This three part article series from the vegas2vegas team takes you behind the scenes of the creation of their innovative video “Dougie, Hit the Beat“.
Part Two: Go on and be crazy – Developing the idea from concept to reality.
If you’ve not yet had a chance to read Part One then click here. But to summarise:
“So we had the concept for our video. A stop motion video of the vegas2vegas van driving carrying me, Griff and Dougie past many of the world’s most famous landmarks made from cardboard which had over 5,000 unique tweets printed onto them, positioned on a square 3 metre by 3 metre set that when viewed from above displayed a QR code which you could scan and see if your tweet was in the video. Simples.”
This part of the story begins with a late night shop in B&Q. I was on the hunt for some MDF to form the basis of the set on which the buildings would sit. I was in luck. 30 minutes later I left the DIY store with 8 large pieces of white topped MDF, several rolls of black duck tape and full of hope that their “You can do it, if you B&Q it” slogan wasn’t a crock of poop.
The 8 MDF boards formed a 3 metre by 3 metre square. By having individual pieces it would be easier for us to photograph each stop motion frame, plus the Renault Clio would struggle to fit an overweight hamster, let alone what we were attempting to build.
We now needed to mark out the QR (Quick Response) code on these pieces of wood with duck tape. This took a little bit of creative thinking. Each board was about 1.5m by 0.5m and we couldn’t print off the QR code big enough. Trying to freehand draw the QR code onto the boards was also a no go as it wasn’t accurate enough. In the end we came up with the following solution:
Using Photoshop we divided the QR into 8 sections with each given a number of 1 – 8. We then took a single MDF board and placed it on the floor. Above it was a ladder with a webcam attached to the top looking directly down on the MDF board (see image 1 and 2 below). The webcam had a long wire which was hooked up to the laptop and it gave us a live view of the MDF (img. 3). We then took the images of the individual section of the QR code and overlayed it onto the webcam view, with a slight transparency (img. 4). What this meant we that we could mark out the QR code onto the MDF using black duck tape by watching ourselves on the laptop to see if it was in the right place. Now that the QR code was marked out we cut out and stuck black card to fill in the black spaces for the QR code (img. 5).
You have to go on and be crazy. Craziness is like heaven. – Jimi Hendrix
So the first challenge was completed with minimal fuss and no harm to any animals, though Joe did stub his toe at one point and went down like a sack of spuds.
Next up we needed to figure out the best way to get 5,537 tweets onto several hundred buildings, trees, land marks, rocket ships, mud huts and every other objects we could think of. We experimented with a few different materials to use. Printing onto paper was the easiest option but didn’t provide a strong enough structure. Card was the obvious choice but this also gave us a problem. If we wanted to print the tweets onto card then the tweets would need to be broken down into panels so that when we folded the building together you could read the tweets (img. 6). This would take too long. We had over 400 structures to make by hand!
So we decided to use card to form a strong base template and printed the buildings off. And we used A4 label paper to print the tweets onto as one rectangle panel that we could cut into 4 and stick on after (img. 7). This worked well and turned the production line into something that The Generation Game would be proud of.
The font type and size for the tweets was also important as each tweet needed to be readable in the final video. We ended up with a basic Microsoft Sans Serif size 11-13.
One question that we get asked about when people see Dougie, Hits the Beat is “Where did you get 5,537 tweets from?” I’m glad to say it was not a manual copy and paste job.
We used a free tool called Tweet Archivist which you can download and set up a search term and the software will download the latest 1,500 tweets that have mentioned the search phrase. We downloaded tweets that related to other people’s charity events, road trips, Just Giving pages and so on. The tweets were downloaded as a notepad list and needed to be converted to Excel, filtered and sorted.
With this part of the task we had too objectives. The first was to create a list of tweets that could be batched, and added to the A4 label paper to be printed off. The second was to sort the data into something people could search for after they had watched the video.
So each spreadsheet had nine columns (img. 8):
- ID – This is the individual number (255800292631785472) each tweet on Twitter gets when you make a post. Twitter creates a custom URL for each such as this – https://twitter.com/vegas2vegas/status/255800292631785472
- Link – Combined data from several other columns to create this link which would then give you a complete URL such as the one above.
- Status - “/status/” this was created so it could be combined to create the URL.
- Twitter - “http://twitter.com” same as above.
- Username - This is the Twitter username for each tweet.
- Date - What it says on the tin.
- Time - What it says on the tin.
- Status - This is the actual tweet posted.
- @ - This was created so it could be combined to create the full tweet to be added to each building.
- Complete tweet - The full tweet featuring the @username and the status (tweet posted).
Each spreadsheet of tweets was then cleaned – removed duplicates, anything offensive we could find, spam tweets etc.
All of these spreadsheets of tweets were then added to a Master Spreadsheet. Within this we added a “Random” column which allowed us to mix up all the tweets so we didn’t have lots of buildings with tweets all talking about the same topic. If you check out (img. 9) you will also see three extra columns on the right. The first is a | which was added to the end of each tweet so that you know where one tweet ended and the other started. A numbered list from 1 to over 400 – which would be required later on to assist with tweet searches. And a box with a handful of tweets combined to be copied and pasted onto each building.
The concept was quickly becoming a reality but there were a few more things to consider. As I mentioned earlier we want people to be able to watch the video and then search our database to see if one of their tweets was featured. But it wouldn’t be enough to simply return a yes or no answer. We needed to be able to show each twitterer, that was lucky enough to be chosen, exactly where on the set their tweet was, a photo of it, a picture of the building template, and the time it was shown in the video (img. 10)
Not a straight forward thing to achieve. But we got to work on it anyway. Each MDF board had a number and we had a photo of each board as well. We took the photo of the MDF board and placed a grid over the top which gave us lots of little sections such as 8a, 8b, 8c, 8d and so on. Each building, tree and structure had a unique number on the bottom and so when we placed them onto the MDF we could record exactly where each one was. This information was added to the database and allowed us to quickly find the corresponding picture, template and time sown in the video.
It took us about 4 months to make all of the structures needed for the video. Everything from the Eiffel Tower and Sydney Opera House to Big Ben and the Great Wall of China. By the end had gone crossed eyed with the vision of tweets, sticking, taping and gluing embedded into heads.
But the making of Dougie, Hits the Beat doesn’t end there. In Part Three we’ll be taking you through the process of shooting a stop motion video, structuring over 1,000 photos into a sequence, adding music, and the final touches.