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Quiet Man Draws the Line for AT&T

Making a line drawing come to life (July 24, 2001)
In a recent spot for AT&T, ad agency Wunderman and the 3D design unit of New York visual effects boutique Quiet Man emphatically proved they know just when and how to draw the line.

Directed by Quiet Man lead 3D artist David Shirk, "Blue Line Guy" is a :60 animated spot designed to encourage prospective users of "AT&T Worldnet Service Plus" (an all-in-one internet package) to draw on their imagination and imagine the perfect service. By way of example, the spot offers a line drawing come to life.

Set against a paper white background, which occasionally and conveniently tears to reveal vital information, "Blue Line Guy" opens with an outline of an outstretched stick figure using a deep blue crayon to draw himself and his dream Internet service.

When the voiceover speaks of faster log-ons, Blue Line Guy transforms
into a Zorro-type character, using his blue crayon to slash time off of connection speeds. When the topic addresses instant messaging and chat services, the character speaks to his crayon and is immediately joined by a second character. Finally, slightly more fleshed-out characters appear on a crayoned computer screen to represent video email.

Clearly unfinished but completely fluid in his motions, the Blue Line Guy character manages to convey the creativity of simple hand-drawing with the precisely organized planning of a blueprint. The effect is one of the purely imaginary about to become real, brilliantly exemplifying AT&T's effort to turn the every day into the extraordinary.

"From the beginning, the agency knew what they didn't want to see in the spot," says Shirk. "They had a good storyboard but they told us that they did not want the spot to look as if it were traditionally animated. Even though they wanted the character to be drawn with and to carry around a blue crayon, they did not want the quirky, hand-drawn quality that scenario might imply. It was very important that Blue Line Guy appear three-dimensional and have the coherence of a genuine character. Our technical director Brad Gabe did a great job with shader development in coming up with how this character might look in 3D space."

Asked to describe some of the project's inherent challenges, Gabe hesitated a moment before replying.

"Geez, where do I begin?" he said. "Maintaining a level of consistency from frame to frame was one of the biggest challenges. In a texture meant to look like a crayon drawing there are all kinds of problems regarding distortion when you're using 3D. That was kind of tough to figure out, but Softimage's Render Tree feature helped us develop appropriate shaders. I had to dig pretty deep to come up with the right look."

With only six weeks to complete the job, the Quiet Man animation team
admitted to some concerns in creating a believable animated 3D crayon
drawing. "We were quite concerned about how the final animation would
look," admits Michael Wharton, senior animator. "Crayon tends to look
granular, like a bunch of dots, really."

"It's a good thing that we all loved this job or it would probably have been impossible," says Shirk, whose team pulled a few 18-hour days. "The creative team was fantastic. Agency producer Sue Chiafullo was impeccably organized and really understood what it takes to produce animation. We all had a great time."

And, in just 60 seconds, "Blue Line Guy" truly says it all.

Quiet Man is the winner of 2001 Cannes Grand Prix for Commercials and of a Gold Lion, The One Show Best of Show," and Best of Show at the Addy's for several Fox Sports network campaigns for agency Cliff Freeman & Partners. Quiet Man describes itself as a "a creative problem solving visual effects company."

It was founded in 1995 by Flame artist Johnnie Semerad and executive producer Amy Taylor and has done work for such major brands as Pepsi and Nike. Among the awards it has garnered are: Clios, Emmys, One Show, Pencils, American Advertising Awards, Cannes Lions, a Grammy and AICP recognition.


Client: AT&T
Spot: Blue Line Guy (:60)

Advertising Agency: Wunderman
Creative Director: Jules Filicia
Art Director: Wayne Schombs
Copywriter: Leigh-Anne Wiester
Producer: Susan Chiafullo

Production Company: Quiet Man Inc.
Executive Producer: Amy Taylor
Producer: Dave Moore/Gray Hirshfield
Director of Animation: Dave Shirk
Chief Animator: Michael Wharton
Technical Director: Bradley Gabe
Project Designer: Glenn McQuaid
Lead Inferno Compositor: Peter Amante

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Related Keywords:3D, visual effects, animation, Softimage, shaders, Quiet Man

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