AdChat DFW: Tell us a little bit about ATK PLN.
David Bates: Our company overview states that we’re a strategic creative studio focused on the intersection of design, animation and live action. But in a continually shifting industry, that really only provides a broad stroke of the kind of work we create at ATK PLN. I teamed up with former Shilo founder and ECD Jose Gomez to launch ATK PLN in February of 2018, bringing together our diverse backgrounds to create something that was unique for today’s marketplace. From the outset, we designed the company to be nimble and primed for the evolving industry–ready and energized to tackle new challenges, approaches and ways of collaborating with our clients. We both have backgrounds in marketing for retail brands, so we are all too familiar with the notion that embracing what once was can be the enemy of what can be. So, we aimed to look five years down the road, decide what kind of company we wanted to be, and start acting like that from day one. That approach has made a huge impact on our steadfast focus on what we do and how we do it. We are offering our clients insight and offerings that elevate and expand on their expertise and experience–not compete with it.
We also recognize and embrace that we are unique in the respect that we offer clients feature-quality animation for commercial and short form content. Working through a shared infrastructure with our sister company Reel FX Animation Studios, we are able to offer heightened production values and the highest level of technology that smaller studios typically are not able to have access to.
AdChat DFW: You have a sister company, called Flight School, correct?
David Bates: Yes. They do immersive experiences.
AdChat DFW: Let’s chat about your Cavaliers spot, were you working with a local agency?
David Bates: No, we were working directly with the Cleveland Cavaliers on that one. They came to us looking for an experience that would fully immerse fans when they entered the arena. They gave us the initial overarching concept of what they were looking for and then left everything else up to us. We developed that projection mapping concept to evolve throughout the entire playoff series. It really was about ramping up the excitement of the fans in attendance to build more and more as they progressed throughout the series.
AdChat DFW: Where did it “live?”
David Bates: It was a pretty immersive experience so there were four projections that made up the holistic arena experience. We really wanted the fans who were there to feel like they were in a space that was being transformed before their eyes. The floor projection would make them feel like that floor was no longer a floor, and would directly transition into the movement with the lights and sound. This also connected to the action on the jumbotrons, building on the energy through projections that built off each other. This total experience that the fans and the players got to experience while they were there was entirely different from what viewers saw on television.
AdChat DFW: Can you share about your recent partnership with Paramount Animation Studios to create their new animated logo?
David Bates: Paramount wanted to create its first original trademark logo character to represent the studio across film, TV, and marketing spots. Concept Designer Christopher Ziebach created the new tween Star Skipper to fit this image. We worked closely with him as the creative agency for the logo, with Patton Tunstall leading the animation as Creative Director and CG Supervisor. The idea was to create a trademark personality and visual to embody the whimsical and empowered nature of Paramount Animation films. It was a very exciting and detailed project, including the Star Skipper’s incredibly intricate hair, which features over 118,000 strands of CG hair.
AdChat DFW: Can you share how you conceptualized the Mercedes Benz spot?
David Bates: The way this came to us was really interesting, because normally we’re working on turnkey projects, but this time we were called up for something highly specialized. Merkley + Partners, an agency out of New York, wanted to use classic Warner Bros. characters in this spot and Warner Bros. recommended us after working with us on projects for LEGO Batman and LEGO Ninjago because they knew we could nail the look of their characters. We were tasked with seamlessly integrating the characters into the live action spot, carefully maintaining the detailed character designs that fans have grown to know and love over the years. We actually worked with Merkley + Partners, Warner Bros. and VFX shop Blacksmith who did the final assembly of it.
AdChat DFW: That was a wonderful concept.
David Bates: Thank you. Everybody was at the top of their game on that one. It was really great.
AdChat DFW: It’s interesting now we’ve got the immersive technology like AR and VR. How is this extending the reach of brands?
David Bates: For us, it’s more about design than the motion graphics because we’re looking at how design can extend the reach of a campaign across multiple platforms. A carefully distilled brand design allows a brand to clearly communicate their identity no matter where they’re presenting it. Recognizable pallets, shapes and patterns of motion, etc. make it possible for brand presentation to be seamless in all applications. To us, motion graphics is an extension of that initial design concept–one of the many expressions of it. We are constantly exploring how we visually present the brand across various applications through strategic brand design.
AdChat DFW: But you end up taking that design and putting it into motion, right?
David Bates: Absolutely. That could be with CG, it could be with 2D graphics, it could be a combo of that with live action, but the whole point is to convey the concept they’re going for, while ensuring it always connects back to that overarching brand identity.
AdChat DFW: What comes first, technology or creativity, or does that vary?
David Bates: It’s always the creative. It’s always the idea first, without question. Our approach is somewhat technology agnostic. We really map the technology to the creative approach and that’s part of how we have assembled our team to be nimble and agile. We approach every project with “what’s the idea?” and “are we being solutions-oriented for it?” So instead of asking a client to map their concept to the way we work, we really work hard to engineer the way we work to their concept. It really is about finding the right solution for their idea.
AdChat DFW: How many people do you have under you over there?
David Bates: I believe we have 26.
AdChat DFW: Your office is housed in the Reel FX building. Do you cross-pollinate with them on projects?
David Bates: That’s an interesting question. We have a common infrastructure, which allows us to tap into amazing technologies and resources, including their render farm. We use the digital pipeline that they’ve built for features, but we have a designated team and leadership that we use specifically for ATK PLN projects. Every now and then we will cross-pollinate with artists depending on availability and expertise. But, in general we are self-sufficient with a shared infrastructure.
AdChat DFW: What do you think your future holds?
David Bates: That’s a fun question to try to tackle. When we were getting ready to launch, we set our goals on what we wanted to be in five years and started acting that way immediately. What was interesting was how quickly we got to some of those things that we thought were five years out, simply by refining and clarifying what we do. What we really have done is design a studio that is always looking to the future. We’ve designed it to be able to embrace our clients’ constantly changing needs, because they’re also dealing with a rapidly shifting industry. Looking ahead, we’re constantly trying to make sure that we are designing the way we need to in order to help them solve their problems.