Because we got a positive reply from AKA studio to our Vocational Studies Unit request for certain animation companies to cooperate in our studio research
International Private companyLondon,
W1F 8RH United Kingdom
44 20 7434 3581 ,
44 20 7437 2309 fax
Company Description: Services: An animation and mixed media company whose services include 2D animation, 3d-cgi, stop motion, live action, typography, graphics and interactive animation for the web. As a production company they mainly work on animated commercials.
one of their most famous products- commercial for lloyds tsb
their show reel on you tube
Add for lecture on Pictoplasma conference in 2004
PHILIP HUNT - STUDIO AKA (UK) Lecture & Screening Character assassinations
As creative director of the London-based animation studio “Studio aka”, Philip Hunt was involved in many of the most interesting and stylistically groundbreaking European animation campaigns.Truly the creative sum of its parts, Studio aka has a talent base of thirty directors, artists, technical and production staff, and has created exceptional and award-winning works in animation, garnering both BAFTA, D&AD, and BTA awards alongside an Oscar nomination, and continuously pushing the boundaries of commercial animation wherever possible.
An article about aka Studio aka
by: Sandy Hunter
Feb 1, 2001
London animation company aka Pizazz has changed its name to Studio aka, reflecting the company's move to a more collaborative studio environment over recent years.
The company represents a number of animator/directors: Mario Cavalli, Marc Craste, Mic Graves, Dominic Griffiths, Oliver Harrison, Dave McKean, Grant Orchard, Ashley Potter, Shynola and Bram Ttwheam, as well as creative director/director Philip Hunt. The continued blurring of the lines between interactive, 2D and 3D animation was in large part the reason behind the name change.
"The change has happened over the last three or four years. We've changed from being a traditional animation studio to most of the work being creatively led from within studio. We are known for our creative pitching and many of our directors are also designers," says Hunt. "We've gone from having no in-house talent to having in-house talent and we won D&AD last year for Interactive."
Other interactive projects the Studio has produced include a web project for Hong Kong's IdN magazine and another project for British Petroleum. Hunt says the 3D side of the Studio is also defining itself; Marc Craste is developing an animated short film and continuing collaborations with London's FrameStore and Soho 601 assisting as the Studio becomes more self-sufficient.
"We are not doing so much traditional cartoon work although you will find examples of that. There is a definite, strong design sense to or work rather than being standard out-of-the-box caricature," says Hunt. "We've tested the water with studioaka.co.uk as our Web presence for a year now and have established ourselves as a collective entity of directors and designers. We have much more the feeling of a studio environment rather than an agency or traditional animation company. This is important due to the unsure footing animation has in the world of advertising. People seem to want to reinvent the use of animation across many types of media."
Hunt is one of four partners in Studio aka, along with Mario Cavalli, Pam Dennis and Sue Goffe.
An interview with Grant Orchard (from their website), one of main directors.
Grant Orchard’s series LOVESPORT is featured in our October 2007 showcase. We took a Friday afternoon to chat with Grant about his solo show, his life until now, and his thoughts on the future.
LUMEN ECLIPSE: So, Grant, can you give fill us in on your background? Where are you from, where did you go to school?
GRANT ORCHARD: Well, I’m from London, and I went to study in Scotland for a couple of years, and then I went down to the only animation course in the UK at the time, which was at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design. I did a full-time animation course in 1995. And then I graduated from there and I got a running job – I don’t know if you call it that in the States, but a running job is basically just a go-for [ed: internship] – at a place called Pizazz Pictures, which later turned out to become StudioAKA. So, I’ve kind of been at StudioAKA for over 10 years now. I took a few years out to make a few short films, including Welcome to Glaringly, which was commissioned by Channel4, and then another one which was just done while I was freelancing in between work, which was Park Foot Ball. I then went back to StudioAKA, and we just carried on working together, and then about a year ago we got commissioned by Qoob to make LOVESPORT.
LUMEN ECLIPSE: Did you always want to be an animator? Did you get a lot of flack for wanting to be an artist?
