Vitamin, the Chicago collective of directors, designers, animators and visual effects artists, recently created four national television spots for Wal-Mart and E. Morris Communications promoting the retailer’s Voices of Color Film Series. The unique spots, co-directed by Vitamin’s Vince Haycock and Ryan Dunn, feature silhouetted talent in whimsical, 3-dimentional graphical environments and reflect the diversity of the African American experience as captured by the lenses of black filmmakers.
Storyteller, the first spot in the series, traces the history of blacks in America through a series of brief vignettes beginning with musicians in a stylized African setting, continuing through a Blue Note-era jazz club and ending with a ’70s street scene that resolves into a movie back-lot. The human characters appear as black silhouettes while their environments are rendered in 3D graphics. The entire commercial is presented as a single, seamless piece with the camera following an animated ribbon as it flows gracefully from one environment to the next.
The other spots in the series employ similar concepts with some elements, including the ribbon and a silhouetted director being common elements to all. Each individual spot has a different theme and includes executional variations that give each one an individual character.
“In the second spot, the ribbon plays a more active role-it ‘builds’ the scenes and motivates the actions of the people,” explained Dunn. “That gives the spot a fresh point of view.” That spot, titled Power of Voice, recently won a Silver ADDY at the District 6 ADDY Awards.
Vitamin shepherded the project from concept development through final post. Dunn and Haycock directed the live action and supervised the animation, motion graphics design, visual effects and compositing work completed at Vitamin’s Chicago studio.
“The timing was critical in these spots, especially Storyteller because it is a seamless piece of action,” said Dunn. “In the other spots, we used talent, the ribbon and environmental elements to create wipes and that gave us more flexibility.”
The talent was shot in high def video on a special effects stage and turned into silhouettes in post. The graphic environments were built in 3D using Maya software, which was also used for animation and to create camera movement. Other design elements were prepared in Adobe AfterEffects. Some spots feature cel animated elements prepared by Vitamin’s staff.
For Dunn, one of the most satisfying aspects of the project was how the studio’s methodology evolved over the course of producing the four spots. “We became more efficient as each spot came together-the fourth spot is best of the group,” he observed. “I spent most of my time on the detail work, the intangibles. Detailing the spot, getting the color right, getting the animation right, the secondary motions-those are the things that separate the spot from the ordinary.”
Credits for Vitamin go to Ryan Dunn & Vince Haycock director/designer; Kathy Hurley, executive producer; Matt Wilson, VFX; Elliot Lim, designer/animator; Elliot Lim and Zortz, flower artisans.
Vitamin is located at 216 W. Ohio Street, 5th floor, Chicago, IL 60610. For more information, call (312) 664-6683 or visit www.vitaminpictures.tv.
Title: Power of Voice, Storyteller
Agency: E. Morris Communications. Phil Salter, exec. creative director; Kay Humphries, creative director; Emory Brown, copywriter; Rick Edwards, art director; Barb Stieglitz, agency producer.
Design / Motion Graphics / Editorial Production Co: Vitamin, Chicago, Il. Ryan Dunn, director / creative director; Kathy Hurley, exec. producer; Matt Wilson, visual effects supervisor; Elliot Lim, designer.
Music Company: Gamebeats Studios LLC. Darryl Duncan, composer.
Post Facility: The Filmworkers Club, Chicago, Il. Pete Jannotta, colorist; Jeff Charatz, on-line.