Now, as you might imagine, being Neil Martin myself, I found this email to be quite odd. It’s not every day you get emailed by a Neil Martin. I have to admit that I was a little suspicious at first. I thought perhaps it was some sort of spam, scraping my name from somewhere on my site, but the email had an attached signature, identifying Neil Martin as the “Research Degrees Coordinator” at Middlesex University. The email address also had a Middlesex University extension. Curious to find out more, I replied and sure enough, I got a human response from Doctor G Neil Martin asking again for some tins. Three to be exact. I asked how he had managed to stumble across my site.
I explained to Neil that although I was more than happy to send him some tins, the labels and postage actually cost more than the beans themselves! He was very happy to reimburse me for this, though and so I went to the post office with three tins of beans, ready to post.
The last time I posted the tins, I posted six of them, all at once to different design agencies. The postage was attached to the bottom of the tins. Although I got some funny looks from the cashier, they were happy to let me send them as is and so I thought it’d be fine to do the same this time as well. Not so it seemed. In fact, I had to 20 minutes while the manager of the post office called up Royal Mail HQ to ask if I could send them as is. The ultimate answer was no. This really disappointed me as they were happy to send six previously! Reluctantly, I stuck them in a box instead and sent them that way, although it took a while to peel all of the stamps back off the tins!
Thankfully, Neil received all of the tins with no problems. He was even kind enough to send me a photo of them:
This is the final entry in Viral Man: The Making Of. After five posts and now this, the sixth, I hope that you’ve had an insight as to what I did to get to the final stages of the Viral Man project. In this entry, I’ll be talking about the filming for Viral Man and the impact that it’s made on the University as an institution, the students and the external press. Unfortunately, as I’ve said in previous posts, I did have photos to go with this post but lost them in my hard drive crash so again, I apologise!
Viral Man goes filming
On the last Monday of work, we set about making plans for filming Viral Man’s main interview video. This two minute video would introduce people to Viral Man, while the smaller 15 second videos would show how he could be found infecting people in any manner of ways from making them cough and sneeze, to giving them aches and pains.
I was becoming quite accustomed to being dressed as Viral Man now. You could even say I was enjoying it. Although it was nothing more than facepaint and a wig, it does make you feel very different knowing that people around you are looking at you in an entirely different way.
The previous week, Jerry, Will and Hannah had spent time developing a script for me to read through while I was concentrating on designing the poster campaign. I hadn’t had much chance to rehearse it until I got to see it on Monday morning. It wasn’t actually that much script for a two minute piece of video, but because there were to be pauses and cut-aways, it easily added up.
Hannah did my makeup and I got dressed as Viral Man once more and Will set the camera up in one of the unused ‘quiet rooms’ in the library. The room, while not soundproof, is indeed quiet and made an excellent fake office.
As mentioned in my previous entry, the committee had had some reservations over the type of voice that Viral Man would have and I hadn’t really come up with a new one as of yet. It meant that I had to try and come up with a voice as we were filming. I knew that I wanted him to sound ‘husky’ and as if Viral Man himself had the flu. But at the same time, he needed attitude and even a bit of anger. Anger at the world for not loving him!
I wrote the script out on A3 pieces of paper and Hannah held them as far back as possible while I read them. The trouble was that because I wear glasses and Viral Man most certainly doesn’t, I was blind for most of the time I was reading! It meant that the script couldn’t be too far away from my eyes. Ideally of course, it would have been better to memorise the script altogether, but we just didn’t have the time.
Having gone through a few test runs, it was clear that it looked as if I was reading from a script instead of looking at an interviewer off camera. Because of this, we ended up refilming the interview the next day.
This time, I had tried to refine the voice a little more and I had the advantage of knowing the script a little better. This time, I read the script in sections, pausing to memorise the next part. I was allowed to do this because as I said earlier, we’d be cutting away from the interview to various mini videos so it didn’t matter too much if the script wasn’t read in one go.
I had a lot of fun being filmed as Viral Man. It was the first time that Viral Man had had a chance to speak. In the mini videos, Viral Man only acted, never spoke. It was fun to give him a bit more depth and allow him a point of view.
On Tuesday we also met up with some of the members of the committee and showed them a rough cut of the interview to make sure they were happy with the voice and script. It was a bit of a backwards way to do things, filming everything and then getting approval, but it was the only way we could do things quickly, as we didn’t have much time left. Thankfully, they were happy with what we were doing.