GRANT ORCHARD: Oh, no! Academically I wasn’t very wise, wasn’t very sharp, and I was in remedial school for quite a long time. Art was the only thing I was good at. It’s what my parents put most of their energy into, you know getting me set up with art equipment at home and stuff like that, so I was well catered for. Basically it was the only thing I ever thought I could do, something arts-based. But I didn’t realize at first that you could really do an animation job, that they were out there. You don’t know how it’s done, and it’s quite magical when you’re younger. It seemed the only animation jobs were at Disney – it was quite abstract, it was never tangible. It was for people who were extraordinarily good, and extraordinarily talented, and very far away, usually in the States. And then when I was about 15 or 16, there was a whole screening on Channel 4 called ‘Fourmations,’ which was a series showing short animated films from around the world, like the Quay Brothers, Stuart Hilton was there as well…all these new films, like Mark Baker ‘The Hill Farm’, these films I never really got to see before. They had interviews with the animators in their studios, and they admitted that sometimes they didn’t know what they were doing, and they showed you their work in progress and it wasn’t perfect, and it became ‘Maybe I can do something like this, this might be on.’ So, I went to art college and did graphic design, but then I kept doing sequential kinds of artwork, almost like comic strips, and my graphic design teacher suggested animation, told me there was an animation course in Surrey, and in a kind of way chucked me off graphic design and encouraged me to go do animation, which I did.
LUMEN ECLIPSE: What styles of animation did you learn at school? Anything computer-based back then?
GRANT ORCHARD: Well, computers were…I think for people who were brave enough, or had some kind of previous experience with computers, they were trying. But I think there were 2000-odd people at SIAD (Surrey Institure for Art & Design), but there were only about 9 or 10 computers to go round. So it wasn’t really a possibility. So it was 2-D that I stuck with, shooting stuff under the Rostrum camera.
LUMEN ECLIPSE: Now you seem quite versatile. You do a commercial here, or a music video here, you make a short film, and you use a lot of different styles. Do you prefer one form over another?
GRANT ORCHARD: I like doing them all. The variety is always good, it’s always interesting, and it’s very easy to get pigeon-holed in what you do. When it comes to commercial work you can kind of get stuck in a bit of a rut. So if you have an opportunity to do something outside of the commercial field, something a bit different, it’s probably a wise idea. Also, it’s just more interesting that way. About the only thing I don’t do is stop-motion. I’m just kind of…not going there. I mean, all animation is fairly laborious, but that is really just something else. So I mostly stick to 2D and CG.
LUMEN ECLIPSE: In terms of screens and physical space, where do you most like to see your work shown? What kind of screens are you making your work for?
GRANT ORCHARD: It’s weird, for a long time I always judged my work by how it looked on a TV, because I did commercials for 6 years before I ever did any independent work that would have been screened at festivals. Some commercials got screened at festivals, but the majority of the time you were doing it for TV, and how it looked on TV was what you were aiming for. But now, well I think it is still TV really, a widescreen TV – I think we’ve been doing widescreen here for about 4 or 5 years. But a lot of times, for example with the LOVESPORT series, the only place you can see it at the moment is on the internet, and it’s really bad quality, and the characters are already really small. I kind of worried about it for a while, and then I thought I can’t worry about it too much. I can’t let the platform dictate how I’m going to do it. And although ultimately I want it to be shown on bigger platforms, I didn’t pay too much attention to the fact that it was going to be – that it was going to break down quite as much as it did on the net. But I think it’s still legible, and people are still going to get it, which is good.
LUMEN ECLIPSE: Where do you think animation will be in 20 years? Where will you be in 20 years?
GRANT ORCHARD: Well, animation, you always think it’s going to head somewhere unknown, and then it almost takes a retrogressive step. Everyone was on the CG bandwagon and all commercials—you saw 2D kind of slow down, and then stop motion almost died a death. And then suddenly there’s loads of stop motion, there’s loads of hand-drawn, and really kind of raggedy hand-drawn. I think if you look on Youtube at the moment there’s loads of flipbooks going on, there’s loads of stop motion work going on, and it seems the rougher the better, you know. It’s taken on a whole kind of look and feel for itself, almost a craft like feel, rather than being too digital. And I think at the moment people really want that, but it does feel like a fashion, and like all fashions they change. So I think it’s really going to keep kind of bouncing off each other, it’s like a yoyo almost. But in 20 years time, what I’m doing, well I don’t know. I’ll still be in animation, I still really love it.
LUMEN ECLIPSE: What’s working at studio aka like?
