Our latest pick, by A+C Studios , is an ad for the travel site Travago entitled, “To The Mountains.” Apparently though, the piece didn’t start out as stop motion. “When we were contacted by Trivago with the brief for ‘To the Mountains,’ originally the commercial was written as a live action film but we knew the concept was perfect for stop motion, having universal appeal and (for) telling this heart-warming story,” A+C told us.

“The film took ten weeks to produce and a crew of over twenty artists worked on the production at our studio in Margate,” A+C said. “The characters, sets and props were crafted by hand before being captured frame-by frame using Dragonframe. Our studio welcomed a fleet of model-makers, painters, sculptors and fabricators, many of whom have a number of feature film and commercial credits.

“We were very lucky to have a number of model-makers and fabricators that were fresh off the back of Wes Anderson’s most recent film Isle of Dogs. Together they hand-crafted each set, prop and puppet including unique details from eyelids to mid-century Scandinavian style chairs. The eyebrows and mouths of the characters were animated on camera and the eye pupils were animated in post production using Dragonframe.”

When we asked about any challenges on set the studio told us, “Keeping the flow of the animated performances between the different hotel rooms was a challenge on this production, as technically, in terms of animation at least it was one long shot. The characters had to react to changes in their environment, but keep their overall positions relative to previous sets to maintain a visual continuity.

“Another challenge we encountered was adding the pupils to the eyes in post production. This resulted in our lead animator imagining ahead of time where the eyes were to be positioned and animating the characters with this in mind. In some cases the characters were to be looking at a graphical overlay which would be added in post-production, so it was a case of a character with no pupils ‘looking’ at a graphic which wasn’t there!”

We were pleased to hear that the software, at least, was a challenge-buster for the team. “Dragonframe was essential for us to complete this project because of the diversity of its features and its intuitive user interface. Specifically for our needs we relied a lot on the ‘line-up layer’ feature. In our film, the boy character remains unmoving between each shot while the hotel room setting transitions around him.

“Another excellent feature we made use of in Dragonframe was the ability to automatically capture multiple exposures, each with different camera settings. Using the DMC-16 enabled us to configure a unique lighting setup for each exposure and create a ‘silhouette matte’ for certain shots by having the software automatically turn on and off a backlight. This aspect of automation was vital to creating an efficient workflow, and eliminated the complexity of having to manually switch lighting setups between frames.”

For more, on the A+C process, see this behind the scenes video:

Creative Director: Britt Dunce
Producer: María Hernández
Director – Dan Richards
Animation Producer – Russell Jamieson
Lighting Director – Mick Bennell
Character Designer– Jonathan Pearmain
Marketing & Communication- Jessica Beavis
Production Assistant – Amaia Gonzalez, Phil Hodges
Animator – James Harvey
Animation Assistant – Bella Gavrilidis, Alec Sugden
Armatures: Julian Clark
Puppet Fabricator – Maggie Hadden
Sculpter – Robert Hazeldine
Model Maker – Andy Stead, Richard Blakey, Hetty Bax, Jan Julian Rospond
Painters – Fiona Stewart, Amy Akerman
Set Carpenter – Martin Richards
Editor- Stuart Clark
Sound Designer – Henry Buckle
Additional Music – Nick Maynard