FOLLOW: Behind The Scenes - Part 1

Hi! My name is Steve Vanderheide and I am a producer here at Igniter Media. We recently produced a video called “Follow,” a re-telling of the Easter story as it may have happened on Twitter. A lot of work was put into this project, and many people were involved (see our smiling faces here: Igniter Team). At Igniter, we take turns “championing” individual projects -- essentially assigning the role of head producer/director to one person -- and I was asked to take the lead on this one. A friend was asking me about the process of creating “Follow,” and I thought it could be interesting enough to put into a blog, so here we are.

There were many steps to get this video to it’s final output. I might get a little technical at times, so be warned.

INSPIRATION/CONCEPT Rob first mentioned the concept of Jesus’s follower count declining as he gets to the crucifixion to Scott in 2009. Not long after that initial conversation, Scott came across a simple graphic titled, “Jesus’ Church Chart” designed by David Hayward, which seemed to touch on the same theme. The idea was to find a way to make the life of Christ feel current and come alive to the viewers, through the lens of new technology.

Telling the story through Twitter was a natural next step, as it gives current, up to date information on a person’s life in the moment, and it emphasizes the idea of having to “follow” somebody. The word “follow” is found throughout Jesus’ ministry, as well as the rest of the New Testament, and is a decision that we have to make every day.

As Christmas 2010 was around the corner, we decided to first take this inspiration and create “A Social Network Christmas,” where the Christmas story was told through Facebook. This video was well received, and confirmed that we needed to create an Easter story told through Twitter. Since sequels are rarely better than the original, we wanted to make sure that this video was different enough and could stand on it’s own.

Rob locked himself in his office for a few days and emerged with a script for “Follow,” which was then edited by Jeff and Scott. Initially, there were 45 characters who told the condensed story of Jesus’s ministry in a tight, mini-movie format. Emphasizing the idea of “following” was important -- it is a call that is not easy, and we really wanted to make this clear. Through Peter’s denial, we were able to show how even one of Jesus’s most outspoken followers could turn away. Rob actually drew a “mood curve” that dictated the flow of the music and feel of the video over time, particularly this moment.

MUSIC/TIMING Music is tough. It takes a long time to find. And it doesn’t help when you are picky. Rob and I went through many options on sites such as www.firstcom.com and www.revostock.com until we found the production music we liked. It was important that we felt as though we could edit the music to fit our mood curve for “Follow.”

When we are creating a video that is graphics-intensive and reliant on timing and cutting to the beat, we always start by creating a scratch video track -- a simple video with text on screen, cut to the beat of our final edited music, that dictates when each element will show up. While creating this scratch track in Final Cut Pro, I was able to find out how long I had to edit our production music to be.

When we had our timing figured out, I passed the scratch track over to Rob, who then made changes, and added some of his own musical elements, using a keyboard and MIDI samples.

GRAPHIC DESIGN After meeting and talking through the script, our team brainstormed how our “Follow” page was going to look. Since Twitter’s user experience is spread across different applications (Twitter.com, Twitter for iPhone, TweetDeck, etc.), we didn’t feel as tied down to a particular design as we did with the Facebook user interface in “A Social Network Christmas.” Christian took our brainstormed ideas and created a look in Adobe Illustrator CS5 that resembled a mix of the old and the new Twitter.com interfaces. He kept the design as simple as possible, getting rid of any elements that we wouldn’t use in the story, so that there would be no distractions on screen. He designed the different pages we would need (Timeline, Follow Page, Profile, Direct Message, QuickPik window), as well as what an individual tweet would look like. Once these designs were reviewed and tweaked, we brought them into Adobe After Effects for animation.

Animation, Sound Design and Critique coming in "FOLLOW: Behind The Scenes - Part 2"