Boolab director Martin Allais created this ingenious spot for German TV channels ARD and ZDF portraying the history of mankind (or most of it) in just over 60 seconds.
Inspired by prehistorical art and ancient cave paintings, the spot aims at promoting the channels’ wide information services, which is beautifully achieved by portraying key points of our history: prehistoric hunts, the fall of the Berlin wall and finally, globalization, while passing through the discovery of fire, the Golden Ratio, Da Vinci and even Nero along the way.
The project involved a lot of thinking to come up with such a condensed script as well as custom-made animation techniques to achieve the desired aesthetic. The whole package for ARD/ZDF also involves two 15″ teasers and a quite interesting interactive online game.
Watch “Caveman” and the teasers
I caught up with Martin to find out a bit more about the project, here is what he had to say:
1. How did the project come to be? What was the brief from Ogilvy & Mather Frankfurt?
Actually the brief was short. But it was very specific on the subject and scale of the campaign. We received references for the prehistoric painting, the idea of evolution, and the growing complexity of society from prehistoric to modern times. There was still a lot that neededdefining. The first sketches I did during the pitching process became the basis of the final script.
2. Did the idea of portraying the history of mankind come up during the brainstorming process or was it part of the brief?
No, the main idea was in the brief, but it was just a starting point. By that point, there was obviously a lot of different alternatives to represent this. First I began to research about eras and world history events, and to think about the way they could be connected to one another.
3. Representing the entire history of mankind in one minute is quite a challenge. What was it like writing the script, and what were the biggest difficulties you encountered during the process?
It was tough, but at the same time really exciting. The first challenge was researching everything, from transportation and science to political history, and anything else that could be condensed into gags that would last for just a few seconds.
From the start we wanted to include a lot of things, so I made this incredibly big and chaotic graphic timeline filled with icons and drawings of events from the history of transportation, communication and architecture. I then plotted crossovers between them with gags and possible transitions. It was a lot of fun and also helpful to see all humankind into one piece of paper (everyone should try it!). It gave us a perspective in terms of the velocity and rhythm of our own evolution, as well as how the animation should flow. This overlap of inventions and ages gave me the first ideas for transitions and overall storytelling for the spot. After that it was more about combining technological gadgets with social history and events.
From the beginning I decided to avoid including specific historical characters, and focus in mankind as a whole; we agreed with the agency on recreating special events in history that could work as bookmarks throughout the piece. Another important thing in the script was that our character was to be portrayed as a complete alien throughout the film, he was more of a fugitive always running away from historical changes and feeling menaced by the new events he was witnessing, and sometimes being the protagonist of them.
4. The prehistoric art / cave painting graphics are beautiful and fit very well with the story? What made you choose such aesthetic?
In the beginning I was more interested in the aesthetic of textured backgrounds of 50’s modern cartoons, then I found inspiration and references in real cave paintings and aboriginal art. A few modern contemporary artist like Miro and Picasso were also thrown in the inspiration box. After the research, we did a lot of tests with the characters and backgrounds, until we arrived at something we thought had a prehistoric feeling, and at the same time was modern and original.
5. I’ve heard through the grapevine that you came up with some custom-made animation techniques on this project, could you explain to us a little bit more about that?
The idea was to have the feeling of the drawing actually being made onto the cave walls. We did all the animation using traditional techniques with Adobe Flash. Then we redrew every frame in Photoshop with custom brushes to have the raw feeling we were looking for. I also had the idea of animating colors. We did that on another layer with brushes in Photoshop, creating a feeling of abstract coloring over the wall.
Another thing we wanted to do in the animation was to create a non-regular feeling of redrawing over the wall, as if the drawing was constantly being erased and repainted. This was something that we had to figure out from the beginning since it defined all the production timeline. What we did was work with the already finished frames of the animation and use them as keyframes to create the delay. We did it manually to be able to choose the keyframes in a random way and create a non-regular position. After that we traced over the frames in Photoshop again to have just the frames we wanted. the last part was throwing it all in AE and playing with progressive opacity to zero, creating the delay. What we created in the end was something like an algorithm of manual and simple techniques, using Flash and Photoshop and AE.
6. Did you encounter any unexpected challenges during the production, technical and otherwise?
Yes indeed, I think the whole process from the script to conclusion was an unexpected challenge. It was the kind of project that the more you get into, the deeper and harder it gets. Due to the custom made animation techniques we developed, we had to deal with a big amount of data (heavy shots with a lot of frames and very slow to process), not to mention the whole process had to be done in a very specific order. It was quite stressful orchestrating the team and the animators but in the end it was a very rewarding process, I personally learned a lot along all the way, and not only about history!
7. What was the relationship like with the Agency? Did you have creative freedom to come up with ideas while the project was ongoing?
The relationship with the Agency was great. We had a lot of creative freedom, since the script was something we created together from scratch. The Agency had a great deal of involvement in the project from early on, they also put a lot of effort into always improving the process. Since the Agency was based in another country, we had conference calls every Monday to discuss the project and the ongoing process of it all. That was very helpful for us to be on the same page as the agency.
8. There is also an interactive game in the package, did you take part in creating the game as well? If so, what was it like creative and production wise?
For the interactive game we just provided the animation. Creatively, the game was inspired by the piece and the script. My involvement was more on the production side checking the steps, process and talking to the interactive team about how the art and the animation could be translated to the website. We also created two TV teasers for the presentation of the game, which I directed. It was a great opportunity to develop the first 65″ spot into another solution. It was very fun and a great finale to the project.