When we were approached by our friends at advertising agency, Ogilvy London to produce the new terminal film for British Airways, we jumped at the chance. The agency had a number of potential ideas on the table, but when they asked about the possibility of creating a paper-craft stop-motion animation the whole team got very excited.
With Gatwick welcoming 45 million passengers through its doors each year, BA wanted a film to be displayed on its 5 metre wide screens at the airport’s South Terminal that could help guide travellers of all ages through the check-in procedure – without sound.
Our first objective was to create a film, which didn’t look digital. We wanted to generate depth and showcase the beautiful imperfections of hand crafted paper. We designed the airport environments and characters from rich, textured card and everything was lit in camera, creating real shadows. In total we built 17 different sets and over 50 paper people, along with a few aliens and a unicorn for good measure.
We designed all of the characters in-house, playing around with simple shapes and working with the card stock colour palette. We worked with the agencies creative team to produce a storyboard and animatic that included all the key information, along with the designs of each scene.
Due to the unique size and ratio of the 5 metre BA terminal screen, we had to approach the film slightly differently, creating much wider sets than we are used to. To work out the correct scale, depth and dimensions of the sets and props we mocked up rough cardboard designs and put them on camera. The widest set was the airport departure lounge which nearly came in at 8 feet wide.
To create the sets, characters and props we used a combination of laser cutters, cutting plotters, scalpels and scissors! A team of four model-makers worked over 3 weeks creating every minute detail shown on screen. And we mean minute, the baby’s eyes for example measured just half a millimetre in diameter. The laser cutter described our designs as the smallest they’d cut, referring to the various elements simply as ‘Confetti’!
Once the model-making was complete we then began the stop-motion animation. Our animators grabbed on average just 5 seconds of footage a day. The characters were just 12cm high due to the ratio of the sets, any larger and the sets themselves would need to become even wider than they already were. Moving each limb, head and suitcase frame by frame was painstaking work, with the animation team using a selection of tweezers to move the puppets.
Once the animation was complete, we then stitched all of the animation together in an edit in our post production suite at our studio. Finally, we added the key passenger messaging along with a colour-grade.
It was a really enjoyable challenge working with so many sets and characters and it’s a film we’re all extremely proud of. We can’t wait to see the fim in situ at the airport very soon, in the meantime check it out below…
Also published on Medium.