Korean TV viewers are about to be introduced to a cute new character -- but it’s no wide-eyed animal or toy; it’s a Samsung printer. And it was up to Prime Focus London (PFL) -- previously VTR, until its acquisition by the Indian post group -- to transform this mechanical, functional box into a lovable character via 3D animation.

Cheil Communications Creative Director, Jean-Paul Lee, chose PFL for the job because of its reputation for devising a particularly personality-driven brand of character animation. PFL’s brief was to create an animated character, based on the machine itself, that could convey its key qualities – printing, copying, scanning, ease-of-use, compact size, flexibility – in an approachable, confident and fun way. Initial ideas revolved around making a dancing transformer robot.

PFL’s Creative Director, Phil Hurrell, oversaw the project, translating the brief into working commercials and designing the cute Samsung character. The first hurdle was establishing design the character’s limbs. Phil wanted to make the limbs from parts of the printer so that they’d integrate well with the body so Bryan Servante and Phil took the printer apart to find components that could be used as the building blocks for arms and legs.

The team then went on to build and animate the character. Lead animator, Martin Allan, and Phil discussed the scenarios of what the character would do and how he’d do it. Martin then roughed out an animatic to demonstrate that the three functions could be conveyed in such a short amount of screen time. This was sent to the client to prove the concepts would work. Martin invested a lot of time and creative effort in making sure the character moved in a playful way.

Meanwhile, Lucy Luong rebuilt the entire printer in 3D, basing all modeling and texturing on the printer itself because no CAD data was available. The team had just two-and-a-half weeks to create and refine the animation, texture and light the model and composite the final piece with Rob Walker in Flame.

Lucy Luong’s other task was to developed the images that the character uses in its product demonstrations. She devised the first photograph – where the character is sitting against a tree – by taking hi-res digital stills of London’s Saint James Park.

The 30-second live action commercial sees a girl calling out to an absent lover from her window, Romeo and Juliet-style. It turns out, of course, that she in fact beckoning her new playful friend – ‘Lay’ the printer/scanner/copier who appears in the window where he starts to scatter print outs. Bryan and Martin animated the character using camera tracked scenes from Lucy. Phil was busy animating the realistically falling A4 sheets of paper using a combination of hand animated sheets and a particle system to simulate gravity, wind and air resistance.

PFL’s creative director, Phil Hurrell, explained the job’s complexity: ““The initial discussion with the client was really to pitch the approach we would apply given the machine’s qualities that had to be conveyed. We had to do a lot of thinking off the top of our heads in the briefing but the ideas we put to the client gave them a great deal of confidence. The requirement was to produce a fully animated 30” ad and a 15” with a 30” live-action version.

"The complexity was that the 15" and the 30" animated versions had to show the three fundamental functions of ‘Lay’ (as the character was called) so we had to come up with a way of conveying, what are essentially, very similar functions in a distinctly different way whilst retaining the fun and all in 15 seconds! Unusually, we needed to make the 15" first and then the 30" such that the two would seamlessly join. The 15" would then appear to be a cutdown of the 30".