Case Study 8: Bigstar

It’s been a little while since our last Case Study feature. In the interim, we’ve had lots of samples come t


hrough our doors, and all of them were fantastic and many have been featured here on the site, but we’ve always felt that the Case Studies should be something extra special, getting to know companies or individuals who are using Jewelboxing in direct relation to their business on a regular basis. What’s more, we’d set some really high standards with our previous talks with groups like Impactist, Eyeball NYC, and WOXY. It was when we started talking to Alex Krawitz, an Executive Producer over at Bigstar, the absurdly talented New York-based motion graphics firm, that we knew we had the focus of our next feature. Alex was kind enough to lend us some of his time in between massive projects for major clients, and we were fortunate to get the scoop on the company, their process, and the industry in general:

1. Can you give us the general rundown on Bigstar?

Yeah — we are a small creative motion graphic design and production firm based out of NYC. We specialize in broadcast and commercial work and sometimes do industrial, experience design and music video work.

2. I’m always curious how firms like Bigstar get started. How do you go from day one to now doing promos for HBO and major national spots? Making spec work or shorts for film fests? Did everyone bring their clients over from freelance or other firms? Or did you assemble a team of people and then said to potential clients, “Here we are!”?

Our creative director, Josh Norton, had been a freelance animator and designer in NYC for several years before we started Bigstar. It was one of those things that took form over the past two years in a very gradual way. The company quite literally started out in Josh’s apartment and what we would do is take Josh’s freelance clients and bill them through the Bigstar entity and let all of his clients know that we had started a new company. It wasn’t before long that we grew out of Josh’s apartment and rented a small room at a larger edit facility. Eventually, through word of mouth, client referrals and working our asses off, we were able to establish a small but solid client list. One room at the edit facility turned into two. And in July of ’05, we moved into our new office space that allows us to take on much bigger and more high profile work.

3. Your new ’06 reel features the Daft Punk song “Robot Rock.” How do you wind up picking a music track that you think will work well with the new material you want to show off? Someone hears a song and says, “That’s it! That’s the track to edit a montage to!”? And, along those same lines, is there a go-to person at Bigstar who is the king of putting together the new reel?

That’s kind of a funny question because I think that we had about 14 tracks that we considered “final” for our latest reel before we went with Daft Punk. We would get right up to the point where we would think it was complete and then Josh would want to switch the song again. The latest reel took us a long time to prepare with the music selection, which work to show, packaging etc. I think that you are always your own toughest critic.

4. A lot of your projects have a terrific mix of film, 2D, and 3D in them. What’s your process like, from designing the backgrounds to filming actors to taking everything into the computer and bringing it all together?

In our work you do see a lot of mixing of elements and that has kind of become the bstar calling card. For our most recent project, we had elements coming from many different sources. We were in the studio shooting HD effects and live action. Those were being combined with CG and 2d animation, as well as textural scanning and photography that we took all over the city. All of these elements were then brought in and assembled by all of the animators and editors. The end result is a richer more finished aesthetic that gives the viewer a unique visual experience.

5. Any particular favorites Bigstar has put together? Or any really interesting methods you used to assemble a piece?

I think that our favorites change from day-to-day and project to project. We’re pretty into the “Road to Rucker Park” piece at the moment.

6. To help keep everyone around the studio sane and happy, a lot of firms, including we here at Jewelboxing, get involved in personal projects, making things just for the fun of it. Does that go on at Bigstar? Anything you’d like to share?

Unfortunately it is very hard for us to do work outside of our client jobs as they take almost all of our time. But we do, once in a while, get a chance to work on fun stuff. We have a music video that we will begin working on soon that should be really great.

7. Over the weekend, a friend and I got to talking about how there are these motion graphics staples that people not in the industry have become hyper-familiar with. Like the still photos cut out and made into 3D, which you see in almost every documentary anymore. Or flowers being unmasked, so it looks like they’re growing. Bigstar seems to be able to buck those trends and come up with ideas that are unique and far more organic. How do you manage to keep things fresh, which must be particularly difficult when you’re working with clients who are prone to say things like, “I saw the coolest thing last night — it was this still photo that was also kinda in 3D!”?

The motion design industry grows together. There are shared trends and techniques that create breakthroughs pushing us and every firm to a higher level of expression. However, once an idea or look reaches a saturated level exposure it is our job as a firm to have already seen the “trend” coming, by staying close to the industry and informed beyond the average individual. We are interested in being proactive. We strive to push the tools and talents around us and initiate a pure creative approach to each project using new techniques not reacting to popular trends.

8. Nearly every week at AdAge they’ve got a story about how tv spots are going the way of the Dodo and that the future of advertising is all in mobile content and the internet. Do you follow that thinking at all? Additionally, have you thought about, or been approached for, Bigstar handling such projects, ones that will never appear on anything larger than 320×240?

More and more our clients ask us to prep finals for both on air and web. I would say that that is becoming a pretty regular occurrence.

9. What did you use Jewelboxing for? And why did you decide to use the system?

We chose Jewelboxes for our reel packaging because of its professional quality look and the level of customization that we can achieve. When one of our clients or potential clients receive our reel we want them to feel like they have received something special and unique. We tried other options and Jewelboxing looked the best, by far.

10. What’s next for Bigstar? Any projects you can talk about?

We are just wrapping up our first channel launch package and were recently awarded a PSA for the Partnership for a Drug Free America that is going to be great. Stay tuned…