Once all of the interview filming was complete, it was then up to Jerry to put everything together in Final Cut. And so here for your viewing, is the video for Viral Man:
The next day, we did some final filming for some of the short videos outside. It was funny watching people’s reactions as they wondered why they were watching a green man doing strange things.
Later that day, to help with the transition of handing over all of the campaign assets, I wrote a campaign manual for those who would be responsible for keeping it going and a character profile for anyone who would be playing Viral Man. I think it’s really important to make sure that people understand that the character has a very specific way of acting and to go against that would go against the project.
Saying goodbye to Viral Man
Wednesday ended up being my very last day as Viral Man and in a way, I was quite disappointed! I had become accustomed to going home half green so much so that I felt comfortable enough to even take a trip to Asda in full Viral Man costume (including green face and wig) just to see what sort of expressions we’d get. It was hilarious. People looked at me as if they hadn’t quite believed what they had just seen, while others burst out laughing. There were also a few children who were either incredibly curious or incredibly scared. It was a fun experience and once which I’ll miss being a part of.
On Thursday, my penultimate day of work, I took a trip over to Chester to get some test posters printed and handed them over to the committee, along with a few copies of the campaign manual and character profile.
The Last Day
Finally, on Friday, we took delivery of 2,500 spikey balls for the project, along with 2,500 stickers. This ended up being one of the most fun days of the project, mainly because all of the more challenging stuff was now out of the way. Instead, the morning was spent removing all of the packaging from the spikey balls so that it was easier to distribute them. We also cut A4 sheets of stickers down to A6 for easier handling. While Hannah, Will did that, Jerry focused on editing the rest of the videos for a 4pm deadline. As for myself, I had very little to do now that my job as Viral Man was complete! I had designed two poster campaigns, beer mats, stickers, set up a Facebook profile and YouTube account and of course been the character of Viral Man in person. It was weird to now be struggling to find something to do.
At 4pm, we managed to get everything burnt to disks and handed everything over to the committee. It felt great to have completed a project that we were all quite proud of. To go directly from being a student of the university to staff of the university and be repsonsible for creating a campaign that would affect 15,000 students sounded like a daunting task at first and yet for the five weeks that we worked on it, it turned out to be a hell of a lot of fun and a project which I’m proud to have been a part of.
And with all of that said, I’d like you to head over to the Viral Man project page and see everything that was designed as part of the project. I’d love your thoughts on it. You can also become a friend of Viral Man on Facebook at www.facebook.com/viralman.
Thank you for reading these posts and I hope that you’ve enjoyed them. It’s been useful for me to write them as well, as it’s great to look back over what I’ve done. There will be one more entry about Viral Man and this will be to do with presenting it to a total of 1,500 students – on my own!
With a clear idea of what our Swine Flu campaign would involve, Touching Man was well on his way to becoming a reality. In the last entry, I wrote about how we had developed a few ideas for what he should look like. In this entry, Touching Man finally makes an appearance. Unfortunately, a lot of the photos that I had for this entry were deleted when I lost a significant amount of my hard drive a few weeks ago and so it’s not as populated with photos as it should be. I apologise for this!
Making Touching Man’s costume
At the end of the previous week, I had spent an hour or two searching online for a stripey green and black jumper or tshirt for Touching Man’s costumes. It’s surprisingly hard to find that combination of colours. Green and white, no problem. Green and black, impossible. Luckily however, eBay came to our rescue and I placed an order for this jumper, which was exactly what I had imagined his top should look like.
We also had to consider what the bottom half of Touching Man should look like. It couldn’t take away from the main focus of his stripey top and with that in mind, we decided on some black jeans and for his shoes, some green flat shoes.
Also at the end of last week, we had purchased some long, neon green tubes for Touching Man’s spikes. They would be cut to size and slotted into the back of the jumper. However, because the jumper cost nearly £20, we didn’t want to go to the trouble of cutting it up only for it to not work and so we decided to buy a cheap £3 tshirt to test it on first.
To make our spikes, we began by cutting them down to 10cm tall. To keep them secure once in the back of the tshirt, we used some thick, sticky paper to place on the inside of the tshirt, before cutting a hole through it and the tshirt, making a slit for the spike, which held it in place quite well.
In addition to the spikes, we had also bought a pack of pegs which we then spraypainted green. We experimented with using the pegs instead of the larger, plastic tubes for spikes and found that the plastic tubes were far more visually appealing than smaller pegs and so we scrapped the pegs altogether. As I said at the beginning of this post, I did have lots of photos of the development process which were unfortunately corrupted when I lost a lot of my data a few weeks ago.
