In the mid 1990s, CHANNEL-V in Hong Kong approached Colossal Pictures in San Francisco to produce a huge number of station IDs (similar to branding Colossal had done for MTV in the early 1980s that helped put them on the map). Individual budgets for the new spots varied, so that super cheap spots allowed others to be more elaborate. I was given 3 to do on modest budgets, and did all the animation myself, and most of the BG artwork too. 


This SciFi woman with the tattooed face (and giant robot) of simple cycles and camera moves was my ‘expensive’ spot, simply because it had more than one shot and one extra camera pass. Working on low budget stuff was often where the fun was at in advertising. A General Mills cereal commercial might have kept the lights on at the studio, but it was a low budget campaign like this (or a rock video) where we got to try different things. 

Continuing the robot theme, this spot was done incredibly cheaply (shot on the video pencil test machine!) thus saving money to ‘pay’ for niceties elsewhere. Sometimes the budgets & schedules were too restrictive to make anything good, but a lot was learned during fast & cheap experimentation, and oftentimes the most intriguing stuff on the studio show-reel was from such down & dirty campaigns.


Around this time I was interested in combining 2D animation with photo textures, but could never get a client to try it, until this campaign, and used that technique to illustrate a tribe of wildcats dancing around a totem in the jungle, then becoming angry at the nosy photographer.

This campaign (produced by Velvy Appleton) had many more IDs than my three, and used the full range of techniques that made (Colossal) Pictures such a fun place to work; live-action, stop-motion, and drawn animation (plus any hybrid you could imagine). Many employees were given the chance to pitch (and even direct) ideas as long as they were chosen by the clients and fit within the creative/budget parameters. Every other studio I’ve ever worked for has a hierarchy of roles more rigid than an ant colony, but while Colossal Pictures definitely had its own ‘chosen few’ too, it often threw open the process to absolutely everyone. This was especially true when budgets were low, the client wanted exploration of a broad range of styles, or simply hadn’t figured out what they wanted yet. Then there’d be a creative ‘Battle Royale‘, with the top directors submitting their ideas alongside the hoipolloi in storyboards & pitch images, with clients choosing the ones they liked, and interestingly, sometimes the client preferred the ideas of a worker drone. Thus, some later became directors themselves as a result. Yet another reason I loved that studio above all others I’ve ever worked at. 

6 thoughts on “Channel-V”

  1. Hey James. Lovely memories and very cool visuals!! Lisa and I only worked there a very short time but I was always blown away by the screening sessions for the whole studio. There was such a wide variety of content being made…very inspiring. And I recall being invited to a few brain-storming ideas meetings….very fun and creatively democratic. What a studio!

    • Phil! so great to hear from you! Yes, the studio culture of Colossal was unique. At least, I’ve never worked anywhere else quite like it, and I’ve worked at a lot of studios.

  2. Nice work Jamie,

    Pity about the res, most of my stuff ion vhs, can’t imagine how they would play now.
    So cool how you guys were experimenting, hey remember bi-packs and slit-scan ha ha!
    Reminds me of the Film Graphics days.

    • I agree, Arthur! All the tapes I have of my 1990s stuff are in appalling resolution by today’s standards, even though some of these were pulled from the masters! Anyway, I twiddled with the settings, as the movie was auto-upscaled to fit the browser, making dodgy resolution even more crummy.Hopefully a tad better now..

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