CG-heavy spot for The Times and Sunday Times was directed by Framestore Pictures' BAFTA-winning director William Bartlett
Ever thought that the goings-on in the House of Commons sometimes resembles that of a noisy zoo? You're not alone. News UK's agency, Pulse Creative, approached Framestore Pictures' BAFTA-winning director William Bartlett to create a TV ad for The Times and The Sunday Times that plays on this very idea.
Drawing on his extensive experience in VFX supervision and technical know-how when it comes to pre-production problem solving (as well as Framestore’s impressive portfolio of CG animals) Bartlett was perfectly placed to work closely with Pulse Creative's executive creative director Robin Garton to develop the treatment for and direct the 40-second film that sees the House of Commons populated not by politicians but by a host of wild animals.
“To have the opportunity to direct a piece for such an iconic brand as The Times is a huge honour,” says Bartlett. “Working collaboratively with Pulse Creative to craft and develop their idea and overcome a host of VFX challenges made this just about my dream job. At the forefront of my mind during the creative process were the questions of ‘What animals can we shoot?” and “what CG animals could we bring into play?’,” he continues.
“We built a previz to shape the script and during that process we experimented with new ideas such as having rats scurrying off, sheep filing into rank and hyenas laughing on the back benches. It was a fluid way of developing the script while also crafting an edit that is fun to watch and that culminates in the arrival of the lion and white unicorn from The Times and The Sunday Times’ iconic masthead.”
To better understand the inner workings of the Commons Chamber, Bartlett went on a tour of the Houses of Parliament in the early stages of pre-production. With the commercial’s edit meticulously mapped out and previsualised, Bartlett tasked Framestore to build the wood-panelled Commons Chamber, complete with speaker’s chair, in 3D using photographic reference material from a number of sources. Building the Commons Chamber entirely in 3D allowed for complete freedom of camera moves and easy reframing of background plates.
Most of the main character animals were filmed by Bartlett and his team using a two camera set up (front on and 45 degrees) with symmetrical lighting. This ingenious arrangement meant that pretty much any moment of performance from the animals could be used in any shot generating huge efficiencies on the shoot while also leaving plenty of options in the edit. The film also features a supporting cast of CG characters created by the Framestore team – all carefully crafted to ensure visual consistency across all featured creatures before being composited along with the live action animals into the various shots.
Framestore’s Design team animated The Times and The Sunday Times’ masthead with its illustrated lion and unicorn – a crucial graphic device at the end of the film that reinforces the creative idea that The Times and The Sunday Times gets to the heart of Parliamentary debate, bringing order to what can often seem like chaos.
Robin Garton, executive creative director, Pulse Creative says: “In WWII, Will would have been in Bletchley Park cracking the enigma code – he has that rare combination of a creative and a mathematical mind. So on top of his unrivalled technical ability is a conceptual intuition that was invaluable in making this film. Along with that, he is dedicated, collaborative, calm, confident, passionate but not pushy – and a load of other qualities that make him a pleasure to work with. I am properly happy with the end result on this but, I guess, a little sad that we’ve come to the end of it.”