As soon as I saw the first IBM Watson national spot where they had people conversing with Watson in creative ways, I knew I wanted to do something with it (since IBM is a big client of my company and we have free reign to try new stuff sometimes). The TV spots had cool settings with very visual surroundings, and very unique looking people (from a cute little girl to Bob Dylan) which I thought would turn out really well in some cool motion graphic treatment across a large-scale videowall. The commercials also featured some good tag lines around cognitive business and also good witty banter between Watson and the featured person. A great challenge to turn it into digital content.
My first opportunity was for a much wider digital canvas, a 7 portrait screen array which is about 3 times the width of HD. But this wasn’t a hindrance, as its a normal thing we do and actually gives you a lot of freedom in creating supporting graphical treatments to surround any existing HD footage or maybe use to put some title text or supporting messaging.
The biggest challenge on these were the audio because the videowall we were creating content for didn’t have the audio turned on due to it being in a corporate lobby and not wanting to be overly distracting. But the audio piece was the compelling part of the video which highlights the value and personality of Watson.
So we transcribed the people talking to Watson and figured out how much of it we should try and use and how to show the text on the screen. We decided to have some messaging on one side of the screen, and then for the actual conversation we treated it almost like a text message string or chat client type of format, where each speaking person had a little avatar/headshot with their line. Then each one would animate onto the screen after a few seconds, trying to mimic a conversation, and essentially allow a viewer in this corporate lobby to see this really cool visual piece and then follow along with the text-based conversation.
Here’s a couple examples, the text on the right is too small to read, but it animates through the conversation/audio:
I love Netflix and I don’t mean just lounging around with my iPad or my Roku at home, binge watching shows and movies (although I do love that too) but their innovative approach to their business, products and now show production and strategy. Even their strategy to go after original programming and then how they executed on creating such amazingly addictive shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Daredevil, and Peaky Blinders (a little less known buy my favorite).
Their latest move that got my head spinning and yelling “genius” in my apartment to myself is when they had a new Marco Pollo episode at the top of my Netflix home page under Shows Recommended For You. I had watched the full first season of Marco Pollo (which is amazing) but I knew the second season couldn’t be out this soon. So I obviously clicked on it and was surprised to see the description saying something about it being a special feature episode on the back story of one of the main characters. Genius! Who does that? I’m guessing they filmed it during season one and just planned on having it in their back pocket drink the wait for the next season.
It did remind me of some special feature stuff you’ll see online or on YouTube for certain shows. Like having the show staff do some speaking about the shooting of the new season and maybe show some raw footage. But there’s something that always bugs me about seeing the actors and actresses out of character, and it seems to lessen my connection to the show since it starts to emphasize how its not real. The accents are gone, you see the set creation (making the realistic settings crumble back into the real world) and instead of getting me excited about the next season, I’m now feeling disconnected with the show I once felt was real.
I do feel like I need to say that I feel their business model around their original programming could be optimized a bit. I’m a little scared to say it publicly in case it catches on and it comes to fruition and then it ends up costing me way more money in the long run. Hmm… why do they release an entire season at a time? What benefit do they get for me to binge watch an entire season at once, over one weekend or one night? Do you see where I’m going here? We all know you have the whole season ready at that time, but why wouldn’t you release like 1 a day, and then possibly charge a very small nominal fee to watch the next one early? And to explain it in a dramatic way, when House of Cards season 2 came out and after episode 1 killed off Zoe Barnes, how much would you of paid to watch the next episode right then immediately? $.99? $1.99? $9.99? $49.99? Personally, if I knew that next episode was done but not being released for a whole other week, I’d for sure pay up to $100 (or if you know me, it might be more even) to watch that sucker.
You see a beautiful client marketing example and then when you really wonder how they envisioned it with motion, you’re stuck. Of course you can dream up some motion treatment but you know they have very experienced agencies or people already doing it. Then, it happens, you randomly see a new banner ad one some random webpage that is the exact campaign and shows the animation treatment. Opa! Champaign (or beer) falls from the heavens, angels start signing … you got the insight you need and you didn’t have to bug your client to go through the endless channels to try and find that answer (that they really didn’t understand how to ask anyway).
I feel stupid admitting this now but I use to take multiple screenshots to try and capture the essence of the motion. Then I was slapped on the back of the head and introduced to Quicktime’s screen capture feature where you can easily record a specified part of your screen and save it as a video. And, its free. I know, crazy talk, right? When SnagIt costs money, but a video capture tool is free with the Quicktime app that we’ve all had on our Mac’s forever.
