The Block of Wood

An Interactive Experience to showcase our creative process

At Vidzu Media we have something that we lovingly call “Recess”. Unlike the recess of our childhoods playing foursquare or kickball, we kick around ideas and go on field trips to galleries for inspiration.

One area we were intrigued by is the interactive format, the “Choose Your Own Adventure” of content. So in the name of recess, we decided to play in that format. An idea began to take form … something cool, something fun … a few weeks later our idea was solidified. Now we had to make it. That was nearly a year ago.

In theory the idea was simple. Create an interactive video experience to illustrate our process and give our clients some insight into how small decisions make big impacts. Of course we also wanted to show off different styles of live action and animation we don’t always get to play with.

Why a block of wood? Why not? We wanted a blank canvas and weren’t afraid to stray into the ridiculous. Thus a humble block of wood, became the centerpiece of all the videos.

Director of Photography Levi Kirby brought in a piece of 4” X 4” lumber. After many sizes and shapes were auditioned the final block was chosen by Producer and Director Josh Guffey. It was sanded, finished, and given a high gloss finish. “I remember waking up at 3 a.m. to apply a third coat of gloss, hoping it’d be dry in time for the shoot that day,” Sarah Gibson recalled. Our block of wood was as sexy as wood gets. Now it was time to make movie magic.

We recruited Vidzu Executive Vice President John Launius to play our host, and shooting was underway. After 2 days of dolly track and wood puns we were excited about the momentum. Then math kicked in. We had devised 3 simple choices for the viewer. Product or Brand, Scripted or Documentary, Live Action or Animation. Turns out our 3 simple choices dictated that we create 8 distinct finished pieces… with no budget… in our “down time” between client work. The task was daunting.

We decided that each team member would head up one piece. They would create the concept and recruit whatever other team members they needed to help them with production. More than once we wondered if we had bitten off more than we could chew. But we were committed, and more than that we were having a great time. The Block of Wood marathon had begun.

So what did we make?

Product Scripted Animation | Spark of Inspiration

The first out of the gate was Product Scripted Animation, which had been taken on by Motion Designer / Animator Sarah Gibson. She wanted to create a 3D animation reminiscent of Asian cell phone ads. She started her process by finding the music as it was to be completely music driven with no voice over. After scraping the first concept of the block being hidden away in a fantastical cave she decided on it emerging from a tree after being struck by lightning. The piece was finished in a week to meet a deadline for an intercompany meeting. “It was a crazy week. I worked very quickly, made decisions on the fly and had renders going constantly,” Sarah said.

Product Scripted Live Action | Block Meets Apple

Vidzu’s DP, Levi Kirby, gathered inspiration from sexy iPhone commercials set to music that was a little different than the norm. Unlike something he would do to his iPhone, he wanted to cut the Block of Wood, paint it, hammer it…but most importantly…light it on fire. “If I’m being honest, my main source of inspiration was wanting to set the block of wood on fire in slow motion.” This was done in his basement with a couple of sawhorses, an open window and just enough luck. After going through more than a few “stunt” blocks, his piece was complete.

Product Doc Animation | The DIY Approach

Senior Editor Amanda Smith had a vision to use a unique form of stop motion animation. “I saw a fashion designer holding up this picture with the skirt cut out to different fabrics to show how they worked with an outfit and thought; That’s cool!” After a lot of math, she printed out 200 frames from multiple pieces of footage. She then spent the next 2 weeks cutting out pieces from each frame to expose the wood grain behind it. Many hand cramps and exacto blades later, Levi and Amanda shot each frame one at a time on top of a large piece of plywood—using Dragon Frame animation software to line everything up … mostly perfectly. Finally, Sarah created a hand drawn logo to cap off this hand-made video.

Brand Scripted Live Action | The Founder’s Journey

Shooter Editor Jake Huber knew he wanted this to be a founder’s journey where an older present day voice narrates the period-piece origin story of the company. The boardroom location proved to be a walk in the park compared to the struggle of finding the perfect lone tree in a field. Once the tree was selected, Jake and lead actor Josh Guffey spent the shoot day in 100 degree heat riding in the old pickup truck without functioning AC. “The heat was unbearable as sweat dripped into my eyes and onto the camera making the shooting conditions harder than ever,” Jake said, “Josh was a trooper as he braved the heat alongside myself to ensure we got what we needed. That’s showbiz baby! Jokes aside, this was a fun project to work on and I enjoyed the process as much as the final product.”

Brand Doc Live Action | The Mega-Corporation (No It’s Not Stock!)

In the eyes of Producer / Director Josh Guffey Block of Wood was imagined as a Texas-based corporate conglomerate dabbling in industries from computer software to airplanes to health care to oil. With assistance from Jake, they created a piece showing the international manufacturing and lifestyle footprint of this mega-corporation.

Product Doc Live Action | The Overly-Confident Dad Joke

Taking a page out of the book of some classic TV infomercials, Levi Kirby took charge with this comedic approach where the Block of Wood acts as a useful household item. Also mimicking the stereotypical “infomercial,” he wanted the problem and the product to be equally as ridiculous. In casting his “stay-at-home” dad character, he tapped sister agency UPBrand’s Director of Operations, Lance Lemen, to be the endorser of this miracle product. Yes, Lance did perform his own stunts and was not (severely) injured in the making of this spot. “Fortunately for Lance, he only had to fall twice,” said Levi. “Unfortunately for my dogs, that means he only tossed up a bowl full of cereal twice.”

Brand Scripted Animation | Extraordinary INK.

Producer Kaylen Kress worked with Animator Sarah Gibson to create an abstract visual of a growing tree. “The script empowers its audience to put everything they have into creating something extraordinary.” said Kaylen, “In the case of Block of Wood, the growing tree represents a company enabling people to build their own home.” Using animation software Cinema 4D and X particles, Sarah built the tree and captured its transformation using multiple virtual camera angles, ending with a view of the complete tree and logo.

Brand Doc Animation | B.O.W. Fashion Design

Creative Director Kyle Dufendach wanted to tackle hand drawn animation in his piece, so what better way than to turn Block of Wood into a boutique clothing label. This documentary features the up-and-coming designer played by Kathleen Bauer. After filming her in a mockumentary interview and fashion poses, he used that footage as a background layer behind hand drawn figure sketches inspired by the footage of Kathleen. The result is a intriguing hybrid of documentary and animation.

To pull all of these finished videos and choice scenes together in a coherent Choose-Your-Own Adventure format, we utilized the interactive video platform Eko allowing us to drag and drop the various video elements into a simple story tree. This helped us easily create the 8 unique story paths viewers can choose from.

The result is a fun way for people to see how Vidzu Media creates a wide variety of content on a daily basis using a straightforward approach.

We hope you enjoy the experience we’ve created and invite you to take a journey with us to explore what’s possible through our process.

Ready to create an interactive video experience with us?

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