Twinings Tea Advert Stopframe Animation Armatures
In the latter part of last year, we created a range of jigs and mechanisms for design agency Stripeland and their ‘Twinings – Drink It All In’ TV spot. We made five devices in total; a rippling puddle, a huge tree with rotating branches, a swinging sign and a telescopic ‘Sun Portal.’ All of these devices were designed to allow precise incremental movements for stopframe animation, and each rig was dressed into the set with teabags and bright colours to create the final effect.
“We engineered devices that produced the desired motion, yet were also easy to operate by an animator.”
The Rippling Puddle above was designed as a set of rings, with each ring capable of independent vertical motion, allowing the animator to create a ‘Mexican Wave’ effect.
The ‘Sun Portal’ comprised a concentric set of clear panels mounted on adjustable rails; when lit from behind and covered in teabag tags, the assembly glowed like a sun, with each plate capable of moving independently to create a funnel stretching backwards.
The Spinning Tree had several points of articulation, allowing sections to be incrementally rotated separately. We made the substructure as a blank canvas for the Stripeland art department to apply layers of teabags and dressing over the top.
All of these mechanisms were designed by Project Manager Elaine Carr, who gives an overview of the process involved in creating the rigs.
Although I’ve worked in animation for many years, this was my first foray into armature design. Luckily my team on this build had experience of armature building and are well versed in the principles of engineering, so we were able to work through issues together by pooling our knowledge.
Stripeland provided a previz storyboard and told me which effects they wanted me to solve. First considerations were for the devices to work as stopframe rigs – which need to be locked in position and minutely adjustable by the animator. They also needed to be easy to understand for the people operating them, and able to be broken down into parts to get through standard doorways.
My initial doodles are always on paper before I take them into CAD, where I work on plans and elevations. On this occasion I supplied these drawings to the client and they made a sketch animation to double check they had interpreted my design correctly.
Test models and maquettes were an essential part of working out the rigs, in order to convey my intentions I ended up making a selection of miniatures to demonstrate the principles at work. In some instances I took photos and videos of my models, and for the more involved solutions I sent models to them so they could play with them and build their own plans around how the rigs would work. The end result: we engineered devices that produced the desired motion, yet were also easy to operate by an animator.
You can see Stripeland’s ‘Making Of’ video below.
We have made many devices, props and armatures for use in Stopframe animation projects, from tiny microphones, TV cameras and vuvuzelas for Aardman’s Creme Egg Advert to marble-textured God-hands for a Julio Bashmore music video. Head to Our Work to find out more.