Trunk's Alasdair + Jock make waves for Day of the Seafarer

Atmospheric animation for the International Maritime Organisation celebrates seafarers

Trunk animation’s Alasdair + Jock have created a classy minute-long short for the Day of the Seafarer, a global celebration held today by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) as a tribute to the 1.5 million seafarers who ply their trade to keep the world’s commerce and industry afloat.

Alasdair Brotherston and Jock Mooney went on a factual journey to discover how 12 billion tons of freight is shipped around the world. The resulting film is a visual journey that makes subtle connections between all the things we take for granted, from bread to rubber ducks, to the seafarers who risk their lives to deliver them.

“We loved working on the project,” says Jock. “Not only as it was for such a good cause but the IMO gave me and Alasdair a lot of creative freedom, allowing us to build on the style we had evolved creating our short Gelato go Home!

Initially taking inspiration from the illustrations of Charley Harper and iconic 1920’s and 30’s travel posters, the work quickly evolved into a more painterly hybrid style that sits between the two sources.

“We used the same brilliant composer from Gelato Go Home!, James Orman, who produced a soundtrack just the right side of Dire Straits,” adds Jock. "Barnaby Templer at Fonic once again created the sound design. Alasdair introduced some lovely cuts and wipes. My personal favourite was seeing the icebergs turn into the cat’s ears!”

The beautiful short reads like a panel book with each shot being perfectly composed and balanced, a subtle and detailed use of colour ties the short together (right).

Use the controls right and above to read an interview with Alasdair Brotherston and view more scenes from the film.

Michael Burns: What did the animation process involve ?

Alasdair Brotherston: The animation for this was pretty straightforward - we created all the backgrounds using Photoshop with a range of custom brushes. Animation was done in Flash for all the character and environment stuff and Cinema 4D for the boat - we wanted it to be able to have a nice roll to help the film feel more dynamic. Finally, everything was composited using After Effects to help achieve the overall painterly feel.

MB:Were there any particularly challenging areas of design and animation?

AB:I know that Jock found the dockyard scene wiping through to the breakfast table a particular challenge. Trying to find equivalents between the two scenes whilst maintaining a realistic scale was quite tricky. When you add in the fact that these cargo boats are so massive that they look slightly unbelievable it does present its challenges.

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MB:What was the inspiration for the colour palette?

AB:The colours were drawn from a combination of the palettes we found in 1920s/1930s travel posters and nature photography. We wanted to stay away from anything too bright or contrasted so spent a lot of time looking at photos of dawn and dusk scenes where everything is swathed in blue. It sounds obvious, but in a low contrast colour palette a bright orange light may actually be a muddy yellowy brown, yet still appear the brightest thing on the screen.

We also spent a lot of time looking at sky gradients and the range of colours they travel through. It's never a linear gradient between two bright colours, even at sunset. I love bringing out all the murky, sludgy colours that help create that softness. Its something we first looked at in our short film Gelato Go Home! as a concious step away from the brighter palettes in our previous work.

MB:Which scenes are you particularly pleased with?

AB:From my point of view I particularly enjoy the second half of the film. It has a really nice flow to it and I love the contrast between the calm of home and the danger of the high seas. I think its all helped by a fantastic score composed by James Orman and Barnaby Templer's sound design.

The last shot shows an entire town lit with the message 'Thank You'. We worked hard to get the balance right throughout the film so that it wasn’t patronising or too gushing. We wanted to show the reality of the situation, albeit with a big dollop of artistic licence.