Last week, we launched our company Christmas video about the adventures of a glow-in-the-dark star named Sylvia. Two members of our creative team explain how the project came together: Melanie Kitchens, interaction designer; and Chris Tyree, multimedia producer.
What role did you play in creating this year's Christmas video?
I got the script and worked with Hope (our content director) to pare it back a bit. Initially, it was conceived as an animation, and the hope was to complete it within 40 hours. We all sat down and thought of a visual approach. When Mike (our design director) used the phrase “Christmas pageant,” we had the idea of using cut paper, to give it a handmade feel. Cutting it out definitely added a charm to it. We spent two days cutting, and then the team worked on creating a glow-in-the-dark star. Then two days of shooting and editing.
The editing went quickly because we did such a good job with storyboards. One of the beauties of this project was that so many people in the office were part of it. Someone from every facet of Journey got to work on it: not only writers and designers, but also our financial director doing some puppetry, a web developer helping to light the star, and an account manager scoring the soundtrack.
What was the process for animating the video?
We thought through the mechanics to figure out which pieces should be cut out. If we have these puffs of smoke, what are we going to attach them to, to bring them to life? The book scene has dowels, the airplane scene has a dowel — we had to think through how to animate these things in the physical world in really rudimentary ways.
We decided, too, that the nature of the video was not to be perfect. In fact, we could embrace imperfection. We attached things to fishing line, which added to the handmade feel. We shot each scene on different-colored backgrounds and had members of our team move the elements through the frame.
What was the most challenging part of the process?
I don’t think any of us realized how long it would take to shoot a 3-second sequence, even though we were embracing imperfection. One of the keys to the video is that Sylvia the star pretty much stays centered through the entire thing. So in order to shoot each of these scenes, we had to consider what scale to maintain so that Sylvia didn’t change sizes in every shot. That was a challenge.
It might have been the ab workout we got! It was a really physical process. In some of the scenes, we had to be underneath holding the elements basically in mid-crunch. At the same time, though, I found the physical nature of it rewarding. We spend most of our day sitting at a desk, so I didn’t mind that part.
The voice over has received a lot of attention. Who was that kid?
We brought Linus in from Charlie Brown and he did great! But then we decided to go with Gray (our design director’s son). He was just a little better. What no one realizes is that we recorded that voiceover in a bathroom because it was the quietest room in the building that day. We did two different cuts — one that was a straight read all the way through, and then one where Gray spoke each line a few times in a row and we pieced them together. A couple of times as he would get into it, he would burp right in the middle of the read and then just keep going without missing a beat. That, paired with the occasional toilet flush from upstairs, made for an interesting recording session.