Then the little problem of assets come into play. You hope and pray that the PDF you received (or downloaded from the client website) allows you to open it in Illustrator and easily separate the layers. Usually you get lucky and you’re able to at least save out the background and its in some decent size format for you to leverage in a HD or UHD/4k manner.
Just for reference, www.Moat.com is a good site to easily throw in a client name and it pulls up all their online media. BUT, this does not let you play any motion clips, only view the static media. But its still a good tool to use if you want to quickly glance at a brand’s newest online styles or marketing campaigns. It has become a staple in my online client stalking repertoire.
Every once and a while it seems like a certain client aligns to your interests and you feel like you’re just having fun and not really working… which makes it super easy to go the extra mile. Recently GoPro, a brand I live for and love, became a client of ours and when they asked last minute if we’d film the construction of the new retail kiosk, my answer was, “Duh.”
It was 6pm on a Wednesday and the client asked if we’d setup cameras to capture time-lapse footage during the 2-3 day construction. I was actually leaving for the gym at the time, but I was happy to completely shift my plans to figure out how to make that happen for such a cool brand. I actually had no idea how a GoPro camera could be plugged in for power and continuously video a time-lapse, but I knew enough about the normal usage to be confident we could figure it out.
We double checked our GoPro inventory on hand and then headed to Fry’s for the items we thought could bring this together: USB power cords, outlet adapters, memory cards, etc. We stayed late (which probably involved some beers) at the office trying various time-lapse settings and doing the math on how different time-lapse captures would produce certain length of footage (based on frames per second) and how much memory on our card would that take up (so it didn’t fill up over the night and shut off before morning).
Arriving at Fry’s at 7am before they opened to setup the cameras, was very early for us 2 who went, but was still fun to get them setup from each side and test the initial footage on our phones to see how the time-lapse was capturing the view at this huge store area. We essentially had to drive to the Fry’s store multiple times over Thursday, Friday, and even Saturday morning to make sure they were still and that nobody have messed with them. But overall it was a blast, and I enjoyed staying late and even working over the weekend to edit all the footage (which was essentially 4 days of footage – 2 days from each camera) maybe because of the hope that GoPro would pass it around and maybe it shows up on their social outlets … we’ll see.
Whenever we do a media wall project, we try to look for impactful media to really impress people with and that usually is best served through motion like a video or motion graphics. In this scenario with Lockheed Martin, they only were able to get access to some high resolution brand images. But I will say that the brand images they had were some of the best styled brand imagery I’ve seen in a while.
We ideated internally on how we can make the most impact with what we had to work with. Some initial ideas was to just use the images and slightly animate them in the background, like panning side to side with a slight zoom change, giving a very slight sense of motion.
Then we settled on the idea of taking out some main subject elements of the brand images and creating a subtle motion graphic. So we cropped out the main element (like a satellite or fighter jet), manually filled back in the photo, and then concerted out how to animate those main elements back over the originally composition. Our end execution had the main subject extremely slowly moving and twisting, which creating a cool effect where the viewer was reading other text on the screen but then after a few moments would notice the background and take a few extra seconds to try and figure out that its actually moving, because the object was slowly overlapping different from the text boxes over it. Overall the clients loved it and was so surprised at our innovative approach to work with their media.
The more 3D modeling turned into animated motion graphics that I see, the more I think its the future of inspiring new cutting edge visual design. There is something completely unique about setting your 3D objects up and then upon a motion sequence, seeing how it visually looks when either the objects are moving or the camera angle is moving, and everything is churning together creating unplanned visual states, lighting affects, overlaps, etc. This type of composition building, with various visual elements at different perspectives and angles, become mind-blowing when you start to think about re-creating that without any 3D software. Its almost impossible.
In this virtual space which becomes an infinite canvas of opportunities, seeing even the simplest shapes take form into something greater can blow your mind. Like having a close zoomed-in angle with motion and color/lighting change, then change into a greater object or motion sequence … and along the way you get all these amazing visual states each with their own evolving composition. It all can go by so quickly when you’re actually watching a video, but if you break it up and export them to individual images, you start to see how this type of design can create the most innovative graphic design that starts to hint at the future of exploration. Any young designer in today’s world should at least be learning 3D modeling, if not fully embracing it.
My old wise Chinese design professor said if I didn’t write this shit down it would vanish in thin air. Note taken, here is my daily discoveries of the ever evolving design world around me.