Nokia Cell Phones Grab the Big Picture in Follow-up to Tiny "Dot"
By Bryant Frazer / Aug 3, 2011
Animation studio Aardman has been on a roll lately. A film it made in collaboration with London’s Tate Museums to teach children about filmmaking by animating their drawings, “The Itch of the Golden Nit,” debuted on BBC2 last month and is screening in cinemas and at galleries across the U.K. A trailer for Aardman’s forthcoming (March 2012) feature, The Pirates! Band of Misfits was just released. And now the company, which set a Guinness World Record last year for the smallest stop-motion animation character with “Dot,” has followed up that achievement by securing another Guinness record, for the world’s largest stop-motion animation set, with its new film for Nokia and agency Wieden + Kennedy London, “Gulp.”
Directed by Sumo Science, aka Will Studd and Ed Patterson, the film follows the adventure of a little fishing boat that encounters a sea monster. Water, birds, clouds, and fish were created as animation drawn in the sand of a South Wales beach in a frame 140 feet wide by 78 feet high. The film was shot by director of photography Toby Howell entirely on three Nokia N8 cell phones with Zeiss optics and 12-megapixel capabilities, positioned 118 feet overhead. (Why three phones? It’s not explained, but presumably for more flexibility in terms of which frames were chosen for the final assembly. Redundancy is generally a good idea when you’re working with consumer-grade equipment.) The same phones were used for “Dot” last year.
Video signals were sent out from the phones and into a signal booster box, which then routed the signal over a 90-meter video cable for monitoring by the camera assistant, who triggered each camera using Apple wireless keyboards paired with the phones via Bluetooth. High-quality JPEGs were downloaded via a USB cable connected to a USB extender that sent the image out via Ethernet to the truck for review. Confused? Watch Howell’s video here (but beware of the wind noise that obscures his explanation of the camera rig).
The animation was created by a team of sand artists, led by Jamie Wardley, plus 30 student volunteers, who worked on a schedule of one drawing every four minutes – up to 75 frames per day over a seven-day shoot. “Sometimes we got our final frame for the day just as the waves crashed in around our set,” said Studd in a prepared statement.