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:
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.
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.
One of the more satisfying things I’ve done from a design execution standpoint … go out and concept a large-scale media wall application from scratch, just based on a client’s new marketing campaign. They don’t even see it coming, but you hit them with some beautiful mockup laid over a photo you took on your last visit. They usually freak out a little, and then often seem a bit timid to ask how much its going to cost them, like we can’t tell they want it no matter what.
The beauty of how to do this, especially when talking about large-scale media walls which can be over 10,000 pixels wide, is to make sure you can re-use all the campaign assets from their website and NOT require the client to seek out any original assets which is always a pain for them. I’ll usually download all the graphics from the website before I start concepting in real pixels, so I know how I can blow them up (about twice their resolution at most) and what exact pieces I have to work with per each type of content node I want to include. After that, I get a developer with me and start whiteboarding it out, just to make sure you’re not getting too crazy, everything is working from a data perspective … and at the end of the day, it gets them involved early in case the client wants to pull the trigger quickly, and you always want the developer in a more ‘ownership’ capacity to get the ball rolling on this type of innovative digital 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.