Public service announcements must balance simplicity with a challenging message if they’re to do their job and capture the attention of the audience at home. Finding that right mix is no easy task—but it’s one Vancouver-based animation studio The Sequence Group was equipped to deliver.
Sequence was approached to create a 30-second spot for electric power company BC Hydro, detailing the dangers of downed power lines. The concept was to build a digital diorama contained within a snow globe, conveying the message as clearly as possible via an eye-catching aesthetic.
The Sequence team was brought on board by TAXI Vancouver, which didn’t have the capacity to handle a full-CG spot itself. Ultimately, Sequence handled modeling, look dev, concept art and animation—an extensive array of tasks to be completed in just four weeks.
“We were given the concept—following that it was a question of ‘can we do this on budget?’ and finding a way to make that happen,” says Ian Kirby, Sequence’s co-founder and creative director.
“Thankfully, we’re good at CG, but we’re also good at designing aesthetics, and this project was more about design than just a straight up CG shot. It feels stormy, but cute—we found that balanced well, delivering an important message without coming across as frightening.”
Creating a living world inside a snow globe meant a variety of the Sequence team’s skills were put to task.
“One aesthetic challenge was in the character’s facial details,” says Kirby. “It’s a fine line, because as soon as you add more details, you risk going over the top, but if you use too little, they look like ghostly figures with sunken eye sockets. We did several iterations of the girl alone to make sure she looked correct and had the right balance.”
Facial features weren’t the only element requiring careful attention. As an informative announcement, the environmental dangers had to be portrayed with accuracy.
“It’s funny that we had to use leaves instead of snow for the globe,” says Kirby. “However the client wanted to focus on wind and storms as the cause. Vancouver sees a lot of autumn rain, leaves, and wind, so that’s what we went for!”
Dan Sioui, Sequence executive producer, couldn’t be prouder of the team’s work, particularly as it was completed for a local company and airs almost every day on local Vancouver television stations.
“It’s cool when you’re watching a TV show and your work appears in front of you, and you know that hundreds of others people are watching it at the same time. There’s something special about that.”
Not only does the BC Hydro spot dominate local TV screens, but it also features subtler homegrown elements. “The little boy featured in the short is modelled after Ian’s son,” reveals senior producer Marta Mintenko Knapik. “We all kind of throw our kids into these projects whenever we can!”
“There’s even an homage to one of the artist’s pets that passed away some years ago—she tries to honor her cat in all of the shows she works on!”
Moral of the story
Ultimately, the real takeaway from working on the BC Hydro spot was that Sequence got to give something back to their community.
“We’re not selling something—it’s just earth appreciation, and to protect people, which is nice,” says Sioui. “It’s something you can show your kids and be proud. It has a good message.”
“You watch it, not because it tells you to stay ten meters away from a power line, but because it’s visually strong to look at. There’s a good message there too,” concludes Kirby. “It was nice to dive into something different, going from CG Transformers robots to this. The team felt like they were working on something fresh, but also something useful.”