In October our company Think in Pictures was asked by an advertizing agency to create a film that shapes a company’s future vision. The briefing: Some really good text that challenged us to find pictures for it! Not the usual what-we-are-what-we-do image film voice over, but more of a description of today’s and future society, their needs and demands and abstract concepts to meet these demands. The future will look different than today, so no product footage could be used. And the question: Can you do it—fancy and fast?
The timeline I posted on Twitter a few weeks ago was the colorful first edit that turned into a project management tool. When our CEO joined the room and exclaimed “oh beautiful”, I realized how many sources and development states I was dealing with at that time.
After two weeks I had defined 8 different states: our key visuals (orange), preview and online stock footage (which I painted pink and violet), clips to be exported (white), shot footage in blue and different states of motion graphics and composites in traffic light colors. Local and source clip colors became my survival kit.
In the first week we had no time to write a script and decided the most effective way would be to use the timeline as an animated mood board. Working directly on a timeline is great when your client is willing to visit and work with you. So a few days later we had our first meeting. Better to be able to show your editing style, your footage, present your music with an intro cut then talking on the phone for hours. This is what I tell my editors every day: “I need to see it edited!” Sure I can imagine if a shot works or doesn‘t work out the way I planned, but I want to see it before I decide!
To visualize the future, a product design professor was asked to provide us with renderings of visionary devices. We started with four possible sources: stock footage, renderings of future devices, a possible shooting, and motion design as the key to give our footage a clear and fitting concept. We kicked it off with rocket speed: We hired a motion designer to develop six key visuals to structure the topics, a freelance editor started on the intro while we fed the Avid at night with previously shot scenes from different projects and our footage research.
During the next weeks we received packages of previews, final 3D renderings and Photoshop compositions of connected home devices that needed to be posted on mobile screens, built into a virtual 3D shop or green screen gesture control scenes to tell stories of connectivity and our future way to interact with our homes. We ended up with 27 composited and graphically enhanced shots, plus key visuals and typo a total of 50 shots in a less-than-3-minute film.
I love and need structure and overview. My strategy: give every shot a color right in the bin, and then paint its status locally in the timeline. I consistently stick to a thoughtful use of tracks especially when there is a daily exchange with animation tools.
The workflow on this project was far more flexible than we are used to. Some might call it “chaotic”— I did too in the first two weeks, but by the end of the project I would rather call our workflow “creative”. Working with footage and creative work by external designers is always an iterative process—define topics and keywords, import, sort, edit favorite shots, define new search topics and keywords or give feedback. I told the researchers “please be creative and don´t just stick to my briefing” And when I scrub through the timeline, it’s always about finding the gaps: what else do I need to tell the story?
A linear production with a clearly defined workflow is most effective. But when time is reduced, the number of presentation dates increased (7! in this project), when production steps run parallel or get turned upside down, then you have to adapt and maintain an overview to constantly steer your timeline towards finalization.