When It All Goes Quiet – Creativity Makes a Comeback

Be creative with a lightbulb doodle being written on some pale green paper

A long time ago (September 2013) in a studio far, far away (Shipley, West Yorkshire), we decided to take a break from the usual day-to-day client work and set our first ever, Creative Challenge.

One person opened their head and heart and came up with a brief, revealed the brief to the team, and we each had three and a half hours to make something based on that brief.  It didn’t have to be animation, it could be a picture, a poem, a song, literally anything that stretched their creative mind and muscles and could be completed in the allotted time.

Briefs included, ‘Super Powers’, ‘Ouch’, ‘Lemons’, ‘Light’, ‘Moving Parts’ and ‘Something Spikey’.

Tension was palpable.  Adrenalin was rushing.  Ideas were amazing.  Delivery was sometimes brilliant…. sometimes not so much.  That was OK though, you’re allowed to fail in a Creative Challenge.  It was about trying something new, pushing yourself to embrace something you might not get to explore in normal client work.

After almost 4 years since the last one, we decided it was time for a resurrection.

The brief was ‘When it all goes quiet’ and instead of just half a day, we allowed a full day, hoping this would let people come up with something a bit more meaningful than some of the curious and sometimes dubious content we came up with before!

Here’s what each of us came up with:

Meet the Team - Bill Beaumont profile photo

I had various ideas for this.  I spent the first 15 minutes thinking them through, estimating how feasible and achievable each one was, then just getting my head down and going for it.

Back in the day, my dad had a reel-to-reel tape player and I decided that I’d model and texture one of those in Maya, animate the tape getting to the end and flapping about on the still-spinning spool, light and render the whole scene, add some sound effects, and then create the final output.

The modelling took just over 4.5 of my 7 hours leaving just 2.5 hours for everything else.  I tell you what, this was one of the most exciting and stressful days I’ve had at work in a long time!  Had I bitten off more than I could chew?  Probably.  Could I finish in time without compromise?  Probably not.

But, as the last part of the day progressed, I managed to find quick solutions to the remaining problems and against my own expectations, got it all done about 10 minutes before our self-imposed 5pm deadline.

The version you see here is a bit of a cheat!  After work, I went back into the files and set a higher quality render going, getting rid of some of the visual noise and increase the size of the video.  That’s the one you’re seeing here.

Meet the Team - Hugh Robertson profile photo

When hearing the brief, I wanted to make something funny and there is nothing funnier than a fart.  A fact Tom is clearly also aware of, as his work was along very similar lines.

As I’ve recently been learning Blender, I was hoping to use it for the challenge. Given the time constraints, however, the idea requiring an environment and three characters, I decided 2D animation was the way to go. Having worked on several 3D product demos recently the 2D style also gave me a chance to do something a little different.

I used Photoshop with a graphics tablet to create the assets and put them together in After Effects. The character animation I kept very simple. Each character just having two poses.

I added a bit of parallax to the scene using 3D layers, a rain effect and finally the sound.  I took great care finding the perfect trump noise.  For some reason, we have quite the library of sounds to choose from when it comes to fart noises.  I wanted it not too obvious, but just loud enough that it would be incredibly difficult not to laugh should you hear it at an actual funeral.

It’s been five years since I last took part in a Creative Challenge at Distant Future and I’d almost forgotten the sense of panic you get when scrambling for ideas at the beginning.  I think it’s the strict time conditions that can take your brain to places it would not otherwise go and force some truly original and inspiring work.  Not in my case however, I did a fart joke.

Meet The Team - Tom Roddis profile picture

I like to think “my style” is more of a humorous one; one that’d make you smile, so I thought of a place in my life where it all does go quiet.  I reminisced on Mark Strong’s voice going “HELLO. Makes you notice, doesn’t it…” during my frequent visits to the cinema I knew I could take this idea somewhere.

Starting off, I knew I just needed to flesh out a scene that you’d instantly recognise as a cinema, from the dimming wall lights to the uncomfortable chairs.  After this, I then modelled the most beautifully simple stick man I could rig, and made the fella do a few idle actions and occasionally scoff some popcorn.

With the main animation in place, I quickly made a pre-film countdown in After Effects and moved on to simulating a beautiful fart – a fart that would rip through the piercing silence.  This simulation worked great and it all began to fall into place with enough time to spare for some “audio enhancements” i.e. making fart sounds into a microphone and mumbling to get the ambience.

Overall, it came together quite well.  There’s always room for some improvements but I’m happy with what I smashed out in the time limit.  I later found out I’m not the only one who made some potty humour too, so consider my faith in humanity fully restored.

Meet the Team - Lauren Sharman profile photo

It’s been a long time since I took pencil to paper so I took the opportunity to spend the day reacquainting myself.  After an hour of considering what I was going to do for the theme ‘When it all goes quiet’, I reigned in this concept.  The idea is to show the quiet after a battle and the peace the woman feels in the arms of her protector.  After lots of rubbing out and scribbles, I took it into Illustrator and Photoshop to clean it up and added colour.

Considering how long it’s been since I did any sketching, I think it’s ok.  I managed to portray a story and its emotion.  The image I had in my mind did make its way onto the paper, maybe I’ll flesh it out a bit more in time.

Meet the Team - Michèle Jones profile picture

Being the Marketing person, I did find the thought of doing the Creative Challenge a little daunting.  Although this wasn’t a competition, I was a little embarrassed that whatever I produced would look like something that you have to stick on the fridge just because your kid has done it.  The popular train of thought is that Marketers should have graphic design skills or be an expert in Photoshop or InDesign, that really is not the case!  Like many of my marketing peers, I can’t draw and I really only have a basic grasp of how to do things Photoshop, I certainly have no experience in creating an animation.

So, I thought I should use my word skills to fulfil the challenge.  ‘When it all goes quiet’ resonated the pandemic year we have all experienced and also some personal health issues I have had to deal with.  So, I thought in true British Bake Off style, I should create a recipe for 2020.  I was a little worried it might come across as a bit depressing but Bill thought it was funny!

Activities no longer allowed during the pandemic written up as a mock When it all goes quiet recipe