Pick Of The Week: Rock, Paper, Scissors (Animated Video)

Blake Harris 03.01.2016

Who wore it best?

That’s the question that most Academy Award viewers are left wondering after the Oscars. This year, however, I found myself wondering something else entirely: Who animated that? And as much I loved seeing the Minions on stage, and admired several of the animated films contention, this question on the tip of my tongue–who animated that?–came in response to this wonderful commercial that we’ve now selected as our PICK OF THE WEEK.

This animated video was spearheaded by Dave Walker, a London-based CG/VFX expert. As the CG Supervisor for Nexus Productions, he’s worked on some great spots in recent years; developing spots for clients like Dropbox (image below, left), Dorset (image below, right), Guinness and Fuze Tea. In addition to commercial animation work, it should be noted that Nexus also has a VR Studio, creates original content and is on the forefront of interactive arts.

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Below, we’ll get into what we liked so much about Rock, Paper, Scissors, but before we do let’s give credit where credit’s due and list the contributions of those involved:

  • Dave Walker: CG/VFX Supervisor
  • Connor Finnegan: Director
  • Karl Oskarsson: DOP
  • David Slade: Editor
  • Gary Jackson (Scary Cat): Puppet Design and Puppeteering
  • Dan Betteridge: Production Designer
  • Rafal Kaniewski: Comp Lead
  • Darren Rolmanis: Lead TD

3 Things We Loved About This Animated Video

1. Narrative Confidence (and well deserved): This entire spot is only 60 seconds long (57 seconds if you account for the “Android” tag at the very end). Yet despite only having 57 seconds to play with, the filmmakers don’t reveal what this commercial is really about until somewhere around the :32 second mark…

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That’s 57% of the way through the allotted time!

First off, delaying that ohhhhhh moment until the second half of any story takes discipline. That’s admirable, no doubt about it, but that’s not what makes this impressive. What makes this impressive is that during that entire time before the reveal, this animated video remains narratively engaging. Even without the Rock-Paper-Scissors payoff, we become invested in these characters and this world through a variety of narrative techniques: 

Building empathy for a lead character…

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Raising stakes (and adding conflict)…

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And developing an unlikely friendship…

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2. Attention to Details: We all know that the details matter. They add texture and an unquantifiable sense of richness. But so often when creating a world from scratch (i.e. a universe where papers and scissors go to school together), we place emphasis on the world-building details. The backgrounds, the foregrounds, the composition, etc. All of those aspects are vitally important (I cannot stress that enough; these worlds must be lived in and loved!), but often lost in the shuffle is the details of the characters themselves. That is not at all the case in this animated video.

Consider, for example, our unwelcoming scissors…

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…and our paper bullies…

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In both instances, the filmmakers could have easily opted for homogeneity. They could have easily persuaded themselves that they didn’t need to craft individually unique characters (personal favorites include the scissors with the sweater around his neck and the paper with the purple clip), but putting this kind of thought and effort into the tertiary characters takes this spot to an animated level. It adds depth and intrigue, convincing us not only that this world is fully imagined, but making us want to stick around for a long time.

3. A Framed Photograph For Your Mind: In the same way that ad-makers like jingles that stick around in our head, they also like to leave behind images in our mind. And we like it too, when those images are fused with feeling and story. They become indelible. And creating indelible images are something that Rock Paper Scissors does impeccably well.

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In particular, it’s hard not to fall for this this near-final shot, which still hangs in my mind like a framed photograph celebrating a story well told with characters I hope to see again soon…

Blake Harris

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