13 April 2006
Early in December 2005, the multimedia team at Adobe was asked to create an online marketing piece that would be featured on the Mobile & Devices section of the Adobe website and used as a sales tool for the Adobe sales force.
The goal was to demonstrate clearly the ubiquity of Macromedia Flash from Adobe, increase awareness of the benefits of Flash-enabled devices to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and show that Flash is installed on many more devices than just desktop computers.
Multimedia designer and Flash pro Horacio Perez and I were excited to get this juicy project. As with most multimedia work, however, we faced time-crunch challenges and budget and resource restrictions. It was December, too; the holidays were upon us.
In this article, I talk about our creative process and share tips and lessons that we learned in producing the Engage with Flash video.
As I mentioned, our goal was to demonstrate clearly the ubiquity of Flash, increase awareness of the benefits of Flash-enabled devices, and show that Flash is mobile and installed on a variety of devices.
Knowing the goal is critical. Before you start any project, especially a video project, make sure you have a clear understanding of the project's goals. Clearly restate or communicate those goals to your coworkers and your client. Make sure you are all making the same movie.
Ask your team and the client the following questions: What is the motivation? What is the objective? Why are we making this video? Who is the primary audience? Who is the secondary audience? What do you want people to do after they've seen this video?
In our case, we knew the goal, we knew that video would appear on the Mobile & Devices home page, we knew we were targeting Flash developers and OEMs who were looking to deliver compelling user experiences on devices. We wanted them to see this video and understand that Flash is a great solution and a real player in the mobile market.
Need I say more? It's critical to know what your budget is. Know your resources, too. Do you need to rent or buy equipment? Do you need to travel or use a car? Do you have a camera or the software required to produce your video?
Sometimes all you need is what you already have—a digital video camera, a FireWire cable, Flash 8 Professional, and an Apple Mac G4. But you need to determine this up front.
Once you've agreed on the goals and know what your budget is, decide on the concept. Where do you want the video shoot to take place? Whom do you want to feature in the video? Why?
Horacio and I decided on a concept to feature Flash-enabled devices in various locations (scenes) in and around San Francisco, and to find an engaging way to transition between each scene.
We wanted to use real-world examples of the devices in action. The scenes had to provide visual variety and each scene would give the viewer an opportunity to find out more about that particular device.
After our concept was approved, our next step was to storyboard and brainstorm each scene.
Together with our producer, Michelle Richards, we came up with rough scenarios for each device. Meanwhile, Dan Cowles, our senior video producer, contacted a local video company, eMotion Studios, to secure a shooting schedule. Did I mention we had only two days to shoot?
Time is money, especially when you're hiring a crew. Before you start shooting video, create a storyboard (see Figure 1). Write all your ideas down on paper or on a chalkboard. Brainstorm, write a script. Determine what elements (shots, interviews) are critical to the story—and what would be nice to have. This will help you focus your attention on the task at hand and give you a better idea of what to capture when you set up the shoot.
After we nailed down the rough scenarios, Horacio and I scouted potential shooting locations around San Francisco. Once we had specific areas in mind, I began to work on the storyboards so that I could share them with the director at eMotion Studios.
We had only two days to shoot the video. Because we had only enough budget for the video company, we had to use in-house employees to pose as actors.
The shoots went better than we could have expected. Looking at our storyboards, the director understood exactly what we wanted (see Figure 2). Additionally, Horacio and I were on location to provide feedback after each take.
Horacio was in charge of designing the user interaction for the project. His first attempts at the user interaction included such variations as having the scenes fly in when users roll over the bottom thumbnails, having users click on the thumbnails to get into the subcontent, and so on.
After much interaction and review, we opted to simplify the entire UI. The videos would run in a continuous loop, and the thumbnails would act as scene selectors. Subcontent would be linked within each scene to provide a sense of context.
Once the user interaction and interface design were nailed down, I began to work with the content. I took the video clips provided by the eMotion and brought them into Adobe After Effects, where I added some visual interest, such as a burn-in from white (see Figure 3) and a video transition from the scene to the subcontent.
I wound up encoding the scene videos at 700 kbps using the On2 codec, as this was a Macromedia Flash 8 experience. We used Flash 8 because of the superior video quality compared with Flash 7. The transition videos—the ones that go from normal color to a duotone red and black (see Figure 4)—were encoded at 350–400 kbps because these were short and speed/size was more of a factor than quality. The thumbnail videos were encoded at 150 kbps due to their small size.
We started on the subcontent sections next. Each subsection featured a small amount of text as well as the Flash-enabled device. Most of the content had to be faked or recreated in order for it to look good on screen. As with any multimedia project, resourcefulness counts—that's Dan's hand holding the camera and my hand holding the phone.
Once we had everything in Flash, we handed it off to our crack Flash developer, Richard Leider, who optimized the code and made a custom loading schema for the movies.
The multimedia team delivered a cool online marketing piece on time and on budget. Best of all, our internal clients were pleased—and we got fantastic reactions from our coworkers. As a result, we're certain to get assignments like this in the future.
It was a great lesson for all of us. In the past, I've been involved with projects in which I became caught up in the details of design and ultimately wasted precious time trying to make a mediocre concept look really good.
This time, however, we knew the goal. We knew our budget. We planned the story and had a strong, well-thought-out concept before we started production. In the end, we know that our success had everything to do with our planning.