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Making Commercials: Stardust – Psychedelic Tech

Stardust designs and creates a psychedelic extravaganza to launch the latest Samsung Galaxy Note and Samsung Gear.

By Michael Fickes

Stardust shot the band Palaye Royale in stop motion against a green screen and then composited the band members into a number of animated scenes.

If you have seen “Samsung Galaxy, London Collage,” the commercial that launched the latest Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone and Samsung Gear smartwatch, you might think the spot is composed of an animated band woven together with a psychedelic extravaganza of animated images literally flying through the frames.

The way the band members move through the spot seems just a little bit off of realistic. In fact, the band images come from a live stop-action, green-screen shoot. The band is Palaye Royale, and it performs one of their pieces entitled “Get Higher.” The stop action technique gives the band an animated, paper cutout look that makes you wonder — and watch.

The band also supplies the advertising part by carrying and using Galaxy Notes and wearing and using Gears.

The spot was produced by Stardust, a design, animation and production firm with offices in Los Angeles and New York. The assignment came through Samsung’s advertising agency Cheil Worldwide Seoul, in South Korea. “Cheil liked a spot that we created for J-Power, Tokyo’s electric power development company,” says Dexton Deboree, managing director and co-owner of Stardust.

Called “Nature,” the J-Power spot features animals, plant life and scenes from nature — hundreds if not thousands of images flying, racing, swimming and flowing toward and past the camera in a kaleidoscopic explosion of color.

“The agency asked for something like the J-Power spot,” continues Deboree. It would run on motion billboards in London’s Piccadilly Square. The agency wanted the images to feature historical and current youth culture in Britain.”

Since motion billboards were the primary media, images would have to carry the sales message. The audio track is only music. No voice over explains things.

Preproduction And Image Animation

Stardust began by collecting images of British popular culture icons from the 1960s through today. They considered newspaper headlines, top 40 musicians, fashion, TV and film images, and other cultural icons. “We pulled a lot of imagery and crafted a story about 50 years of cultural history,” Deboree says. “We decided not to present the images chronologically. Instead, we showed a 60s image followed by a current image influenced by the 60s image. So the story flashes forward and backward.”

The Stardust team laid the images out in timelines to reveal what influenced what. “Instead of asking animators to build images, we fleshed out the flat graphic images in Photoshop, and sent those materials to the animators,” Deboree says. “The animators built around the images and made everything move.”

Shooting The Band

Seth Epstein, Stardust’s co-owner, director and creative director, directed the live shoot of the band performing “Get Higher.” Director of Photography Chris Walters used a Panasonic GH3 to get the stop-motion footage. The GH3 can shoot up to 60 still frames per second, and Walters shot literally thousands of stills of the band against green screen over the course of the song.

To create a scene for the commercial, Stardust selected several hundred stills from a particular sequence, digitized them and ran them in sequence. “We wanted the scenes to feel like a full graphic world; to create that feeling, we married the animated assets with the stills,” Deboree says. “We composited the rapid-fire series of thousands of stills. It wasn’t real complex. In fact, it was easy. We wanted the band to have the look of a paper cutout. So we composited the stills in and didn’t perfect or clean up. That gave us the look we wanted.”

Even without cleaning up, it looks like a lot of work. “It wasn’t as complex as it could have been,” says Deboree. “That’s because we shot the band. Originally, we were thinking about using stock photos. Rotoscoping and animating stock photos would have been difficult. Going with the live shoot of the band made it much simpler.”

July 22, 2014