Working on this TVC was a turning point for me at the age of 19. My understanding of advertising had it's first 'on the job' lesson. I learned what we were setting out to achieve in terms of being clear, precise and accurate in our depictions of products. It was from this point onwards that I knew that there would be times where we would be flexible in terms of reality.
Later on in my career I would learn that this deviation from accuracy would be deemed by some as 'Artistic License'.
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This was a stand out TVC at the time which was probably around 1988. Created at Omnicon Sydney.
The flat people were stop motion figures created using a series of photographs of the talent and animated against chroma key. I recall being told that the figurines were around 30cm tall. My role was to do clean up rotoscoping work on the resulting chroma key. Now this might not be such a big deal with the technology of today, but back then it was some task.
The limitations to consider were that there was no such thing as hard drive storage for video files. And when rotoscoping, there was no such luxuries as an interpolating bezier spline. Everything was done with a paint brush in the software.
The technical pathway for this task was thus..live on a Rank Cintel MK3 telecine, the 35mm film sat in the gate and not just any gate, the best tech of the time, the Steady Gate, a system for pin registration and locking to remove as best as possible, the weaving movement of film. While this film was scanned by the latest 'flying spot scanner' the video output passed to the hardware Ultimate4 which did a live chroma key, and we took the matte output, a black and white image, and that result was captured by the 2D machine of the time, the Quantapaint.
The Quantapaint was an 8bit 2D paint device with software created by 'Island Graphics' which was creating similar software for the Commodore Amiga at the time. When I say 8bit, I don't mean 'per channel' it was a total of 8bits and so it could only capture in black and white with 256 levels of greyscale.
Not only that, the image was scaled by an unknown amount horizontally, and shifted a bit to the left. This issue would be sorted out later in the edit suite using the Ampex ADO to register the matte pass to the original material.
Once each frame was in the Quantapaint, the task was to clean up the holes in the white, usually the result of reflections off the photographic paper on the figures, and the unwanted noise that showed as unclean white sections across the frame, a result of the shadows from the rigging etc.
Once the frame was painted, the result was then recorded using the SONY BVH-2500 1inch videotape machine. It had the unique feature of being able to make single frame recordings without the tape having to go through a pre-roll phase, so it sat quite still and once we pressed the button, it would go 'beep' and we had another frame on tape. This machine had a great name, what was known as the 'Delta Time VTR' meaning the usual rewinding backwards to then play forwards and get locked up before going into record wasn't required, it just dropped in a frame.
And so the process repeated. Frame after frame after frame.
I think we had the telecine suite tied up with this process for a couple of days straight. The engineer working at Amnion at the time, Alan Phillips (nicknamed 'Tiger' by Michael Eder) and myself were there overnight and in the wee small hours it got really difficult to tell if we had finished painting a frame, had recorded it and we had to devise a system utilising the latest pen and paper notebook technology to create a system for making a note of the film edge number that then would have a corresponding timecode on the SONY machine.
All this to create a clean matte pass for the online suite.