Aardman reveals the secrets of a killer trailer

Learn how Aardman director Darren Dubicki came up with a unique animation to promote Abbie Ross's book Hippy Dinners.

I decided that the Hippy Dinners trailer should be filmed through stop-motion techniques from the outset. I wanted the film to create a sense of fragmented memories and nostalgia, and filming live action in a disjointed way managed to achieve this. It also delivered a charm and energy that befits the child-centric aspects of the book.

The first stage was to create an animatic in Final Cut, which was then taken into After Effects and this became the blueprint for the film.

As shots were created, the raw image sequences were white balanced, pre-graded and bought into shot individual comps, where I played with mashed up frame rates and frame deletion. The shot comps were then dropped into the master edit, and rendered out for a final grade.

The aim was to create a sense of fragmentation with the use of pixilation and stop motion

The aim was to create a sense of fragmentation with the use of pixilation and stop motion, then treat the images with a roughed up grade to mimic the muted palettes of 1970s photography.

I've used Magic Bullet in the past for basic grades, and decided this could be useful for certain shots. I didn't want to get too precious and pristine with the art direction; no getting bogged down with pixel pestering.

"I wanted the film to create a sense of fragmented memories and nostalgia," says Dubicki

Main challenges

The main challenge was time. I had to film, produce and animate most of the trailer, within a very tight schedule. So there was some very creative scheduling, as time (and weather) affected the shoot.

Another main challenge was introducing the pixilation process. It's great fun when you have a team to cater for lighting, camera and animation - slightly more tricky when you're covering all ground.

Luckily, my daughter Alice - at eight years old - was the right age to portray the writer in the story, and she was also incredibly patient: enough to sit through the painstaking pixilation process. This helped to give the trailer its own crafted and quirky personality.

Dubicki worked with his eight year old daughter, using her as a stop motion puppet

Juggling the mix of motion controlled camera moves, animating objects and people also contorted my brain, but I'm used to lots of pre-planning and so created a form of dope sheet that allowed me to plot character action, speed and camera faring etc to a pretty precise degree. But it definitely required some focus whilst constantly motivating the young actor!

Lessons learned

Technically, it wasn't a hugely taxing project as I had to constrain what could be achieved in the time frame. That said, I really wanted to get a sense of camera movement in the trailer to enrich the animation.

So I had to learn the intricacies of motion control pretty quickly so I could program moves and rig the camera set ups. The last shot was tricky as I used a bulky moco track that needed supporting from above for the top shot. So I ended up rigging a rather large scaffold in my living room... but it worked a treat.

It's a different style of project to what I'm used to creating, but it was definitely the kind of project that helps to push me creatively with an alien and somewhat tricky brief.

Darren Dubicki was speaking to Kulsoom Middleton.

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Kuls is the operations editor of 3D World. She has over a decade’s experience in the CG industry and has written for various technology publications and websites.