7TV is the fastest growing television channel in Russia. Like many of its American counterparts, it’s an empire built on the lucrative genre known as “lifestyle” programming–think Russia’s answer to Anthony Bourdain and Design Star.
Hoping to broaden its appeal to younger audiences, the network underwent a major rebranding this year, changing its name from Semyorka (“Seven” in Russian) to the far more hip-sounding 7TV. They also hired Swiss art director Greg Barth to reimagine the identity of the channel and produce a series of intro animations for their program lineup.
Barth is something of a stop-motion enthusiast–he likes to mix the handmade quality of the technique with digitally rendered environments. He flew to Moscow to meet the network heads, only one of whom spoke English, and pitched his idea: five stop motion idents to represent each of the channel’s five main topics (Travel, Renovation, Cinema, Changing Yourself, Relationships).
7TV approved the concept, and Barth got started on what he calls “easily the biggest challenge of his life.” He hired 25 designers and filmmakers, and broke them into two teams. The majority of the group got to work building the stop-motion sets, while a smaller group tackled the straightforward orange-and-white logo and print identity.
Ironically, he had to digitally model each film before physically building the real sets. He used the rendered animations to set up guidelines and parameters for his team of animators, who painstakingly modeled each environment by hand (a making-of video shows flurries of paint and construction paper). Then, using motion-tracking software common in the motion graphic industry, they captured the final idents. After a minimal amount of AfterEffects massaging, the films were finished.
If you’ve ever tried making a stop motion film before, you know how difficult it is to get a seamless shot. It’s shocking to realize these animations are true stop-motion–they look too perfect, too real, to be handmade. Barth says that they reflect 7TV’s do-it-yourself attitude. “The concept was to highlight that, through an organized and smart assembly, you can improve your life,” he explains.
Barth is a former designer turned director, based in Montreal, whose recent work includes the awesomely funny, sad video for the second single off of Passion Pit’s new album, Gossamer. Check it out here.