The Best Work You May Never See: Framestore, Director William Bartlett Talk To The Animals For UK's The Times, Pulse Creative

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Robert Goldrich
Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019

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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 the idea that the UK’s House of Commons bears a strong resemblance to a noisy zoo.

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 ECD 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 honor,” said 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?’”

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 previsualized, 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.

Credits

Client News UK/The Times, The Sunday Times Agency Pulse Creative Robin Garton, executive creative director; Betsy Kelly, producer. Production Framestore Pictures William Bartlett, director; Polly DuPlessis, producer; Nick Ellis, art director; Thom Hole, DP. VFX/Animation Framestore London Helen Hughes, exec producer; Josh King, sr. VFX producer; Suzanne Jandu, head of 2D; Christian Baker, lead comp; David Watson, lead CG; Adam Smith, lead modeler and head of modeling. (Toolbox: Nuke, Maya, Substance, Houdini, Arnold Render Engine)

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