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Humble director Sam Stephens on the recent Lowe’s Vine campaign

Agency BBDO New York called on production company Humble, its director Sam Stephens and a handful of home improvement bloggers to create a series of stop-motion animated Vine videos that offer out-of-the-box tips to make life at home a little easier — from turning a t-shirt into a pillow case to painting an old cutting board with chalkboard paint and using it for your grocery list to soaking up water spills in the garage with sawdust to removing a water stain from wood using mayo. Yes, mayo.

The Vines represent the latest tips in the #LowesFixinSix Vine campaign, which launched last year.

So let’s dig in a bit with Stephens.

The #LowesFixInSix Vines have become pretty popular, can you explain the idea behind the campaign?
Lowe’s has been creating “Fix in Six Vines” for the past year and half, but this fall they wanted to increase distribution by engaging successful home improvement bloggers.

Sam Stephens

Each blogger provided a useful household tip and at BBDO New York, two separate creative teams took these practical tips and came up with clever, entertaining ways of illustrating them. Humble’s main role was to make the magic happen on a very tight schedule and in a non-traditional setting.

What types of tasks did the Humble team complete?
Stop motion takes a good long while. There are no shortcuts, and we only had two days to produce the eight different pieces. To get them done in time, we had to have two to three set-ups running simultaneously at all times. We would build a set, light it, set the frames and an animator and assistant would step in to start incrementing the action.

Myself and DP Manfred Reiff would move from set-up to set-up, checking in, tweaking, revising and trying to stay one step up ahead of the action. It was a challenging shoot and everyone really stepped up.

Then our VFX team completed some light rotoscoping and part assembly. Before the shoot we created frame-accurate animatics for both the animators to reference and for our compositors (using After Effects) to follow once the footage came back. So in many ways the “edit” was done before we ever stepped onto the set.

What tools were used and how much was done in-camera?
We shot with Canon DSLRs and L-Series Glass, tethered to laptops running Dragon, and we tried to keep everything as in-camera as possible. The Vines themselves are a mix of stop motion, puppetry and live-animal performance.

Vine is a medium where creativity trumps slick production value. We wanted to make sure that everything we did could be done by a normal Vine user. We just used nicer cameras than iPhones.

What was the turnaround time?
Extremely fast. Production was eight days after the project was awarded. We had to source creepy old dolls, buff action figures, design and fabricate cartoon germs and walking fish, make some foam T-Rex legs, and build eight sets in record time. The art team deserves some major props on this one.

What else was unique about this project?
With this campaign, BBDO wanted to involve the bloggers whose tips inspired the Vines. They invited them all to the set. As we worked on a particular blogger’s tip, we would walk them through the details of the execution, showing them all of the pieces and parts that would go into the final Vine. All the while, the bloggers were Tweeting and Instagramming their on-set experiences. It was an extremely socially active set.

What do you like about Vine projects?
The format’s particulars — square aspect ratio, six-second limit and desire to create seamless loops — demand some fresh thinking. It’s a refreshing change of pace and a really fun medium to play with.

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