About Betsy de Fries

Betsy de Fries is founder, director and producer of Little Fluffy Clouds Animation studio. She and her partner, Jerry van de Beek LFC's creative director, bring an imaginative edge to concept design, character development, animation, VFX, photoreal modeling, title sequences and on-line media. As a multi award-winning studio LFC specializes in high-end motion graphics and digital animation of all flavours. Diversity of style is our byword.

LFC creates snow, VFX + color grades spot for BSS+P

BSS+P are known for infusing their ad campaigns with an irreverently sly comedic slant. In this series of spots for Columbia Sportswear they came up with the genius idea of stripping a bunch of actors down to their skinny, skin skivvies and in freezing snowy conditions have those poor principles explain to us the miracle of Omni-Heat and the little silver dots.

In this ad a guy is blasted with snow from a cannon and his friends (you call these friends?) deliver a final blow that literally knocks him off his feet. … But what if there just isn’t enough snow? BSS+P came to us to create that magic powder for the spot, some sleight of hand VFX and to color grade the film. The fine performance speaks for itself.

In Korean with subtitles – just for fun.

Unbranded for UTA wins a 2010 Silver Telly Award

Unbranded, already a multi-award winning spot for agency Lipman Hearne and the University of Texas at Arlington, has just won another gong. This time a Silver Telly Award in the “Non-Traditional” category. While we’re not too sure exactly what that category is, given the maverick quality of the spot and it’s Unbranded attitude, we think that’s very fitting.

So, it’s all smiles here on the west coast at Little Fluffy Clouds and down south at UTA. See this larger than life commercial play at the Dallas Cowboy’s Stadium on the 17 story high Mitsubishi jumbotron – the largest TV screen in the world – and prepare to be WOWED by the accompanying stadium ribbons that wrap around the stadium while you watch your team play.

Unbranded and non-traditional – a winner in every sense of the word. Yes, Ma’am!

LFC Mercedes spot stars in SIGGRAPH 2010 Computer Animation Festival

SIGGRAPH 2010 Computer Animation Festival – Out of thousands of animation and VFX entries, LFC’s Mercedes SLR 300 spot, Out of this World, made the cut. And yes, we are sporting smiles as wide as that Nokia Theater screen on which we’ll have the pleasure of seeing our work.

Celebrating its 37th year as the world’s most innovative and stimulating showcase of computer-generated animation and visual effects. This five-day international event presents a wide spectrum of computer animation genres and styles ranging from narrative character animation to scientific visualization and from commercials for TV to digital effects for futuristic movies.

If you are attending a single animation festival this year – SIGGRAPH 2010 is the one. Get your tickets here: http://www.siggraph.org/s2010/ Cheers and see you there!

UTA Unbranded – a giant spot for the Dallas Cowboys stadium

Everything in Texas is big. Some say there ain’t nothing so big as the 17 story high, giant Mitsubishi TV screen that dominates the field of the Dallas Cowboys stadium where, Unbranded, plays to thousands of spectators at every game.

Now an award winning spot for Lipman Hearne and the University of Texas at Arlington, Unbranded is fun, colorful and jam packed with many different characters in many interesting situations. It brings to life in a very fun and immensely colorful way all the best programs that UTA has to offer and moves along at a really fast clip.

The Unbranded campaign is really a series of spots made both for broadcast and for multiple sized stadium screens ranging from the 17 story high Mitsubishi jumbotron – the largest TV screen in the world – to vertical HDTV screens situated in the public areas. Two accompanying :60 second “ribbons” circumnavigate the stadium in a continuously tiled loop. The ribbons use some assets from the ads but each has their own unique look and feel generating excitement as the best of stadium graphics do. Obviously seen at their best in situ at the Dallas Cowboys’ new football stadium, the spots themselves are easy to put on the website and reel but we still haven’t figured out a way to show the enormity of them plus the razamataz and WOW factor of the way everything looks in place. In a word – dazzling!

Both the :30 and :15 second commercials are airing regionally in the south and showing in rotation for the next two seasons at The Dallas Cowboys Stadium. Unbranded is one spot that might just blindside you.

