When director Chris Ullens was courted by musical artist Poppy’s team to make a stop motion video for her latest single, “Her”, he listened to it well over a hundred times as an idea took shape. “After hundreds of listens of the track, some lyrics stuck with me: ‘Give her a face, give her a name, that isn’t hers, then make her yours… then pick her up, throw her on the floor,’ and then later in the song, ‘I’m getting to know her and all of her anger. Picked herself up, put her back together,’ and later ‘the girl that you knew will never be yours.’ All this and the rebellious tone of the song created in my mind the image of a mean system or being that you’d want to fight and rebel against,” he told us.

“In this case that was combined with my love for manga and old sci-fi to create this tale of this enigmatic and dystopian future where a queen gets entertained by her very own brutal talent show where beautiful robots find the will to fight the system.” This seems apropos for the entertainer, named Moriah Rose Pereira, known professionally as Poppy and formerly That Poppy, who has at times described herself as, “…an alien, an object, a computer, your pet.”

Once Ullen’s producer, Jade Bogue and he had taken this concept to Ben Austin, his art director, and through long meetings and chats, they agreed on where they were going and then Austin designed it all in 3D first. From there Austin and his team translated it all into the sets. “They were then gorgeously lit and shot by Jamie Durand, our DOP, who went the extra mile and even made and programmed some of the lights we used on set himself, like the giant LED wall behind the performing robots,” Ullens said.

“And then we worked closely with Adeena Grubb to design the characters. The robots were inspired by characters from a manga called Blame I’ve always loved and for the Queen, Poppy herself that sent us the inspiration for her and a concept artist, Alfie Setchel Wise designed her. Adeena then made them as real animatable puppets with great craft and talent. Once shot, we handed the footage over to Lewis Crossfield (Time Based Arts) who added the refined grade inspired by old sci-fi movies to bring the film even closer to the genre and the audio post production from Adam Hare at String and Tins really elevated the music video even more towards a short film status by adding all the sound design pre and post-music video.”

When we asked if there were any challenges along the way, Ullens told us, “The main set was challenging as it ended up being so much bigger than we ever expected and ended up literally going from one end to the studio to the other… It was 10 meters long! So that meant a lot of running around that room for the long animated shots I was animating alone.

“And in the robot factory set, as the camera was moving and there were so many lines and angles on our set, when we were animating at 12 fps, everything looked jittery and bad, so we had to shoot at 24 frames per second, but on a set where you have 4 robots, 6 robot arms, all the different robot parts and so on that all need animating…. these were incredibly long days of animating that only produced 3-4 seconds of animation a day.”

But all in all it sounds like things went well and the group worked quite well together: “It was a real pleasure to work with the team, they really all worked so hard and smashed it and made this whole long and laborious process very enjoyable. Same goes for the wonderful people at Clapham Road Studios! Matt, Daisy and James definitely helped making all this possible.”

For more on the production, check out these behind the scenes videos:

Poppy 'HER' – Behind the Scenes 01 from Chris Ullens on Vimeo.

Poppy 'HER' – Behind the Scenes 02 from Chris Ullens on Vimeo.

Writer & Director — Chris Ullens

Producer — Jade Bogue

Director of Photography — Jamie Durand

Art Director — Ben Austin

Puppet maker — Adeena Grubb
Rigging Advisor — Robin ‘the Rigger’ Jackson
Model makers — Ellen Carnegie, Tom Quinton, Oliver Argles
Set construction — Emma Morris, Rich Morrell
Practical Lights — Jamie Durand

Animator & Editor — Chris Ullens

Grading — Time Based Arts
Grade by — Lewis Crossfield
Grade Producer — Sean Ewins

Audio Post — String and Tins
Sound Design & Mix — Adam Hare

Shot at — Clapham Road Studios
Special Thanks to — Matthew Day, Daisy Garside, James Owens