Industry Spotlight: Buck

Motion Design October 2, 2019 3 min read

In the world of motion graphic design for commercials and television, there are few studios with a bigger reputation than Buck.

Buck uses a combination of design, animation, visual effects, and live-action to create a wide range of spots for its high profile clients around the world.

Started in 2004 by the combined creative forces of Jeff Ellermeyer, Ryan Honey and Orion Tait, Buck now has offices in Los Angeles and New York, as well as commercial representation in Canada, France, and England. The 3 principals are still with the company along with 70+ full-time employees.

According to executive creative director Ryan Honey, the Buck team looks at 3 criteria when deciding to take on a project. They examine the ability to push creativity, the size of the potential audience, and the budget for the project. As long as the project can be successful on 2 of these, they take it on.

A good example of this is in the multi-award-winning spot they created for Good Books called “Metamorphosis.” Good Books is a company that channels all of its profits through Oxfam. Instead of working with a huge budget, Buck angled for creative control and built a labor of love that became a Hunter S. Thompson inspired delusion in a cel animation style.

Of course, the team of animators and designers is capable of going in completely the opposite direction as they did with this fully 3D animated, character-driven spot for McDonald’s. As Buck always makes a point of listing full credits for their work, we can see that over 30 people worked on generating this one 00:20 spot.

Always able to find a unique angle for a project, Buck took on the challenge of building an entire world out of paint chips for Sherwin Williams. The result was not only a stunning, colorful spot that was fun to watch but an entire series of very successful spots that gave Sherwin Williams new life on the airwaves. It also helped to elevate Buck in the national spotlight. Here’s the original paint chips spot, followed by one of the others in the series.

Clearly, Buck demonstrates a mastery over the technical aspects of high-level 3D, compositing, and illustration. But they also have the ability to refine their style to its simplest form, while still creating compelling and fluid animation as they did with their “Palette Perfect” spot for Google. It doesn’t get any simpler than this, yet most artists and studios would not be able to pull it off with such success and apparent ease.

“Palette Perfect” is one of many spots that also illustrate Buck’s amazing ability to work with sound designers and composers to create pieces that interplay visuals and audio perfectly for a much more successful result.

Why would Buck stop there? Although much of their work is very polished visuals for large brand ad campaigns, they took a different approach when creating 4 short films to be played at the Sundance Film Festival.

For the spot called “Come Together” Ryan Honey explains that they first animated the entire piece in 3D for exact timing, then built all of the shapes they needed in Illustrator. After that, they had the shapes laser cut out of wood and paper, that they then painted and animated in stop motion against their original pre-visualization. Paired with great sound design and music, the result is something wholly original. Plus, it’s not every day that you get to list Robert Redford in your credits for creative direction.

Buck certainly excels at creating stunning visuals and highly technical animations, but they also do an amazing job with storytelling and building an emotional connection through their animations. This beautiful and moving black and white animation for Alcoholics Anonymous is a perfect example of building around the story to bring it to life.

With so much work coming out of the Buck offices, well over 100 projects a year, it’s amazing that the Buck team can continue to push original ideas time after time. But their dedication to the creative spirit and to learning and experimenting with new techniques is what keeps them relevant and at the head of the pack in the world of design-driven creative in the commercial world.

For more information on Buck, including job opportunities and more work examples, visit buck.tv.