This Grolsch ad combines stop-motion & CG for majestic results

Creative studio Rupert Ray has created an advert for beer-maker Grolsch using a combination of stop-motion, 2D and 3D animation and live action.

Commissioned by The Bank, Rupert Ray was tasked with the challenge of creating a two-minute-long film that tells the story of the brand, from its history to its brewing process and its relationship with its customers.

Creating the advert involved everything from meticulous stop-motion animation to suspending a man from a rope in front of a green screen. We caught up with Rupert Ray's founder and creative director, Alex Maclean, to find out more about how the advert was made.

Stop-motion certainly seemed to gain popularity among advertisers last year, a prime example being the hugely popular John Lewis Bear and Hare Christmas ad, and the trend has continued throughout 2014. We asked Alex why Rupert Ray felt that the technique would be well-suited to the new Grolsch ad, to which he replied: "Stop frame may be a trend or in fashion (again), but it's always been cool, ever since Oliver Postgate and the late great Ray Harryhausen. This film called for a sense of magic – a feeling that something unexpected might happen at any moment."

"We love the painstaking craft of stop frame animation and it clearly reflects the craft of beer making, the subject of our film," Alex continued. "Days and days of filming feels more reminiscent of the long periods necessary to brew a great beer. Advertisers are constantly searching for authenticity – stop frame supplies both authenticity and magic."

For a stop-motion piece, the Grolsch ad is surprisingly smooth, which only adds to the majestic look and feel of the film. It was the first time Alex had used his own hands as a subject on camera, so he found that the process required a steep learning curve to achieve the concentration (and cramp) required to perfect every shot.

"I was coached meticulously by our on-set expert, Kevin Walton, who helped me achieve the smoothness," he explained. "The smooth stop frame confounds your expectations, leaving you guessing what is real and what is not. Jittery stop frame is sometimes just 'bad' stop frame, so unless there is a reason to do it badly you may as well learn the skill!"

Not every part of the film was achieved using stop-motion, though. "We like the sweet spot between when a film combines a subtle mixture of live action, stop frame, 2D and 3D animation in just the right quantities so that no single technique is dominant," Alex said. "The balance is key."

There were challenges with some of the elements that the team decided to animate using stop-motion, though. For example, it quickly became apparent that Alex couldn't hold a full bottle of beer at arm's length for hours, so, as the shoot progressed, he used more and more props to hold his arms up.

In order to ensure that the filming went smoothly and the final result had excellent continuity, the team had to spend three weeks storyboarding, preparing and testing. They then spent five days shooting the advert and a further three weeks compositing, adding typography and adding 2D and 3D animation until resulting in the finished advert you can see at the top of this article.

Below is a making-of video so you can get a behind-the-scenes look at how the advert was made.  

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