This Is Where We Live Captures The Imagination

4th Estate

Online video gives a company certain freedoms that a typical television commercial does not, including more time to dive into and build out an idea, additional content for the interested viewer that’s just a click away, and sharing functionality that the audience can use to help spread the message. Unfortunately, many companies are not yet comfortable with the tools and techniques of this new advertising channel, and they end up just trying to repurpose their television content for the online world without fully understanding the needs and desires of their new audience. Thus, it’s always refreshing to see a brand that really understands the potential of this new medium, and explores it to the fullest.

For 4th Estate Publishing, their understanding of online video and its potential led to the creation of a beautiful stop motion film called This Is Where We Live that celebrates 2009 as their 25th anniversary, as well as their ground-breaking, international literary agenda. Since 4th Estate knew they wanted ‘something stunning’, they contacted Apt Studio, which proposed “a crazy, beautiful and ambitious 3-minute animation”.

The animation would take place in a city made – literally – out of books, and we would pass through the city like a bird flying down the streets, witnessing scenes from these books taking place in lots of different districts over the course of an afternoon, evening and early morning.

Each district would loosely represent part of their publishing programme – from ‘Museum District’ made up of non-fiction, to the ‘edgy fiction’ part of town (Soho and the red light district) to the European cafe district in the early morning referencing work in translation.

All of the buildings and people would be made out of books, and the pages of those books, influenced in part by artists Thomas Allen and Su Blackwell.

Thankfully, 4th Estate loved the pitch, and Apt (and their ‘mates’ at Asylum Films) quickly set to work creating their vision.

Step one was to wrap their heads around the scale of the project they had in mind. Since stop motion videos are made by stitching together individual photos into one fluid video, they calculated that they would need to set up and shoot roughly 2,700 separate photographs to make the three minute film at 15 frames per second. (180 seconds x 15 frames/second = 2,700 frames) So what’s involved in making 2,700 frames of stop motion magic?

According to Apt, about two weeks, twenty animators and model-makers, and over 1,000 different books that were sacrificed for the cause. (Though they did note that the books were either kept as memento’s or recycled, in case you were worried about the environmental impact of destroying a thousand books.) In the end though, the effort and sacrifice was well worth it, as they created a film that was equal parts crazy, beautiful and ambitious, and captures the imagination of readers and non-readers alike:

However, 4th Estate was not going to be satisfied with a video that was just thrown online for an audience to find and enjoy, so they created a separate portal to house the video, as well as production stills, time-lapse videos that chronicled the making of the film, crew bios, and links to buy the books featured in the video. Though it’s a lot of work above and beyond just putting the video online, it’s these extensions that ultimately make or break the success of the campaign.

Behind The Scenes

First, the production stills give you a glimpse behind the curtain and allow you to see exactly how much work went into creating each scene. Sure, you can tell people that it took twenty different people more than two weeks to create the video, but when you can show them the process behind each step along the way, the message really starts to sink in, and the audience appreciates the film not only for the end result, but also for the effort that went into getting to that end result.

Second, Apt and Asylum created several behind the scenes time-lapse videos that documented everything from individual sections of the film to specific effects and members of the staff hard at work. Together, these additional videos become a user-controlled documentary about the film and how it was made, and viewers can dive into individual scenes that caught their eye and watch them in more detail to see exactly how they were made. Each video is also hosted on a custom Vimeo channel in addition to being embedded on the site, so anyone that likes the videos can take them and embed them into their own site, as well as allowing Apt to engage the pre-existing community of users on Vimeo.

The Good:

  • Understanding the potential of online video allowed 4th Estate to create art that would find its way in front of many new customers.
  • Viewers that really enjoy the video are given the tools they need to easily share and promote it.
  • Creating a portal to house the video and additional content allows interested viewers to dig deeper and find more information.
  • Unique stop motion technique that focuses on books reinforces what the 4th Estate brand in a non-verbal, yet still easy to understand way.

The Bad:

  • Length of the video might be too long to hold the attention of some viewers.

The Future:

  • The unique capabilities of online video allow companies to create more engaging video content, and allow their audience to help spread the message for them.

This Is Where We Live

5th Estate – This Is Where We Live

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