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Creating award-winning spots for Fox Sports

By Dan Heilman

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Date Added: 18th September 2014

Motion-design house Monkeyhead's founder, Josh Sahley, discusses its CINEMA 4D pipeline in creating award-winning TV spots for Fox Sports...


It is said that when it comes to getting work, it's not what you know but who you know that counts. But in the case of Monkeyhead's two recent spots for Fox Sports 1, a little bit of both came in handy. Not only had Monkeyhead worked on numerous successful projects with Fox Sports in the past, but founder/creative director Josh Sahley's first job, years ago, was with Fox Sports. So when Fox Sports 1, the spinoff network owned by the TV giant, needed a couple of eye-catching broadcast stingers (network IDs), they knew where to turn.


"Some of the guys I knew when I worked there are still with the company, so they've sort of known our work and dedication to our clients all along,” says Sahley, a 17-year veteran of 2D/3D motion design. After a brainstorming session on the phone, Monkeyhead got to work right away. "Clients like Fox Sports are the best creative partners you can ask for,” he continues. "They knew what our capabilities were and they gave us the creative freedom to push it.”

Relying primarily on CINEMA 4D for modeling and character animation, Monkeyhead was tasked with creating two 10-second stingers to identify the network between commercials. In the end, Monkeyhead's whimsical combo of realism and silly characters earned both spots the distinction of being part of a package of spots that won the Gold at the BDA Awards for Best Sports Program Bumper, North America & Global, and also for being part of a General Image Campaign.

Character creation

After discussing initial ideas with Fox Sports 1, Monkeyhead's five-person team spent six weeks creating the two spots, New Year's Eve and The Victorious. Characters for each spot were based on rough, initial sketches around the theme of the numeral 1 and designed in Photoshop. Once they were approved, the files were imported into CINEMA 4D for modeling, rigging and animation.

New Year's Eve

The Victorious

"You have to be able to learn from others' successes, take the time to appreciate their achievements and avoid the same failures artists have already made"

Much of the groundwork involved in preparing the spots was done by hand. That meant Sahley and his team spent time up front looking at successful faceless characters, as well as characters based on objects, to see what worked and what didn't. "You have to be able to learn from others' successes, take the time to appreciate their achievements and avoid the same failures artists have already made,” Sahley says. "Otherwise, what's the point of archiving all of this work to review?”

Once the research was finished, they began the character design phase by drawing out the number 1 in different positions and sizes and with different limbs and treatments, including turning the 1 at the camera so the tip of the 1 looked like a nose. The crew even filmed reference footage of themselves to create an idea of the look and movements they wanted before starting the animation process. "We've all done our fair share of time on camera, but Blake Newton gets the award on this one for best moves,” Sahley says. "No one goes from a pole-vaulting number 1 to a hammered number 1 as well as he does.”


Another important issue the team considered was character movement. "We had to figure out the right level of stretch to make it look good because sometimes you naturally want to animate movement so it looks realistic, but that can look stiff and boring in certain instances,” Sahley explains. "Alternately, if you make characters too bendy, they look ridiculous. Once we found the right parameters for each character's movement and personality, we were ready to move forward.”

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