Viral Man: The Making Of – Part 3
In the previous Making Of entry, I wrote about how we had come to rest on our chosen Swine Flu campaign – Touching Man. You’ll notice that I keep calling the campaign “Touching Man” and not “Viral Man”. There’s a reason for this, which will be explained further on. In this entry, I’ll be writing about our efforts to come up with a unique look for the character and how he’d appear in videos.
Through our research in the first week of the project, we discovered that there were seven or eight main symptoms for Swine Flu and we wanted people to see Touching Man giving his victims these symptoms as separate videos. So, we wanted a video for sneezing, one for coughing, headaches, tiredness and others. However, because the campaign was about defeating Touching Man, these videos on their own wouldn’t work. It would look like he was winning. To counterbalance we decided that an identical set of videos would be filmed but with a twist – The ending would be different to each one. Essentially, video A would show Touching Man winning, while video B would show him losing.
My drawing skills aren’t the best, as you can see above, but Monday was spent developing a range of storyboards for all 12-14 videos that we wanted to produce. Because these would be in the style of adverts, we knew that they wouldn’t be more than 15 seconds long, which meant that we had to think of something suitable and funny that could be conveyed to the viewer in a small amount of time. Not only that, but we then had to think of an alternate ending for each one. Some of the videos proved difficult to think of endings for, while others seemed to make complete sense.
The frustrations of Flash
In addition to the videos, the committee had expressed their interest in developing a screensaver which could then be used on all University computers. We were really interested in doing this too but our downfall was that out of all four of us, none of us knew an extensive amount of ActionScript for Flash. Without this knowledge, the task of building a screensaver proved frustrating to say that least.
What we wanted was quite simple in theory. We wanted multiple spikey virus balls to continuously bounce off the edge of the screen and each other. We wanted to be able to set the speed, size and collision detection on each of the balls.
Because none of us knew much about ActionScript, we had to rely on finding and cannibalising various scripts found online, but none did quite as we wanted. Having no real experience with ActionScript, it proved to be a serious challenge. At times, we got close to a solution, but it just wasn’t quite polished enough to work. After two days of trying, I felt that it wasn’t worth carrying on and had to unfortunately scrap the idea.
Part of the Touching Man campaign included a website to house all of the supporting elements such as a poster campaign and somewhere to house the short videos that we’d be filming. This would not only take up a lot of time on the project, but the responsibility of designing and coding it would have to fall to one person and one person only because it would be quite hard to work collaboratively on a site that was constantly being updated at two ends. I had already volunteered to take on the responsibility of designing the site and had also started a few sketches of what the site could look like.
My Flash skills aren’t fantastic, as already described, but I knew that in order to attract people to it and actually use it, the site must be built in Flash. It needed lots of transitions and animation to help immerse the user in Touching Man’s world. However, because we didn’t actually have any content for the site yet, it meant that we couldn’t even start work on it until the last few days.
On July 30th, we stopped work on the campaign to help out with welcoming the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu to the university to open a new building. I’ve already written about that particular day here so I won’t write about it again, only to say that it was a pleasure meeting him as he was a really nice man.
Turning the spikey balls into a reality
From the outset of the campaign, we were really keen to have something physical that we could give to new students that would remind them about the campaign. Because the Swine Flu virus is shaped like a sphere with spikes, we thought this would make a great toy or keychain. We began to research into companies who offered anything along the lines of what we wanted, going so far as to open up real time conversations with suppliers in China via Alibaba. There were one or two companies that said they had what we needed, but because of the language barrier, I didn’t feel confident enough to place an order with them.
Instead, earlier research had found an American company that stocked exactly what we needed. Rhode Island Novelty offered a set of eight different coloured spikey ball keychains and after a few emails back and forth, we managed to work out a great bulk price for 2,500 of them – the number of new students that would be joining the university. They proved to be really helpful in supplying us what we wanted. The order was placed and would arrive within a few days, all the way from America. I do wonder if they’d had such a large order for keychains before!
Touching Man’s costume
The last thing we sorted out for the week was what Touching Man would be wearing for his costume. We had decided that he would definitely need some sort of spikes and that he would definitely be green. I personally had envisaged him with some sort of shell on his back and was really curious to see if we could find something that would fit that vision. So, with that in mind, we took a trip to the local Homebase!
We visited a number of shops including a gardening store, pet store and a general convenience store to find anything we could use to make the costume. In particular, we were looking for things to attach spikes to and indeed things to make spikes from.
Above are just some of the things that we found. We had already set ourselves a budget of less than £100 to buy everything we needed for the costume (though we had a budget of three times that) and so using every day items and colourful toys like above proved to be a good cost-saving idea. Similarly, we also looked at these items too:
Although I was quite intent on buying some sort of shell for Touching Man, most of the stuff that we found was either too heavy or simply not usable. Additionally, both Will and Jerry said that they didn’t feel a shell was necessary. After a lot of persuasion, I sided with them and decided against the shell idea, but we picked up 12 of the long, green, neon sticks that you can see above. It was quite funny taking them to the counter. I don’t think people buy these things in bulk.
In addition to the above things, we also took a trip to Hobbycraft to buy some green facepaint, pegs, spraypaint (to paint the pegs), green felt and lots of other green things in general. In just a few days, Touching Man would be making his first appearance…
In the next entry: The birth of Touching Man and his first public appearances.