Houses in Motion was called upon by Nick Jr. to produce a playful broadcast package that brightens its young viewers’ winter with a ‘Warm & Fuzzy’ feeling. The integrated series of promos, IDs, and bumpers features stylized versions of established characters from the network’s popular children’s programming and introduces a new crew of adorable critters. Houses bringing their message to life through stop motion animation that echoes the characters’ organic, handcrafted qualities.
The Brooklyn-based design and animation creative studio helmed the production, turning around over 20 stop motion vignettes and dozens of animated graphic elements in less than five weeks. A meticulous pipeline enabled the company to take the package seamlessly from conceptual development, storyboarding, shooting stop motion animation, motion graphics, and visual effects, meeting the tight deadline and delivering a final product that engages and entertains its young audience.
Nick Jr. came to us with a super fun concept that had a lot of moving parts and entrusted us with bringing their ideas together,” – John Earle
“Nick Jr. came to us with a super fun concept that had a lot of moving parts and entrusted us with bringing their ideas together,” says John Earle, co-founder of Houses, and producer and director of the package. “We took the reigns of the project and jumped right in, evaluating the creative and setting up our animation, and postproduction teams – while putting in place the kind of efficient workflow and procedures that a package of this magnitude demands. Over a very short pre-production schedule, Houses came up with an approach that would allow the qualities of the 4” tall stars of the production to shine through.”
After creating the boards, Earle prepped his shooting and postproduction teams, while keeping in constant communication with Nick Jr.’s fabricator, Julia Rosner in LA. Her artists made tweaks along the way to bring everything into the scope of Houses’ production process and customized the characters and set pieces to Earle’s specs just in time for the first day of shooting.
“Our longtime collaborator, Chris Webb was our first choice for DP”, says Earle. “Christopher Webb Films is designed to accommodate a stop motion production of this scale. We know we can always rely on him to elevate a project with his technical dexterity and creative problem solving.” Webb proposed a magnetic tie-down rig for the puppets, which worked flawlessly and saved precious time. It allowed the team to reuse the same sets without having to change out damaged surfaces after every scene – and enabled quick reconfiguration of the environment for the next set up, keeping the production running at a good pace.
During the shoot Houses in Motion’s art department was at the ready, prepping characters and set pieces. Occasionally, while dressing a new scene, they found that additional elements were needed. Earle would bang out a quick sketch, and a few moments later, they’d have it on set. As soon as the first day of shooting wrapped, the raw frames were brought back to Houses’ studio, and the postproduction process began.
Files were processed in Adobe Lightroom, allowing for initial color correction, and conforming the images into high res sequences that fed smoothly into its Adobe After Effects compositing software Houses’ compositors jumped right into rig removal and cleanup and kept pace with the shoot. Once the cleanup was completed Houses in Motion focused on adding additional elements and animation, like falling snow, lighting effects, and snowballs for one of the characters to juggle. The visual effects were kept subtle to ensure that they wouldn’t overpower the handmade feel of the stop motion, so there was a lot of dialing back to maintain that understated look. A little twinkle emanating from the tree lights went a long way, and just a touch of falling snow was all it took to keep most of the scenes playful and alive.