When we came across a bit of Chris Ullens’ showreel on Insta, we stopped in our tracks. The titles are super cool! So, we reached out to Ullens and he filled us in on how he made it happen.
“It all started with the track,” he told us, “like it often does for me as I do so many music videos in my work. I listen to the track over and over and that sparks the idea. In this case, I used a track of my brother’s… I thought it had the right tone and energy to cut my showreel to.
“The intro of the track felt great for a title sequence,” he said of the electronic mix of repeating tones up and down the scale, “so I listened to it over and over again, a slightly maddening process. When listening to the intro I thought that the music felt like moving away from you one quick step after another in this in-depth tunnel that repeats itself and that’s what brought me to think of that technique that I saw used a few times before and always wanted to try.
“This technique I thought would be perfect to work visually hand in hand with the track and make for a strong intro for my showreel that would make a viewer engaged with it from the start.” The result is a piece that layers paper cut-out frames deeper and deeper into a tunnel, as Ullens’ name starts to appear across them and then disappear back into the frame tunnel, then new colors and versions of his name layers over the older lettering. The finished product has terrific depth, speed, and makes for an overall effect that is—well…supercool (did we already say that?!)
So how did he do it? “As usual in stop motion everything takes time and every step of the way comes with its challenges,” Ullens said. “You need to plan everything and all, but I often find it is lots of fun problem solving. I imported the track in Premiere to map the track down into frames so I could plan the amount of frames there were in that intro and to know how many steps I needed to make my ‘frame tunnel’.
“I then had to design and animate all the separate frames of the title in Illustrator and cut them all out with this machine called a Cricut that’s a sort of printer that cuts paper. I’d bought it for a previous job and always wanted to re-use it. I went for a heavyweight paper so that when cut the paper would still stand upright on its own which allowed me to only rig the paper from below and make things faster / easier for the shoot. And then I went on to build the horizontal “ladder” rig that the paper could slot into using Dragonframe’s live-view to space the paper accordingly to camera.
“Then I lit it all with the live-view and many test-shots and finally came the shoot. As I was going to hand-paint it all, I did a first animated pass of it clean (only white paper) in case I messed up the color, then a pass with the painted color and finally, I thought the reverse side of the paper looked cool to so I animated that too and that’s the version you see in the Behind the Scenes video and that features at the end of my showreel.
“Funny thing is if you look at the BTS video, I animated it on a timer to stay in sync with the timelapse. That led to a really pressured shoot as I timed the time-lapse slightly short for all I had to do replacing the paper and shoot the real title Intro but that way the BTS timelapse stays synced to the track.”
Ullens tried to dismiss that last bit as a “little geeky anecdote,” but we are all about those “geeky anecdotes” over here so, of course, we threw it in.
To see the piece you can go to www.chrisullens.com where you can view the whole reel and the reverse angle that he mirrored at the end. To learn more about the production, check out the behind-the-scenes vid below: