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BY JIMMY GLEESON

Behind the design: Where stop-motion starts.

Tangled cables. Bulging wallets. Messy desks. They slow us down and leave us in a twist. While twists are good in films (and pastries), most of the time we want life to feel more seamless.

At Bellroy, we think a lot about those little moments of friction, and how to fix them. It’s our creative fuel and catalyst for some of our favorite products. The team and I explored this idea in greater detail with our latest campaign – From struggle to possibility. So let me take you behind our creative curtain, all the way back to where we began.

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Dave (on the right) and I laying out the plans for the recent campaign.

As a brand founded by designers with a thirst for experimentation, ‘getting hands on’ – creatively speaking – is in our DNA. And when it comes to stop-motion videos, we’ve spent years honing this creative calling card – it gives our products life; and balances polish and shine with endless amounts of duct tape, fishing wire and good old-fashioned elbow grease.

You see, the Bellroy story was one that started with the humble wallet but has now evolved to tackle other ways to organise your day. It was with this shift that we knew we had a fun story to tell. So after hours spent brainstorming, prototyping, sketching, filming and editing From struggle to possibility, we’re really proud of the final results.

"This creative calling card gives our products life; and balances polish and shine with endless amounts of duct tape, fishing wire and good old fashioned elbow grease."

The videos were created by Bellroy puppet master and photographer, Dave Green (the genius behind all of our videos), and feature members of the Bellroy team in each opening scene. All up, the whole campaign (so far) has included more than 2000 retouched frames, somewhere in excess of 5,000 photos, 27 feet of wire, 18 sample pots of paint, six rolls of duct tape, one exploding wallet and a trip to the doctor (don’t worry, Dave’s fine!).

Our Community and Partnerships Lead, Chris nailed this in his first take. The guy's a natural.
Customer Whisperer, Camilla trying her best to tame the tangle.
My morning routine nailed in no less than 37 takes (I’m definitely no Chris).

So you get the picture, stop-motion is a long and meticulous process, but in a way it represents our ongoing search for progression and refinement. In fact, I remember exactly where it all began, when we first started Bellroy, so many of the features we’d designed had a movement to them that you couldn’t quite capture through still photography. That’s where the idea for video started, and despite a lot of early fails (it literally took us 15 mins to find the video setting on the camera), the Bellroy stop-motion style that you see today was born.

Looking back, we've learned a lot. Dave and I remember shooting our first video in my apartment one evening. It took an eternity to edit. There was SO much wire, putty and sticky tape to retouch out of the frames. And Dave learnt a valuable lesson: hide that stuff! And it's funny really, we choreographed coins dancing and $50 bills doing the worm, but a lot of those early tests ended up on the cutting room floor.

Our videos have come a long way since those early attempts. I still look back at those early days of experimenting around our kitchen table with equal levels of affection and embarrassment.

  • One of our first tests from 2010. Aptly titled 'Slug Money'.
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    Dave and I first met at design school in Melbourne. 15 years on, we're still laughing.

A practice that’s deeply rooted in MacGyver-like problem solving. Where ideas often don’t immediately reveal themselves, but sometimes need to be found.

We wanted to create something that was as entertaining as it was informative. And at the same time define the creative practice of Bellroy as a brand. A practice that’s deeply rooted in MacGyver-like problem solving. Where ideas often don’t immediately reveal themselves, but sometimes need to be found.

As Dave puts it, “That’s really how the process has developed: sketch out a storyboard, shoot the video, make some mistakes, figure out how to do it better next time, start again. I think people can really appreciate the work that goes into making these videos, and hopefully get a little treat each time they watch one.”

The creation of this campaign was less solo-act and more big-band, drawing on the entire creative team. It began one Friday night with a few of us doing a word play exercise with the likes of ‘Flappy > Happy’ and ‘Biggie > Smalls’. As well as some outrageous ideas for the stop-motion preludes (ever seen a wallet so heavy your pants fall off in the street?).

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    Dave somewhere on his way to 5000 photos.
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    "No idea is a bad idea". At least that's where it starts at Bellroy's creative HQ.
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The end result featuring an array of Bellroy products battling their villians.

During the month of production that followed, we barely saw Dave come up from the downstairs studio – except at meal times. Occasionally someone would pop down to find him suspended against a wall or speaking to himself in sound effects, but for the most part the shooting stage was a solo labor of love. One that combined Dave’s uncanny ability to focus with the kind of care and patience only animators would understand.

Dave and I often wish we could unsee hours of editing and post-production and go back and view ideas for the first time. Having said that, I believe a true test to a good video is ‘do you want to watch it again?’ and I think our latest efforts definitely do that. Every time I watch one, I notice a new thing. A subtle transition, a hidden detail, a different sound. It’s that attention to detail and delight that I think we’re known for. And our latest campaign captures that spirit beautifully. All the while helping move folks from tangled mess to totally in control. And that’s the goal, really.

Here’s a sample of the final latest videos. To see the full back catalogue, visit our Youtube channel...

Thanks,
– Jimmy Gleeson, Creative Director


Feel inspired to get knee-deep in wire, tape and exploding products?

Here are Dave’s top three stop-motion tips.

1. Tethered capture is essential when shooting. You want to see how your movements/positioning are going as you animate. I didn’t do this on the first 5 to 6 videos I shot and it lead to a whole lot more work in post-production.

2. Think about the physics – how does something move in real life, with gravity (and without the wires)? Nothing moves at a constant speed, so they shouldn’t in the animation. Play with speed, and the ways in which the movement of an object in one frame might affect the movement in another.

3. Make it look beautiful. Pay as much attention to lighting as you would with a product photograph.

Oh, and don’t forget to have fun :)