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Hidden Pages

Heartgard Plus Presents: Battlin' Hooks & Rounds

This has got to be one of the most bizarre, fun projects I have been a part of in a long time. It's a little animated short I created with those crazy kids over at Brighton (near the end of this project, I joined their ranks... so it's a little crazier now).

See, there's this Heartgard Plus chew, and it's this magical little treat for dogs — it not only prevents heartworm when properly used, but it also prevents stuff like intestinal parasites... and in all honesty, that can be some pretty scary stuff if it's not prevented. The idea was to tell the story and get people to ask their vet for more info without terrifying them.

So, in the interest of making something accessible and easy to remember, I worked with the Brighton team to write a legal-friendly, yet catchy song (not an easy task) and then animated a nutty video to go along with it. It's probably easier to 'get' if you just watch the silly thing, so do that if you haven't already.

The characters even made it into a coloring book that vets will be giving out, so that's a pretty awesome side-accomplishment. 


Controlled Fires Presents

Above is the music video for Love & Politics by Controlled Fires. The video was directed and shot by myself and partner-in-crime, Jon Armstrong... working with pretty much free reign. It happened like this: Sam from Controlled Fires tweeted one morning that he was looking for a filmmaker interested in creating an artistic interpretation of one of their songs... knowing literally nothing about what I was getting into, I replied... because I was intrigued. Who knows why.

As it turned out, the guys in the band were not only super cool, but they were already vaguely familiar with Jon and myself, as well as some of our previous work, so the game was afoot. They gave us plenty of rope to hang ourselves with, but beyond requesting a frame rate (they wanted a 24p film look) and declining to appear in the video themselves, they left everything up to us... and I'm thrilled to say that the end result was well-received. 

From the start, we made the decision to shoot on two distinctly different cameras: the Canon 7D, and the iPhone. Jon and I had discussed numerous times how we felt like the iPhone would turn out to be the 8mm film of our generation, and since we were going for a vintage vibe on this, we figured it was worth a try. We decided to aim for a final resolution of 720p, which gave us a good point to meet in the middle with quality... the iPhone stuff still needed to be blown up, but not as much as if we had been working at 1080p, and we also could feel free to shoot in slow motion plenty, using the 7D's 60p mode (slowed down to 24p in After Effects later).

Still, we had our concerns as to how well the iPhone footage would bump up against the lovely HD stuff... so we eventually came up with the approach of never using one without the other. This meant that every single shot got crazy processed in After Effects, layering anywhere from 2 to 10 pieces of footage using blend modes or keys. Of course, this style requires smart shooting... you can't layer 5 shots of super detailed stuff without thinking about what you're doing... it'll end up a mess. We spent several days shooting texture plates, and also took several train and airplane rides to get the stuff we needed... and then we spent a few more days shooting the filler material and cutaways.

The cool thing about relying on the iPhone was that wherever we went, we had those with us, and when we saw something that fit the concept, we would shoot it. The other unexpected result was that While I was editing on the road and decided I needed several shots we never got, I just pulled out my phone and shot them. After a little After Effects magic, I had shots that not only worked as placeholders, but are still in the finished video. You couldn't shoot everything this way — it would never work — but for this project, it was a perfect fit.

Anyway, once the edit was well underway, my love of models worked its way in... and we ended up adding some late-in-the-game shots of model trains (every shot you see of a train is a model) as well as the burning breakfast table bit, which I shot on my stove in the middle of the night. Honestly, when I shot that segment, I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but I knew it was cool... of course, once I tried it in the bridge section, there was no other alternative. It was an absolute perfect fit, and it didn't deviate from the story we were telling at all. Yay.

If you wanna Facebook 'em, here you go. Catch 'em on the Twitter right here.


Safe Place Chicago

Recently, I completed work on a print & digital campaign (with local agency, White Space) for Safe Place Chicago, who is trying to raise awareness in the Chicago area. They're working to get more people using the program, but they're also working to get more support and more businesses to step in as the actual "safe places" advertised. 

When you're aiming at kids who are living in hell, the hard part is getting away from imagery of that. Kids sleeping in dumpsters and etc... if that is indeed their reality, let's not remind them of that. Eventually, we decided to focus on the idea of looking into the eyes of a kid who has been there and made it out. It was more important to focus on the success stories than the idea of "here's where you are now," and try to put a light at the end of the tunnel. With this approach also came the clean look of everything. Much of the advertising in this area tends towards the gritty and darker look, but we thought more about the kids in the ads talking to you from the other side of everything. 

We created 4 different posters, each featuring a different kid, and then spread those across the different print pieces, such as bus and train ads, digital displays, online banner ads and even a unique bench installation.

One of the most important things we needed to push was a call to action asking teens in need to text "help" to a certain number if they felt in need. With today's teens, that's brilliant... they don't even have to talk to someone... just text help + their location and it's on the way. We decided to come up with some sort of lockup that made this highly recognizable and easy to get across, so we wrote in "text-speak," kept it short and placed it in a word bubble to reinforce the text message idea. On the posters, we also added an additional call to action, suggesting that you snap a pic of the lockup so you don't forget it. Just like the idea of texting, with camera phones everywhere, I really felt like this is a brilliant idea to suggest. 

All-in-all, it turned out to be a really slick campaign, and time will tell whether or not it serves its full purpose. White Space was great to work with on this, and brought A+ ideas to the table constantly, which always made my job easier. Well, okay... perhaps not easier... but it always made the work better.


Here Are Some Featured Prints

"The West End Of Town" Photography & Digital CollageFor some reason, I've suddenly gotten really jazzed about sharing some of this weird artwork I make. I've been creating stuff like this for a long time... but I'm only just now starting to share it.

Somewhere in my consciousness there is this concept of a place called Orangefield. I've tied things to it before, most notably my musical collaboration (with St. Louis' own Kevin Barry) called Orangefield. Now, I've started to attempt to give it an actual look with its own series of prints. The West End Of Town is the newest addition, and it has just recently become available for purchase on I feel kind of like I'm retroactively creating a photo history for this place called Orangefield, and I'd expect there to be lots more to come. Currently, you can check out two other pieces in the series: Orangefield Road and The Old Mainline... and more is coming. I am obsessed with this idea... plus I really dig the look of the stuff.

"The Woodcutter" Photography & Digital CollageAlso high on the list of stuff I'm currently proud of is a new piece called The Woodcutter, also avaliable for purchase on I have always, always been a person who gets into anything miniature... I love it. Show me a model of something and I'm giddy. Anyway, from time to time I set up small miniature scenes and grab some shots. This is one I did a while ago, but it still does something for me. It's really simple, but still a bit whimsical.

So that's that.


You Can Buy Prints At Society6 Now

I'm excited to announce that I'm starting to make some prints available for purchase (finally)... head on over to my page at Society6 and check it out. They've got a cool setup there... you can choose the size you want, and they'll ship it out. You don't have to wait for me to get my act together and ship something, which means you'll actually get it in a timely fashion!

For now I've got 8 prints available, but there will be more to come. One of my favorite pieces to date (the Orangefield Road print from the Artfix event) is up there, so now you too can own a real "piece of work" for your walls.