Since it was to be me who would be dressing up as Touching Man, I put the tshirt on and walked around while the spikes were in the back, seeing if they would stay securely in place. For the most part they did, which was good news. For the most part, we had succeed in developing most of Touching Man’s costume. There was one last thing we had to find: A wig.
I personally didn’t have any set ideas about what Touching Man’s wig should look like nor did I quite know where we might find one. Luckily, Will and Jerry did and we went searching. Most of the wigs were quite normal and just not flamboyant enough to Touching Man’s personality and then Will spotted the most flamboyant wig we had seen. Wild, blonde with subtle green streaks. Admittedly (and in retrospect wrongly!) I wasn’t very keen on the wig. I didn’t think it was the right choice, but I didn’t know what the right choice was. I was hesitant about buying it but I reluctantly did so in the hope that perhaps it would look ok once it was with the rest of the costume.
On Tuesday, the jumper came and it was spiked-up in a similar way to the tshirt. On Wednesday, it was time to finally try the makeup on along with the costume. I wasn’t looking forward to trying it as I knew that it may be difficult to get off.
Me, Hannah and Will found a quiet room and while they waited outside, I changed into my black jeans, green shoes and stripey top, before coming back in to begin the facepainting, with Hannah taking charge of the small white pad and filling it with green makeup and then applying it to my face. 20 minutes later, my whole face was green. It was surreal to see myself no longer skin-coloured.
I then put the wig on and all of us agreed that the costume, wig and facepaint were a perfect choice. My earlier apprehensions about the wig were now gone, after seeing myself in a few photos that we took at the time. Again, I do apologise but I no longer have them.
I only had the makeup on for 15 minutes as it was only to do a ‘screen test’ of sorts. Getting it off proved to be much harder than putting it on, with both Will and Hannah using plenty of facewipes to get rid of the excess, leaving me a strange shade of orange. In order to get the rest off, I retreated to the toilets, going via the library reception and greeted with some understandably strange looks. Once in the toilets, I spent a good ten or fifteen minutes trying to get my face back to its original colour but didn’t actually succeed. In the end, I got as much as I could off and then the rest in the shower once at home.
The next day, it was time to begin the filming of our short videos. We had already organised some of the storyboards and this helped us to map out our filming schedule for the day. Again, Hannah took on her makeup assistant role and turned me green and then for the rest of the day, we filmed. It was a really fun experience filming although frustrating as well. Although we had done our best to make sure that the spikes were secure in the back of the jumper, because I was moving around so much, they kept falling out while filming. It meant having to cut and redo the scene, adding time onto the filming and we were already under a very tight schedule. This was in addition to Will and Jerry going down to London later on in the day for a week and so no further filming could be done until they were back.
By the end of the day, we had managed to get roughly 60% of the videos completed, with the rest needing to be completed when Will and Jerry were back.
Touching Man’s First Photoshoot
On Friday, Hannah and I travelled from Chester’s Warrington campus to Kingsway, the university’s dedicated arts campus. Warrington campus unfortunately did not have its own photography studio and because we needed to produce a poster campaign, it was important that the photos looked professional. Neither myself or Hannah are trained photographers so it proved difficult to set up some good shots, but we perservered.
Some of the photos, as you can see from above are a little dark because we didn’t get the settings or lighting as good as it should have been. In other cases though, as with the third photo above, although it’s not white, it does create a nice background and this particular image ending up being internally used to promote the campaign.
As you can see from the above three photos, the studio isn’t particularly huge, but when the photo is cropped to the bounds of the background paper, the photo suddenly feels much bigger.
In the second of the three photos above, you’ll see that I’m hiding behind the paper. One of the assets that we wanted to design for the campaign was desktop wallpaper, which would be placed on all of the library computers. However, I didn’t want Touching Man to dominate the wallpaper but instead simply ‘infect’ it by occupying a small, but noticable space on it. You’ll see what I mean a little more clearly when I make the project live with all of its assets.
Touching Man is Touching Man not because I personally play the character but rather, because he has a very defined personality and appearance including expressions. Take this shot for example:
This is one of the test photos where I’m not posing. Notice how with a lack of emotion, all the fun of the character disappears. It was important to retain this crazy, manic look in all of the photos. And retaining such an expression over the course of a five hour photoshoot is quite tiring!
As I had found out already, taking the makeup off proved to be a very timeconsuming process. In fact, although we finished the photoshoot at around 6:30pm, it wasn’t until 7pm that I felt comfortable enough to jump on a train home with the least amount of makeup left on me!
