Matías Rivera, executive creative director at Loica, likes to think that when he looks at his studio’s portfolio he is touching a piece of wood.
The analogy came to him through a client, who had read an article about a digital future in which people would need to carry a piece of wood in their pockets so as not to lose touch with their humanity and the physical world.
“It was spot on, since Loica feels grounded and organic, even though the work we produce is very digital and high tech,” he says.
The name of the studio also conveys this feeling. Loica honors the loica bird (Sturnella loyca), which is native to Southern South America and distinctive for its large red spot on the chest.
“When this bird appears, it is very eye-catching and its image is very important for Chileans,” says Rivera. “Besides, we were looking for a short name that could be pronounced in any language without any preconceptions about the meaning.” says Rivera.
The studio used this icon as its logo, which is shaped like a bird.
How the Studio Was Born
However, Loica has not always been the studio’s name.
The agency’s first iteration dates back to 1995, during what Rivera calls “the desktop computer development” in Chile. At that time, Rivera—who was an Avid editor, teamed up with his friend Francisco Chaigneau to create a small post-production studio.
“When this revolution took place and we realized that buying equipment, licenses and software became affordable, we were able to offer our services out of a small office,” says Rivera. “I used my experience as a motion graphics designer, and my partner contributed his visual effects approach.”
From 2001 to 2006 Rivera moved to Los Angeles and gained experience and training in Hollywood’s creative media industry.
Upon returning to Chile, he and Chaigneau founded Loica, maintaining their relationships with American clients to establish the business as one of the few Chilean studios in the U.S. market.
Loica’s goal has always been to become a multi-disciplinary studio that incorporates different techniques to develop unique creative assets.
The first notable project Loica completed was the opening for ABC series Once Upon a Time, in which the studio created a different sequence tailored for each episode.
“It was solid work, with a lot of exposure from which we began to develop other interesting projects with channels and networks,” says Rivera.
Another early project was a tongue-in-cheek campaign for The Big Bang Theory that was based on presenting TBS as a channel that helped reduce “pollution” in a TV environment by only airing hit shows.
“It was a joke towards channels that contaminated the on-air atmosphere with new productions, that didn’t reach the same levels of success as existing programs,” says Rivera. “Using a scripted voiceover with no visual references, we created the entire proposal, which combined nonsense and humor with a modern, fresh and young feel.”
The work combines an eclectic graphic style with various techniques such as traditional frame-by-frame animation, 3D and video rotoscoping.
That same year, TNT asked Loica to develop a teaser for the third season launch of Falling Skies.
“The ingredients of the series and the creative brief, which called for us to create a lot of assets, guided us to develop a science-fiction short film that combined live action and VFX in a balanced way to design a photorealistic look,” he says.
Loica saw the project through from the creation of the idea to post-production. The final piece was almost like a film shoot, with shooting taking place in a derelict railway factory, complete with visual effects, professional stunts and futuristic explosions.
A year later, a promo for TNT’s season premiere of Legends marked a turning point for the studio.
“The channel asked us to express the lead character Martin Odum’s (Sean Bean) frustration with his identity crisis. We proposed presenting him through a blurred frame, in ultra-slow-motion, as if it were a moving portrait,” Rivera says.
TNT’s creative team suggested filming Bean with Phantom high speed cameras, but Loica also had to develop an alternative since the actor was only available for a limited time.
“This was our first experience with digital photogrammetry. We photographed him from different angles, then processed it digitally and converted it into 3D geometry,” says Rivera.
That same year, Loica took on another milestone project, this time focusing on character development, to promote Hispanic Heritage Month for Disney XD.
“We wanted to do something different, more animated,” says Carlo Olivares Paganoni, writer, producer and director at Disney Channels Worldwide. “Along with Graphics Manager Nicole Corletto, we thought of creating Super Chico, a superhero whose guitar was a portal to an imaginary world. Inside it, there were many friends, such as Kid Kuautli, a character inspired by Mexican, Central and South American mythology.”
To represent Hispanics and their descendants in the United States, the characters speak in a mix of English and Spanish, and the look is inspired by the Mexican lottery.
“This game has a colorful universe that culturally appeals to folklore and is very attractive to people from other cultures,” says Olivares. “We sought to do something with an authentic touch, but not too sophisticated, so that it could appeal to households that know nothing about our [Hispanic] history.”
The Disney XD team also included Design Director John Ewart, Creative Director Vincent Arrico, and VP of Creative Marketing Jill Hotchkiss.
Another striking project by Loica was a teaser for National Geographic Channel’s Mars series. The visuals for the spot had to establish the extreme distance between Earth and Mars. Loica achieved this by showing an image of the Earth as an emblem on a spacecraft as it made its way to Mars.
“We had to create a piece that was entertaining and surprising, but also in line with the scientific authenticity of the show,” says Brian Everett, vice president of design for National Geographic Partners. “There was no footage available or 3D files for the spaceship, so Loica painstakingly modeled the ship from a very limited number of early production sketches. The dynamic design and creative approach they brought to this project were extremely commendable.”
Loica also helped brand the TCM Classic Film Festival, for which people from around the world gather to see movies at Hollywood’s most iconic theaters.
This time, the creative concept was based on family.
“Our proposal was to select memorable scenes from the films featured in the festival and graphically modify them in an analogous way, adding paper trimmings and paint strokes. We later turned them into a loopable GIF,” says Rivera.
To execute the idea, Loica used a traditional method of manually painting and composing the images frame by frame, and later finishing the composition details in Photoshop.
Exploring New Formats
Loica also has started producing commercial consumer and business ads for clients that include digital content, branding and formats that did not exist just a decade ago.
For example the commercial, Daily Sugar Off is part of a three-piece series that uses 3D animation to promote the launch of a sweetener. The concept was based on caricatures of ants who mock processed sugar, using only gestures and expressions
Over time, Loica has evolved along with its market.
Starting from traditional and stop-motion animation, the manual construction of sets and the incorporation of materials such as cardboard and paper, the studio has also developed other techniques such as the integration of photorealistic 3D on live action and has expanded into the production of its own video content.
“We have adapted to the new demands, needs and working models,” says Rivera. In this way, we’ve started carrying out the entire process in-house. It’s a new experience in development and storytelling.”
Version español: Creative Review: Loica