Behind The Cube with Buck

We are talking directly to the masterminds behind our Cube Winners! Last week, we talked with Yoshihiro from Dentsu Japan to talk shop. This week, we turn our attention to Buck’s 92nd Annual Awards entry “Metamorphosis” for Good Books that has received two Gold Cubes in Motion in both Advertising and Motion and a Silver Cube in Advertising Copywriting.

Disclaimer: What you will see is an entirely fictional and completely unendorsed representation. (Though we humbly suggest Hunter S Thompson might have liked it.) We are devoted fans paying homage. No disrespect is intended.

ADC: Where did “Metamorphosis” come from? Describe how you arrived at the idea?

Buck: We were approached by an agency out of New Zealand called String Theory. They had a script and were looking for a director/team. We decided to take it on because the script was great; they gave us complete creative control, and; it was for a non-profit that benefited Oxfam. Our creative team generated the visual ideas. We presented them with some preliminary reference, which was mostly still illustrations and followed that up with loose storyboards. The project didn’t have a very strict timeline, so we were able to work through and improve some of the ideas as we progressed.

We wanted to create something with an original approach to storytelling and took advantage of our collective skill set.

ADC: Explain Hunter S. Thompson reference. Was this an important factor while developing “Metamorphosis?”

Buck: The script came from a series where famous authors used their language to describe why they chose to use Good Books to purchase their literature. We were fortunate to have the first choice of author, and we were immediately drawn to the HST script, not only because we are fans of his work but also because of the the psychedelic imagery that people associate with him. We were excited at the opportunity to draw the viewer into the twisted, drug-addled mind of Hunter S. Thompson. Our challenge was to visually represent the narrative in the script without being too literal or regurgitating imagery from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

ADC: What were some challenges that you had to overcome to see “Metamorphosis” rendered? How did you find solutions to these?

Buck: The only major challenge was our own standards. There were a lot of false starts, both technically and creatively, and quite a few scenes were done multiple times.

ADC: Why did you choose to enter “Metamorphosis” in ADC 92nd Annual Awards Show?

Buck: We chose to enter because we were looking to get greater exposure for this piece in the advertising arena. Our hope is that agency creatives will be inspired by Metamorphosis and this will lead to more unique opportunities in advertising!

ADC: This year, ADC 92nd Annual Awards Show recommits to our roots to the art and craft in advertising and design. How does “Metamorphosis” represent this philosophy? When do you bring this philosophy back to Buck to day-to-day work?


Buck: As far as advertising goes, you can’t get more artsy or crafty then cell animation composited with hand-painted textures.

We always try and breathe humanity into our storytelling. Even if the project does not call for visibly “hand-crafted” images, we are always looking for ways to achieve this.

ADC: How do you hope “Metamorphosis” impacts the industry? What would you like people to gain from this project?

Buck: Our hope is that this will inspire people to see other possibilities for animation in storytelling.

Early visual exploration. These helped to define what we did and didn’t want for the style and mood.

Early visual exploration. These helped to define what we did and didn’t want for the style and mood.

First style frame, the camera angle was later modified.

Modified camera angle from initial style frame.

Style frame for a shot that was cut. It was for the scene in the cottage and the thought was the dogs would scratch through the wood floor and water would pour out, filling the frame to transition to the next scene where Hunter was smoking in the water.

Style frame for another cut moment. This was an early exploration of distorting Hunter’s face for the trip through the “hate-crazed ghetto” of his mind.

Video frame for shot 010 animation reference. We tend to either shoot ourselves for reference or do 3D reference for more complicated shifts in perspective, or in this case, a wide angle lens.

3D sunglasses for shot 010 animation reference. In this instance, we shot it first and then did it in 3D. We actually rendered the frames out of 3D.

Style frame for shot 010.

Key frame for Metamorphosis transformation. In some instances, we will give the animators key poses to hit, usually when we don’t have ref footage or 3D animated ref. Then they will pencil test in-betweens and finally, they will match the motion to the style frame.

Key frame for tea/co-ed transformation. Another keyframe that shows the girl’s hands coming out of the tea as we transition to the coed shot.

Style frame for fire/hands animation.

Key frame for fire/hands animation. Another animation key pose.

3D animated book to rose transformation. This is a previz render frame showing the transformation from book pages to rose petals as a 3D animated scene (around 1’15" into the video). For this transition, we actually rendered most of it in 3D and then augmented it with cel on top.

RGB channel separations for compositing of Metamorphosis. We do this so the compositing artists can have the ability to separate and color/texture the shapes using their corresponding channel. A lot of the animation was made with RGB separations for compositing.

Learn even more about Buck by following their Twitter, friending them on facebook and checking out their videos on Vimeo!