When it comes to creating the beauty shot in online advertising, bigger isn’t always better. With the launch of its sleek new robotic arm-and-camera module, named Donatello, Artisan Tech and New York-based U Direct Productions, in a partnership with Eagle Rock Studios in Atlanta, plan to revolutionise the tabletop photography industry by dramatically scaling down the equipment—and budget—required to produce superior results for e-commerce shoots.
“A successful online advertising product shoot can cost tens of thousands of dollars per shot for a typical high-end U.S. production,” says Daniel Miller, who, along with advertising veteran Jon Bond, is managing director of the Donatello project. “The Donatello Arm can shoot up to 30 products per day for as little as $10,000 per day, using a template of lighting and design without compromising production value.”
Adds Jon, “Art and technology have collaborated to produce Donatello, which is not the arm of a robot, but rather the appendage of an artist. This artist happens to be faster, more economical and can bring quality cinematography within reach of any production budget.”
Eagle Rock Studios features the largest contiguous stage for film production in the U.S. and provides a base of operations for the shoots. Daniel’s in-house team includes world-renowned director Avi Karpick, whose eye-provoking “food action” photography has been featured in campaigns for Coca-Cola, Heineken, Lipton, McDonald’s, KFC and Domino’s Pizza. Serving as lead creative on the shoots, Avi has developed a manual for Donatello with which he trains technicians to follow a template of lighting and camera moves, while the Donatello team hires the technical support staff and provides all the necessary lighting, backdrops and tabletop equipment, keeping costs to a minimum.
“Agencies are always looking for options to lower production costs without sacrificing the quality of the creative. We fill that gap,” says Daniel. “We are capable of producing continuous 360-degree live-action photography at a fraction of the industry cost.”
Avi created Donatello by customising a robotic arm that he found during a visit to a photography store in Prague, upgrading the arm and outfitting it with a camera in way that provides maximum focus and flexibility. Measuring four-and-a-half feet tall and six feet long, Donatello is a fraction of the size and weight of conventional equipment used in tabletop photography. The robot mechanism can move forward three feet and holds the camera three-and-half feet over the track when fully elevated. It can be placed into a cargo van and shipped (along with some 200 speciality items) anywhere in the U.S.
Introduced into the U.S. market last month, Donatello was recently used in campaigns for KFC and Nutella in Moscow. Its U.S. launch comes at a time when consumer products marketers are looking to increase the production value of online advertising and heighten the viewing experience of their products. “We are on the edge of a revolution in stop-motion photography,” says Karpick. “Marketers are starting to move away from the three-angle still picture and looking to do more video. With Donatello, we can achieve sophisticated panoramic moves, such as flipping a shoe or phone on a three-dimensional axis. Viewers can roll over the image and navigate through the shot to see the finest details and experience a product almost as if they were holding it in their hands.”
Artisan Tech is working directly with consumer products marketers, as well as with agency creative directors and producers, to implement Donatello on e-commerce shoots. While its core business development is likely to be in mass production, the company also caters to some ad agencies for higher-end work and is considering licensing the technology to large e-commerce platforms such as Zappos and Jet.com.