based on ideas that have been introduced over time.
Apparently the client is a big comic and graphic novel fan and the plots involve multiverses and mysterious goings-on in order to highlight the unique qualities and mysterious origins of Ardbeg whisky.
This new spot was designed around the idea of a graphic novel page to tie in with the brands' publication of a limited run series graphic novel and it's back-story.
My initial job was to block out the action in storyboard form based on a provided script without too much concern for the design of the single page that would contain a combination of treated photographs of the Ardbeg distillery and 2D drawn animation from provided concept designs and which would be the responsibility of Callum Reid, who would also be assembling the final commercial in After Effects.
Working closely with Callum to make sure that I understood how he would require all the elements to fit together, I approached the storyboard as I would any visual narrative, choosing camera angles and also bearing in mind the practicalities of taking actual photographs on-site, in as much as making sure that certain angles would be achievable.
Having an awareness of lens types and a sense of the topography of the distillery from provided reference were brought to bear on the design of individual storyboard panels and it was interesting to see eventually how closely the background photos matched the drawings.
Alongside the storyboard I was also responsible for concept designs of the animation that was to feature in the spot - a "vapour monster" and streams of vapour that were required to snake through various panels.
A combination of the turnaround, budget and style of the spot meant that the animation wasn't required to be "full animation" and ultimately was a nice way to get back into drawn animation after a long break, besides which I would also be responsible for art-working the cleaned up drawings in a reasonable amount of time - the economic, design-led style in this case was an advantage.
I used the Procreate app on an iPad Pro for storyboarding and the "Callipeg" app also on the iPad Pro for animation, exporting PNG sequences + alpha of the cleaned up and artworked animation for Callum to composite into the final commercial.
With 2-3 week turnaround this was a fun job to work on and it was completed without over-runs or significant delays.
A last minute change to the script resulted in the spot's only piece of character animation being dropped and it's inclusion was a reference related to a central character of the graphic novels and wouldn't have made sense otherwise without some degree of familiarity to the graphic novel version, so it's understandable.
However, even though it was "Anime" style animation of hair blowing in the wind and secondary animation of the character's collar and a wink, it was fun to do and the style meant I was able to take it from line animation through to being fully art-worked, with some post-grading of the colour palette by Callum Reid in the final edit.
Hu_Sh Ltd, London