Based in Dublin, Ireland, Salty Dog Pictures was set up in early 2013 by a director/producer team made from Magpie 6 Media’s Clifford Parrott and Monster Entertainment’s Deirdre Barry to develop, finance and produce original animation and live-action programming, as well as to work with international partners on co-productions and service work.
Salty Dog Pictures is the first Irish studio to use the Toon Boom pipeline for series production, choosing it to raise the quality and production efficiency of its projects, but also to expand its line of business by servicing international customers. Indeed, knowing Ireland offers up to a 28% tax break on local spending, it also offers competitive pricing in terms of European standards. “The tax incentive is a really amazing financing tool. Depending on whether the project is a co-production or service work, most of the paperwork is straightforward. The financing closes at the beginning of the project, so the money is there, ready for production up front. Unlike a lot of other tax incentive programs around the world, the need for a bank to cash flow through production is virtually eliminated” stated Cliff.
Salty Dog Pictures started using Toon Boom Storyboard Pro and Harmony on Rocka-Bye Island, a series of twenty-six eleven-minute episodes of 2D cartoons aimed at kids aged three to six. Distributed and co-produced with Monster Entertainment, the show is a stepping-stone for children into formal schooling, instilling an appetite for learning and encouraging a spirit of inquisitiveness as well as demonstrating the value of creative problem solving through teamwork. Through song, imagination, and teamwork, the children learn about their world and how it works - all with the support of their many animal friends on the fantastical and enchanting Rocka-Bye Island.
Using mostly cut-out animation techniques, the show includes some frame-by-frame animation as well. All pre-production and production are done in-house. “We had Disney and Nickelodeon trained character designers and an Art Director with experience on many Disney projects, which greatly contributed to the look and feel of the series,” shared Cliff. The staff can stretch as high as 50 people or more depending on a production’s needs. Part of the pre-production was done using Storyboard Pro, while all the animation was done using Harmony. “Once you open Harmony, the process is straightforward. You create your assets in vector format, get them rigged, move on to scene planning and then send the files to the director for review. There is a very good control over the production flow. Once we get the notes back, they are easily implemented. Because of the preschool show’s mellow pace and scene planning, the animators could create from 55 seconds up to over one minute of animation per week. We’re very pleased with this performance. We’re looking at getting a Season 2 and if successful, we are planning to do all the compositing in Harmony as well, to keep the entire production within one system,” he explained.
The original characters were created mainly using Photoshop. “The Toon Boom trainer showed us how to mimic the look using textures. We could not have done it half as well in Flash. For me, ever since Adobe bought Flash, they ruined it. It’s days are numbered and the writing’s on the wall – find an alternative to Flash. Harmony is one of, if not the best, 2D animation software on the market. The follow up and support is amazing,” added Cliff. As an author of a book on broadcast animation using Flash, and one of the strongest advocates of Flash production over the years, this statement sends a very clear signal that times have changed and Harmony is the way to go.
Salty Dog Pictures is very well poised to succeed, combining the solid experience of its executive team, the benefits Ireland provides on the fiscal front, and the business opportunities their strong knowledge of the Toon Boom pipeline will bring them.