Most of us have by now completed that inevitable January task (or have been putting it off to this weekend): taking the Christmas tree down. All though it’s all over, one company that is gaining quite the reputation for its epic viral 3D projection mapping videos recently created a very special Christmas project.

Belgian TV Network, VTM saw what Skullmapping is capable of creating and knew that the duo’s talents could be lent to the festive season, resulting in a 3D projection mapping install starring Father Christmas for a TV commercial, featuring the usual suspects: Santa, reindeer, snowmen, and a stable of every great Christmas: chocolate.

CIE caught up with Skullmapping’s Filip Sterckx to find out how they did it.

How Did VTM Discover Skullmapping?

 

They saw our Le Petit Chef – Dessert’ project and asked us to think of a concept for their Christmas TV commercial. They wanted to organise an event where you could go and taste the longest Christmas Yule in Belgium and also see a table projection yourself at the event. So this commercial was to promote this event, and more generally to get people in the Christmas mood!

Skullmapping santa 3D projection mapping

Will people be able to see this for themselves?

The client is a Belgian television network. Unfortunately only the family in the video (and the crew) got to see the projection themselves (which is a shame because what you see in the commercial is only a small part of the full animation we created). But we just did an event for the same client in Ghent in which you visit Santa’s factory through projection mapping, and afterwards you get a piece of the longest Christmas cake in Belgium. In this case it was a much bigger setup; around 100 people at a time were seated at big tables.

Skullmapping santa 3D projection mapping

What was the storyline behind this project? 

They wanted to integrate a Christmas cake into it, but aside from that, we had a lot of creative freedom while conceptualising this project. We decided it would be fun to have snowmen that would appear on the table and decorate a Christmas cake, with the Santa Claus directing them. We worked with Ralf Demesmaeker – who directed the live action – and Flexus (an agency) to further polish the story.

Skullmapping santa 3D projection mapping Panasonic

How is it done?

We worked together with Vidisquare to provide the projectors and do the on-site installation. They used three Panasonic laser projectors that were edge blended in order to get enough resolution. Panasonic PT-RZ670 projectors were used because they are LED and can be mounted vertically without an issue. This projector model also has a WUXGA resolution.

We made a preliminary audio track that was played during shooting along with the projection, which was later perfected by Brandy.

Was this a challenging project for Skullmapping?

A challenge was maintaining the focus, since there is a lot of action happening simultaneously. This is different from our ‘Le Petit Chef’ animations, where there is only one character that is copied on each plate. In this case there were six snowmen and a Santa Claus that worked together to decorate the Christmas cake in the middle.

This TV commercial is a lot shorter than the time we usually have to tell our Le Petit Chef’ stories (which are usually around two minutes), so it was necessary that a lot happened at the same time, since there was only a short time to decorate the whole Christmas cake!

But by having Santa Claus directing the snowmen and by making use of sound, we managed to direct the family’s attention to what was important, so they could follow the ‘bigger picture’ and not only what was happening on their own plate.

Another challenge was that the ‘cake’ (which is actually a Styrofoam model) could not be there when the family arrived on the table, since it would look weird to have that out of context at the centre of the table. So they made a trap door that needed to revolve at a specific moment to reveal the cake. They tried to do this motorized at first, but since this was not 100% reliable, in the end they decided to put someone under the table that revolved it manually.

I was worried about the timing of the rotation in combination with the projection, since if that didn’t line up, that would break the illusion. We could not test this before we went on set, but I was relieved that the guy under the table was able to rotate the fake cake very accurately!

Skullmapping santa 3D projection mapping Panasonic

How long did it take to create?

The client approached us at the end of April 2016. From there we started to write out the story, look for references and so on. Once everything was approved I think it took around five weeks to create the animation and model all the elements.

What has the reaction been like?

The family was unaware about what they would experience, and aside from two cameramen, the whole crew was hiding in the room next door anxiously waiting for them to arrive and hoping to get good reactions.

Once the animation started, the children were particularly mesmerised – and even tried to grab the snowmen and Santa with their hands. We played the projection a couple of times and each time they discovered new things or looked at each other’s plates to see what was happening there. At the end the snowmen wave at the spectators and it was great fun to see the children waving back at them.

Credits:

Christmas commercial created for Belgian network VTM
Concept by Filip Sterckx + Antoon Verbeeck
Animation directed by Filip Sterckx
3D animation by Filip Sterckx, Antoon Verbeeck and Birgit Sterckx
Live action directed by Ralf Demesmaeker
Agency: Flexus
Sounddesign: Brandy

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