Rob Ulitski - 15th July 2021

Somewhere in an enigmatic and dystopian future, an evil Queen is entertained by her very own brutal talent show, in Chris Ullen's spectacular stop-motion animated promo for Grammy-winning metal artist Poppy. 

Using slick puppetry and sci-fi inspired interiors, Ullens creates a nightmare vision which alludes to the darker side of the music industry. 

Treated like throwaway clones, each of the puppet female rock-stars are constructed on a factory production line, before being thrust on stage to please the figurehead - and then being thrown from their platforms to whatever waits beneath.

Poppy has long held the attention of industry pros and fans alike, and this visual metamorphosis is the latest in a series of exciting and explosive transformations. 

Every aspect of the creative is exemplary - from a talented team that Chris Ullens credits below, as well as revealing the relentless demands of building robots on factory conveyor in stop motion animation, doing all of the work himself. But as a result, the video's concept will linger long after the three and a half minute runtime.

CHRIS ULLENS:

There were so many parts moving, so many angles... we had to animate at 24 frames a second.

"The first word that comes to mind about the Poppy video is 'epic'! Well, all animation jobs generally are. But on this one, we did go from a two week shoot to a 4 week one, as we all really wanted to take this job as far as we could take it. It shows the level of passion and commitment to this film from the team behind it.

"Led by my amazing producer Jade Bogue, the team and I dived into it. We wanted to go somewhere bold for the design part of the video and art director Ben Austin responded to that brilliantly and with an extreme attention to detail in the building of the sets.

"We inspired ourselves from old sci-fi movies for the design. We wanted it to be simple/stripped down to make it bold. So Ben designed it all in 3D before building these huge sets and then DoP Jamie Durand created a great atmosphere, shooting the sets with a mix of studio and practical lighting that he built himself.

"We then added lots of modern touches to the sets. For example, the 3D printed robot arms for the factory that move thanks to magnets - thanks Robin 'the rigger' Jackson for the advice - or the use of LED strip lighting and programming as practical lights on our sets that Jamie built and programmed, like the LED wall behind the performing robots.

"Or the design of the LED wall that is inspired by fractal patterns which Ben thought of and had laser-cut for the shoot. And the characters made by Adeena Grubb were gorgeous - and the actual dress worn by the evil queen was chosen by Poppy herself.

"On the animation front - which I did - things went pretty mad in the factory room. Since there were so many parts moving, so many angles as well as the camera being in motion, we ended up having to animate in 'single frames', meaning animate 24 frames for every second of footage and not only 12, which we often do.

Above and below: Chris Ullens on set of the Poppy 'Her' shoot

A two week shoot quickly became a four week epic.

"And as there were four robots, six robot arms, eight doors, a conveyor belt and more to animate, I was doing 16 hour days to animate 3 to 4 seconds of that factory room in action!

"So a two week shoot quickly became a four week epic! And that would've never been possible without the amazing team at Clapham Road Studios; the happiest place to be shooting stop motion!

"And then, after I finished editing, Lewis Crossfield at Time Based Arts did a gorgeous job with the grade, keeping it completely in the realm of a retro bold sci-fi films.

"Adam Hare at String and Tins then brought a whole new dimension to the film by designing the audio landscape of the opening and outro sections, that really bring it to life and help setting the tone so well."

Credits

DirectorChris Ullens
ProducerJade Bogue
Director of PhotographyJamie Durand
Art DirectorBen Austin
EditorChris Ullens
ColouristLewis Crossfield
Grading companyTime Based Arts
Puppet DesignAdeena Grubb
Other creditsRigging Advisor — Robin ‘the Rigger’ Jackson Model Makers — Ellen Carnegie, Tom Quinton, Oliver Argles Set Construction — Emma Morris, Rich Morrell Practical Lights — Jamie Durand Animator & Editor — Chris Ullens Grade Producer — Sean Ewins Audio Post — String And Tins Sound Design & Mix — Adam Hare Shot At — Clapham Road Studios Special Thanks To — Matthew Day, Daisy Garside, James Owens

Rob Ulitski - 15th July 2021

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