GRANT ORCHARD: It’s really good! It’s really varied. At the moment, well it’s very busy commercially, and when it’s very busy commercially you enjoy it for the first month and then you go, ‘God this is really tiresome, and I kind of want to do my own work again.’ And then another month it might kind of slow down so you do get to do your own work again, but then you kind of think, ‘wow, I like the enforced pressure of doing that commercial work, those really tight deadlines,’ and then you think, actually I wouldn’t mind doing a commercial again.’
LUMEN ECLIPSE: About LOVESPORT, and those colored block-people. Are they pixels? Is there a reference to video games or an old technology, or are they just a simple shape?
GRANT ORCHARD: No, it was never meant to be a reference to old video games, it just came up because I – well I did Park Foot Ball in AfterEffects, and it was my way of learning how to do AfterEffects: instead of doing an intricately-designed character, I thought I’d just learn how to animate and move things in AfterEffects with a block, and I started moving it and drew another block, and I thought huh, kind of looks like people running around at a distance, and I threw a football in there, and that’s how I started the film. So, you know, it was a style based on a lazy way of experimenting with a piece of software.
LUMEN ECLIPSE: Yeah, well you know they’re really quite expressive, I was very impressed by how expressive you could get these colored rectangles to be.
GRANT ORCHARD: Yeah, well there were always these old 2D tests, they were called sack tests – what they did was they got a sack, which is just a rectangle again, and they made it look sad or they made it look happy. It was supposed to be half-full of flour, so it’s an exercise in weight, and trying to get personality out of a quite simple object by taking poses to certain extremes. It’s an old Disney test, and I think there’s a whole history of trying to simplify things, and trying to get emotion out of simple objects through animation. It’s a bit of a challenge, and animators really like that.
LUMEN ECLIPSE: What’s up with all of LOVESPORT’s tragedies and triumphs?
GRANT ORCHARD: Oh, you know, comedy is pain and all that kind of malarkey. I don’t overly analyze the funny things, or the things that are painful or disastrous. I think it’s just kind of innately programmed into us to laugh at stuff like that, and I find it funny, and therefore I’ve animated it. Cheap laughs!
LUMEN ECLIPSE: What are you working on now?
GRANT ORCHARD: I just finished off a whole load of commercials – actually, also based on shapes, for a health care company in Britain. And they’re all circles, so that’s been quite nice. (laughs) And then I’m going to be working on a film called Natural History, which I’m trying to get off the ground, which is hopefully all going to be done in watercolors, so that’s a complete departure for me. I’m working with an artist on that. So I’m just seeing if I can get funding. That’s work in development.
Jo Jo in the Stars
Written, designed and directed by Marc Craste Produced by Sue Goffe Executive Producers Pam Dennis/Sue Goffe/Philip Hunt Voice Artist Oliver Miceli Additional Voices Andrew Stirk 3D Modelling and Texturing Andy Staveley/Fabrice Altman/James Gaillard/Talia Hill Animation Fabienne Rivory/Dominic Griffiths/Boris Kossmehl
Jo Jo in the Stars is the heart-wrenching tale of two unlikely lovers – Jo Jo, a silver-plated trapeze artist, and a nameless hero who worships her. Together they make a desperate stand against murderous jealousy within a bleak and brutal world that is both nightmarish and hauntingly beautiful. The 12-minute animated film short debut from Studio aka director Marc Craste Jo Jo in the Stars, was produced by Sue Goffe and independently funded and produced by Studio.
The film was developed as a project from the a series of short one-minute animations called Pica Towers, which themselves had grown out of elements of an idea pitched for some TV idents, which involved a mysterious tower populated by strange characters embroiled in a darkly comic murder mystery. The character and situation components that this series introduced formed the basis of the story that became Jo Jo in the Stars and it was the overwhelming response that the initial short films met with that encouraged Marc and Studio aka to further explore the world of Picas. After a period of development, aka took the decision to self-finance the project in its entirety and Jo Jo was put into full-scale production in early 2003.
The characters were created in CGI, using Softimage XSI and After Effects for postproduction. Emphasis was placed on creating a compelling atmosphere with dramatic lighting and reductive forms, while capturing the absorbing beauty of black and white film. The idea was to explore a look not often associated with computer-generated images, avoiding the overall sheen and even lighting in favour of a more heavily textured, less defined look.
The characters are simple in their design, with just enough detail to convey the emotion required for the telling of this story. Their inherent lack of articulation (no elbows or knees) lends their movement a puppet/stop-motion feel, which sits well within the black and white, and helps again to steer the film in a new direction. The results are spellbindingly emotive.
