Post 4: Introducing Billboards

Introducing billboards


As I have worked my way through this project my initial idea has been quite fluid in that it has changed and molded over time. As i focus on this topic now i am looking back retrospectively, therefore this post will be written in the past tense until such a time as i have caught up with myself.


In one of my earlier posts in explained in some detail my idea for a short film centered heavily around anti branding and featuring google glass. I followed this idea relatively far through the developmental stages. I even drew up a large mind map/vague storyboard exploring into the narrative and logistics of creating the video. The A2 sized mind map that i created can be seen below.


 I liked this idea and found the research for it both interesting and stimulating, I then had a change of direction however i still feel this video would have worked well. My Change of direction came following a one on one session will Phil Beards. Our discussion turned to what exactly i was trying to say with this video and what I wanted to impose upon the audience after it was finished. The main purpose of my project was to critisise and parody the advertising campaigns of large corporations and big business, the driving force behind this being the research I had conducted into some of the unsavoury business practices and overwhelming advertising campaigns they were using. Although the core idea was very strong, it was decided that the short film I had planned was a somewhat bulky and inefficient vehicle with which to get my point across. Achieving a production on a short student film such as this which comes across as slick and professional can be extremely difficult. The danger faced was that I would not achieve the high-end quality that I desired whilst also firmly embedding my message with the audience.


Alternative possibilities were discussed, still focusing around the same core messages and still attempting to keep parts of my previous idea. One part of my film involved animating over billboards whilst in the first person google glass view that i had envisaged. The new direction of my project involved becoming more active in the brilliant real-life anti branding works that were going on already. During my research i had found many different collectives often with some really interesting works performed out on the street. My idea was adapted to keep the core theme of altering adverts but to actually project onto real life adverts so that the public could interact. This new plan would Involve first photographing billboards then creating an animation that interacted with what was on screen. I would then use a projector to line up my animation with the actual billboard.


I followed this idea for a time by looking into other billboard graffiti that i had seen and also by scouting and filming billboards in and around the centre of Bournemouth. I liked the idea of billboards because they were large, flat structures that would show well on film and also I suppose because i had them in my minds eye as one of the more in your face forms of corporate advertising. Straight away one problem that i ran into was that many of the billboards in and around bournemouth were either disused or unkept. The fact many of the billboards were either ripped or blank would have made it very difficult to interact or in any way map and project onto them, this was only really the beginning of the logistical problems with this idea. The idea would have involved using a projector to fit the billboards so that my work could be viewed out on the street. I discussed this idea with our lecturer Bob in order to further explore possibilities. He said he was very keen on the anti-branding element and immediately gave me some great magazine, book and film titles to look into. The actual logistics of my plan though were not met with quite such a warm reception, he highlighted to me the need for some kind of generator or outdoor mains supply to power the projectors, and perhaps even a van in order to transport the equipment. My anti-branding animations are quite complementary and aggressive with their message in regard to the companies that i am parodying, copyright infringement being a concern of mine considering the very public nature my work was intended to be displayed in. it was also brought to my attention that i may run in to problems with the Police by setting up projectors in the street, obstructing the pavement and generally causing a hubub. This called for a further evolution of my ever-changing idea.


This led to me disposing of the live element of the billboard idea, the new plan being that i would simply film the billboards that I liked and then animate over them in post to create a short film. This idea did solve all of my logistics issues however I felt this then left the final video feeling somewhat bland and uneventful. In order to remedy this i set about creating a simple narrative around the piece in order to spice it up a little bit. My plan was to have a fictional tale in which the main character had a glowing orb he could throw at regular billboards in order to make them change (via post production after effects animations). The short film was to follow this main character, a disillusioned young man, about town as he threw this magic orb at various billboards to make the logos and text on them change. I wanted to add an element of excitement into the video by following him around on his bike and using some more extreme photography/music. I had even planned to use slow motion and GoPro shots. The danger this presented was that I may fall back into the trap I had set myself originally, that being the focus was shifting too far toward the aesthetics of the film and I may lose the core message that was so important to the work. I also attended a lecture with Tony Chance and described my idea to hi, similar to Bob he liked the theme however he brought up yes another logistical issue which i had not thought of how often do the billboards change? Another point we discussed again was the copyright infringement issue, the idea of faking my own advert first, then altering it later came up. Although this would have remedied the copyright issue i felt it also somewhat counteracted the point of the project so i decided against it, instead preferring to base my manipulations around ral adverts.  At this stage i had to think carefully and re-evaluate yet again. I had committed a lot of time into development/research at this stage so a complete change of direction was not even worth thinking about. Having already obtained some billboard footage i did indeed trial my concept of animating onto billboards in post by making a short test clip, which can be viewed below.


In this clip please note how the text changes at the bottom of the billboard, this is key to my project in that the text offers me a great opportunity to change the message of the particular piece of branding and parody the campaign. You can see below the original text was “Quicker journeys when you need them” as the board animates through you can see me delete and then mimic this text to instead say “Bigger profits when we need them”. This simple change of wording hopefully makes the viewer question exactly why the company (in this case TomTom) has really chosen to advertise here. Is it because they really care about you making it to your nans tea party on time? Or are their motives for advertising really related more to their revenue stream?


Technically this animation is extremely basic, and was made a fraction of the time i would want to spend on the real thing. The only real technique that was at all challenging was ensuring the cyclist did not interfere with the text and also wiping the board back to normal after the bus passes, everything else is achieved with some relatively simple geometric masking and scale and hue adjustment.


This exercise did prove useful in giving me experience with this kind of after effects work and helped me to think about how i would film future shots later on in the project. Still on my mind though was that i really was not creating a powerful r memorable impression upon my audience as i had originally intended to do, it was at this point that the direction of my work then changed again.


As I struggled with how to make my magic orb idea feasible, and thought about if the effects of the ball would be diegetic or non-diegetic a new idea was thrown into the mix by Head Lecturer Phil Beards, the idea of experimenting with QR codes.


I have been vaguely familiar with QR codes for some time, yet I had not considered using them in conjunction with this project, at this stage i began further research into exactly how i could utilise this increasingly popular technology.


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