Director: Tim Ruffle
Watch Special Delivery online: YouTube
On the first Sunday of every month, we review a short film available on VOD. We call it Short Film Sunday.
Just before Christmas, YouTube and Aardman teamed up to launch a new video format, which Google dubbed “Spotlight Stories”. The idea? Using 360-degree interactivity, people could watch a story and choose where to put the spotlight. The action might be happening in one place, but you could be looking in a completely different direction.
That might not sound that impressive, but don’t forget the names attached to this project: Aardman are some of the best animators in the business, while Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group have developed several of these videos before, although this is the first hosted on YouTube. They’ve honed the tech side of things to allow the Wallace and Gromit creators to go full-tilt at the concept. The result? A short film stuffed with easter eggs wherever you click: there are 10 subplots to view, three different ways to see the ending and more than 60 moments where you can choose to follow the story in different ways.
The short, called Special Delivery, sees a caretaker in a housing development hear noises on the roof – he investigates, but never works out who the intruder is. The fact that this is a festive animation, and that the elusive troublemaker leaves a trail of presents in his wake, makes it very obvious very quickly who we’re dealing with. (Hint: It’s not the tooth fairy.)
Photo: Google / Variety
It’s a neat premise, allowing us to snoop around like the caretaker – and allowing Aardman to Pink Panther the heck out of the mystery side of things, from the gorgeous 2D art to Scot Stafford’s Henry Mancini-like music. A lot of complex work goes into making something that looks so simple, with the team (under the direction of Tim Ruffle) first building a cardboard model of the scene so they could move the characters around and work out where the plots could unfold. Then, each subplot was storyboarded and stitched together.
“It was chaos,” Aardman tech director Philip Child told Variety.
Google’s end of the deal is just as tricky, using the sensors on viewers’ phones – the gyroscope and accelerometer – to allow people to look around by effectively moving their viewing window. The result is like peeking through a letterbox into a whole other world; when you spot a guy in the background trying to stuff a turkey in the oven, it’s genuinely thrilling (and funny to boot).
The only thing more exciting is that Aardman’s partnership marks the start of YouTube’s plan to release more Spotlight Stories in the future, so that they become a mainstream form of content on the site. The potential is huge – a Christmas gift not just for audiences, but for creators too. The theory is that you end up with a unique experience every time you see the video, but the impeccable quality and sheer innovation already makes this delivery very special indeed.
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