Ian Lumsden’s UK Animation Blog – The Journey is Everything.

One of the best independent animation blogs on the internet today is Ian Lumsden‘s UK, http://www.animationblog.org. Chock full of incredible animation and interesting observations, Ian Lumsden, who apart from facilitating this blog is not actually in the media or the animation biz.

Ian has a unique perspective on animation. Quite simply he profiles what he likes. Oblivious to the PR hype that so often surrounds a project and keeps a few chosen companies constantly in the public eye, Ian zeroes in on the way a piece makes you feel while barely mentioning the technique. I like that because that’s the way a good animation should be – thrilling you with it’s content yet so expertly made that the technique employed is almost invisible. I think life is all about the journey taken and that journey is filled with emotion not software.

I send him everything we do as much because I value his honest and constructive criticism as because I like to see LFC’s work recognized by his blog. When Ian reviews your work it’s a notice worth having. Here’s what he had to say about our first CALU spot, Journey.

“Jerry van de Beek and Betsy De Fries comprise the small but perfectly formed Little Fluffy Clouds, a California based company that from what I can make out seems to turn its adroit hand to whatever project is put its way. Take, Journey, a 30 second ad for the California UniversityofPennsylvania. Watch how the curved blue line moves outwards towards a rowing boat before we alight at the university campus, gradually being populated by students, the buildings and trees such warm colours, to be whisked upwards, above the entire university, a community set inside a blue sea. Pastoral and enticing, the freshness of it all makes one want to start again. A watercolour mix of 2D and 3D, using Maya and After Effects, college life as one might wish it to be. Parents would certainly. Clean living. And a very cool ad. There’s more work on their website, for some very prestigious clients, as indeed is CALU. I want to go there.”

Thanks Ian!

Better late than never. The Car and The Road – Prix Ars Electronica

How delighted was I to get a Google alert this morning for LFC Short, The Car and The Road. It’s probably the first one ever for that short. Hey, not only that, but the file clearly states that TCATR made it into the prestigious Austrian animation festival, Prix Ars Electronica. Prix Selection: Smart Worlds. How did we ever miss that in this day and age of all points bulletins at all times of the day and night 24/7? So, for all of you that missed it when it first premiered I’ve resurrected it from the archive and I’m featuring it here and now. Thank you Google Bot for all your hard and diligent work.

The Car and The Road: A Romance in Automation, follows the trials and tribulations of a sensible, straight road as he seeks to reinvent himself for the car he loves. Watch, as the road bares his inner passionate self to woo the fun loving car “that can do things other cars only dream about.” Sigh… a true love story for the modern era.

This charming work, directed by Jerry van de Beek and Betsy de Fries of Little Fluffy Clouds, was created for the Lexus Car Corporation. Described by the Association Internationale du Film d’Animation (ASIFA) as,

“A lovely animated fable…”
~ Association Internationale du Film d’Animation

The Car and The Road pays homage and takes its inspiration from Chuck Jones’ Oscar winning film, The Dot and The Line. Original composition for the almost 4 minute film was scored by Trivers-Meyers Music whose arrangement fits hand in glove with the visuals. Commissioned by Los Angeles ad agency, Team One, The Car and The Road, is a colorful and imaginative feast for the eyes and fun to boot!

Animated using Adobe Illustrator, After Effects and Photoshop with Autodesk Maya and hand drawn frames. The short will be seen on all broadcast media – that’s Cinema, TV and Web.

Journey – A Watercolor Painting Comes to Life.

Most of us look back at our time spent at university with true fondness – a time of amazing achievement and pivotal moments unsurpassed by any other. A time when dreams become aspirations and aspirations become reality and every second is shared with friends made – ones that we carry with us for the rest of our lives. This is the story of Journey, a 30-second HDTV commercial and the first in a campaign for the California University of Pennsylvania.

