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Picturesmith Launches its Latest Papery Snowscape 'Tundra'



The team at Picturesmith explain the process on producing its latest studio project

Picturesmith Launches its Latest Papery Snowscape 'Tundra'

The team at Papersmith explain the process of crafting its latest project 'Tundra'.

Our recent studio project, Tundra, is the first of a mini-series we’re producing. In addition to looking to push our visual storytelling techniques, this series has a focus on the environment. Specifically, those species affected by climate change and ecosystem destruction. Topics that we are all passionate about at Picturesmith.

The Arctic fox was chosen as a follow up to our Merry Foxmas zoetrope, albeit with a snowy makeover. The action, inspired by David Attenborough’s documentary series 'Life Story', shows Arctic foxes launching themselves into the air and pouncing on their prey – lemmings. They’re not always successful but always delightful to watch.

Replacement animation

This series builds on the paper-cut stop motion animation that we’ve used previously. The method uses a technique called replacement animation, where new models get used on every frame.

This technique often gets used in stop motion, replacing a character’s mouth to make the different shapes when talking. Our animals are flat, and their form changes entirely, meaning we have to replace them on every frame.

Our characters are animated using 2D animation software (Adobe After Effects). Once the 2D animation is final, we take each frame and cut out the separate elements to create the replacements. With 150 characters, there is a lot to organise. Thankfully our art director and 2D animator on this project, Jo – is super organised and well practised after our latest Picturehouse ident which had thousands of paper assets.

Paper set

The set itself was also made using paper to compliment the character design. In reality, the process is more complicated than it sounds, as large sheets of paper tend to shrink and expand with temperature changes. To counter this, we made sure it was firmly secured to our stage and left to settle over the weekend.

Controlled lighting

As with all our stop motion shoots, we use Dragonframe. One of the great things about Dragonframe is how you can programme the camera, motion control and lights from the one application. Our London studio is fully equipped including Arri SkyPanels, which play nicely with Dragonframe meaning we can control brightness and colour temperature from our iMac! For Tundra, this was all expertly handled by our DOP Peter Ellmore.

Environmental message

Sadly, the Arctic Fox is on the endangered species list, one of the reasons why she is picked for the mini-series. the mini-series itself will feature other endangered animals as we want to raise awareness for these beautiful creatures whose numbers are in decline.


Tundra was recently featured on the Dragonframe Blog, which is always an honour as there are such brilliant studios and films featured.


Music / Sound
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Genres: Animation

Categories: Short Films and Music Videos, Short films

Picturesmith, Wed, 19 Aug 2020 16:13:04 GMT