BAFTA 2004: Best Short Animated Film
Clermont Ferrand 2004: Prix Du Meilleur Film D'animation
Aspen Short Film Festival 2004: Special Jury Prize
International 3D Awards Copenhagen: Best Short Film
Animasia SICAF 2004: Short Film Grand Prize
Bradford Animation Festival 2004: Grand Prix
Brief Encounters Festival 2004: Best of British
Marc Craste is a senior animation director working at Studio aka in London . Before coming to the UK in 1998, Marc worked extensively in animation studios in Sydney and Copenhagen.
Since joining Studio aka, Marc has designed and directed many award-winning commercials, including spots for Orange, Natwest and Compaq. He has also designed and directed three short films in the series Pica Towers, which has become cult viewing for many fans.
Jo Jo in the Stars won the 2004 BAFTA for Best Animated Short Film. It has also won Best Animated Short Film at the 2004 Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival in France, the Special Jury Prize at the 2004 Aspen Short Film Festival, Best Short Film at the 2004 International 3D Awards in Copenhagen, the Short Film Grand Prize at Animasia SICAF 2004, the Grand Prize at BAF 2004 and the Best of British at Brief Encounters 2004 in Bristol.
In addition to his animation career, Marc is the recipient of the AOI's 'Illustrator Of The Year' award. He has recently been commissioned to illustrate a children's book, written by acclaimed author Helen Ward.
Finding their place in the 3D space , an article.
Strong animators and ubiquitous tech help three London shops break into the CG scene
by: Rae Ann Fera
Jul 1, 2002
In the animation world it seems that anywhere you go you're bound to bump into 3D - from stylized characters to photo-real 'is-that-CG-or-not?' effects.
For the most part, high-end, big-budget animation and effects have been the domain of large post and production companies with rendering farms, first-class facilities and armies of animation and effects artists. But, as with any new technology or technique, 3D is an evolving art form and many smaller players are getting into the game, tailoring it to their style, clientele or studio philosophy.
In London, three smaller to mid-size shops have recently entered the 3D kitchen, ready to slice out a niche for themselves in the ever-increasing CG pie.
Nestled behind an inconspicuous blue door in Soho lies Studio AKA, a client-oriented animation facility. Adhering to the philosophy that animation in advertising is fundamentally about making people take notice, the studio ensures clients' needs transcend a particular style.
"The mentality of the studio is whatever works, works," says creative director Philip Hunt. "We tend to have strong, dynamic characters with an unusual slant, but there isn't a house style other than the desire to constantly reinvent."
Nearly two years old, AKA's 3D division grew gradually. "We took a view initially to invest a sizable amount in a Softimage Indigo set up with single license and two personnel about five years ago. It was the best set up available at the time, and the team and hardware has expanded at a rapid rate ever since. Lead by head of CG Andy Stavely, is eight animators strong and currently pulls in about half of the studio's work, though nearly all projects have some 3D.
Small by big-gun standards, the stated goal of the CG venture is to carve out its own place within the market. "We don't want to be a competitor to the big shops," says Hunt. "There's no point, so we don't put ourselves in the running for big projects. We'll leave those to the companies who do it really well."
AKA's strengths are in problem solving. Hunt says that most of their current clients come to them with a broad idea, curious to see how the studio might tackle it. Often, discussions of 2D versus 3D are merely a component of figuring out the best execution for a script. "Sometimes the way an idea is conceived may not be the most surprising way of doing it," says Hunt.
Because Studio AKA's philosophy is so deeply entrenched in character animation, Hunt was very careful who he chose as 3D animators. Consequently, most of the talent came from within. "Our 3D department came from inside the studio and are all traditionally trained animators. We found that we could find plenty of good animators but not good character animators, which we already had in-house." Most 3D work is done on Softimage XSI, though animators generally work on whatever platform they feel comfortable on, including After Effects and Maya.
Recent work from the company reflects the diverse approach to character animation. Styles range from classic CG characters for Vodaphone's "Night out" (Mic Graves); to stylized stick characters for Ballantine's Whisky (Marc Craste); characters and scenes based on a corporate logos and branding for Esure (Philip Hunt) and The Evening Standard; to a graphic world for BTCellnet (both Marc Craste).
"People are often surprised by the combinations of projects directors have done," says Hunt. "I think, in some studios, you have one style and you stick to it. We work with less people and more variety. It works for us."