Executed in an elegant painterly style, Journey, combines both 2D and 3D animation to recreate the texture and layered look of a traditional watercolor painting. In this watercolor world, one in which we can freely move around, the story unfolds of a student’s journey through life. Beginning with a single brush stroke on textured paper the river of life is revealed depicting two friends in a rowboat. As the canvas blooms into vibrant color the two friends begin to move through the university campus. Casually meeting up with another friend, together, they enter into the pulse of university life.

Effortlessly the camera moves us gently back to gradually orbit around the characters and in an echo of the story, allows us to fully take in both the pastoral scene laid before us, with students going about their day, and the effect of the growing color palette as it washes over the canvas to create vivid momentary and fleeting glimpses of the campus in all its diversity. A gentle pull out, up through a canopy of trees, moves us skyward like a soaring bird over the rooftops of the buildings to lay the entire campus before us.

The campus, characters and shaders were created in Maya. The animation was created in multiple layers finessed in After Effects. Compositing was undertaken in-house at Little Fluffy Clouds.

Conde Nast chooses LFC Friskies images for new design book

Really good design books are hard to come by so we at Little Fluffy Clouds are more than pleased to be featured in one – which from the galleys to date – looks to be just that. Picture Perfect: Seeing and Understanding Color and Design, by Chris Dorosz and J.R. Watson, is an upcoming design publication by Fairchild Books, a division of Conde Nast Publications.

This extensive text/workbook takes an interactive approach to the study of color and design, highlighting the elemental importance for designers to understand how color is perceived, experienced, and manipulated in order to be used effectively in their designs. A highly visual text, Picture Perfect, will explore and apply the principles of color and design and help stir the imagination of today’s art and design students.

The Friskies images from Little Fluffy Clouds were chosen for their skillful use in paring the end “client”, in this case a cat, to the advertised product. An extract from the book expands on this and speaks eloquently of the processes at work in the design:

“Picking one color to work around in a design can establish a dominant impression, reference or mood. This Friskies cat food commercial has taken the orange color of a Tabby cat as the key color and expands it into an analogous palette using yellow oranges and red oranges. More subtly, it engenders feelings of warmth and happiness as it taps into primordial instincts of the regenerative powers of the sun.”

Picture Perfect: Seeing and Understanding Color and Design, by Chris Dorosz and J.R. Watson. Order your copy now.

Radio Shack Santa GPS or what happens if he doesn’t have one…

A long suffering Santa tries his best to deliver Christmas gifts to the world while Rudolph and the reindeer team go round and round in circles unable to find their way.

This darling little Christmas ad for Radio Shack has a crinkled paper, stop motion look and feel with a sweet Christmas musical score and some very funny copy – given a brilliant delivery.

Hey, it’s not often you can say that the voice over for a spot you’re working on is priceless but the V/O in this ad is just so great we cracked up the entire time we were in production.


Professional Digital Compositing: Essential Tools + Techniques


Reviewing Lee Lanier‘s latest book, Professional Digital Compositing – Essential Tools and Techniques, Kirk Buckendorf eloquently states – and I couldn’t have put it better myself –

“While not as glorious as 3D animation or as artsy as digital design, digital compositing is the unsung hero of multiple industries. Without it the 3D animation would never make it to the screen and beautiful artwork would never come alive.”

While not a book for the neophite – because it does contain a lot of technical material – Lanier’s book is definitely readable and extremely informative covering all aspects of the oft neglected “soldier” of animation and film production. As you thumb through it reads like an all star cast of the best companies in our industry and the interviews, with some of the best compositors in the game, give us an on the ground view of those companies and a little taste for their working philosophy. Best of all there’s real intelligence to be had in the advice given and actual instruction as opposed to PR fluff. Each chapter has a “Tips and Tricks” section which is invaluable and the accompanying DVD allows you to drill down further and pick up even more usable info.

In an inspired flash of brilliance, Lanier posed most of the people he interviewed at their station (only a few stodgy companies submitted standard PR stills). I got a kick out of seeing everyone at their desk because you get an instant hit for the personality behind the work.

Above, seated at his desk, is Little Fluffy Clouds own Jerry van de Beek. Methinks this image speaks volumes :° )