There seems to be a movement towards shooting more and more things with practical elements throughout the film and video industry in recent years, which has sparked a mini-boom in handcrafted commercials made with traditional techniques like stop motion animation and, yes, puppetry. One of the most fun examples of this trend is a campaign of short finger puppet commercials made last year for SportsNite on SNY, a regional cable network based in New York City.
The clever looking campaign is incredibly well designed, which is no surprise since it was produced by Buck, one of the leading commercial animation studios in the world right now. Although Buck is primarily known for its animation work, they seem eager to switch things up and dabble in puppetry when the right project comes along.
Buck NY Creative Director Daniel Oeffinger spoke to Motiongrapher last year about how liberating it can be to work in a real-time medium like puppetry:
There’s a charm about puppets that makes almost anyone smile. They’re so goofy, but as soon as you put one on, they come to life. In some ways this process is the opposite to a rigorously controlled cg spot. We did have a large amount of pre-production getting ready for these shoots, as well as a detailed shooting script, but we also knew a lot of the magic would come from letting our puppeteer friends do what they do best. We shot a lot of ad-lib, much of which made it into the finals. Kind of liberating, compared to a screen full of keyframes.
Those “puppeteer friends” that Daniels mentions are the dynamic duo of Jean Marie Keevins and James Godwin, who performed most of the fingers puppets fabricated for the campaign by a team led by Junko Shimizu.
Have a look at how they did it:
You can see more spots and behind the scenes photos on the Buck web site and don’t miss these fantastic galleries of set designs and character designs on Flickr.