In total, Hannah and I took just under 100 photos. We both kept a copy and over the weekend, I began to see if I could get them to work in a poster campaign. However, as already mentioned, many of the photos that we took weren’t good enough to use and because of this, I decided that a second photoshoot was necessary.
This week had been quite productive and a lot of fun. We had developed Touching Man’s costume, shot some of our short videos and had a photoshoot. Next week would be the penultimate week of our project and it would be a big one.
In the next entry: Two more photoshoots, the unveiling of Touching Man and…a name change?
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.
Because of my unfortunate hard drive failure a few weeks ago, I lost a lot of the photos I had taken of everything that I had designed for the University of Chester last month. I had planned to upload everything to my portfolio on the same day that the campaign was launched at the University but because I didn’t have it all, I decided to hold off. Instead, I’m waiting for them to send me some of the assets that I designed so I can take more photos of them.
In the meantime however, I thought it might be a good idea to give you a walkthrough of how I, along with three other people came up with the campaign that is now on show to over 15,000 students over two main campuses and multiple university-owned premises. I plan to write about five of these “Making Of” posts in the run up to posting the work in my portfolio. It basically gives me a chance to source some photos of what I need, while keeping my blog updated.
So, in this first entry, I’d like to start by telling you how I became part of the project and what happened in the first week. I’ll try not to make it too long winded, but also interesting enough to read! The first part doesn’t have any nice visuals to go with it I’m afraid, but it at least gives you an idea of how the job came about.
Part 1 – The Making Of The Team
At the beginning of July, I wrote about how I went down to London to display my work at the D&AD’s New Blood event. It was a great experience although it could be argued that in terms of finding work via it, it wasn’t as useful. I don’t regret doing it, because it was a fantastic experience.
Prior to exhibiting, we had been told that it wouldn’t just be the graphic design department that would representing the University of Chester, but also the advertising department, who had been nominated for a D&AD award. It was a coincidence that two of the advertising students who were exhibiting happened to be staying at the same hotel as a few of us graphic designers, which allowed us to get to know each other a little better. In addition, Kate Sillitoe, one of my second year tutors was now responsible for teaching advertising and so again, there was a little bit of a crossover.
At the end of the three days of exhibiting, me and the other seven people who had also exhibited started to pack up. Kate pulled me and few others aside to tell us about a job opportunity at the university over summer. She said that the university was keen to get an early start on protecting and preventing people from getting Swine Flu and to do that, they were really interesting in hiring students to come up with a campaign that would appeal directly to students. The job would be full time for four weeks and would take place from the middle of July to the middle of August and would take place at the university’s second, smaller Warrington campus, rather than the larger, main campus at Chester.
I didn’t have any other responsibilities lined up after the exhibition and so I was keen to find out more information about the job, as was one of my classmates, Hannah Bradshaw and the two guys from advertising, Jerry Clark and Will Bollen. I gave Kate my contact details and she said that she’d be in touch.
Getting the job
After a few emails back and forward from Kate, I was told that I would be called by communications director of the university, Jayne Dodgson. I waited eagerly for the phonecall. At the same time, I was speaking to Hannah who was also waiting for the same call. We didn’t quite know how many people had shown interest in the job or what sort of questions we’d be asked.
When the phonecall did come, I was told that I was on speakerphone to two people. Over the course of 20 minutes, they asked what I could bring to the team and what sort of things I thought could be pushed forward to deliver a successful campaign. As I said, I didn’t quite know what questions were going to be asked so I did feel like I was put on the spot for a number of them, but at the same time, felt confident in my answers. At the end of twenty minutes, they thanked me for my time and said they’d be in touch. A few minutes later, Hannah got the same call and again, they said they’d be in touch. It wasn’t until the next day that we were told that we had successfully got the job and that we started a few days later.
My first day was a Thursday and I had to be there for 9am. Kate said that she would be meeting us and that we’d be attending a Swine Flu briefing. I had only ever been to Warrington twice before and both times were from Chester, rather than Liverpool. I had spent the night before finding out train times and realising that it would take me 90 minutes to get there and indeed 90 minutes back as well. A long time, but I thought it’d be worthwhile as I’d still be paid more than I was spending and perhaps moreso, I would have an excellent piece of work to add to my portfolio.
Hannah and I met each other at the campus and then made our way to where we were meeting. It was there that we met Jerry, Will and Kate. After some quick introductions, we headed over to the Swine Flu briefing where we met everyone else, including Jayne Dodgson who we would be reporting to over the next few weeks. The next hour was spent taking notes from Gay Rabie, the university’s senior health advisor. All four of us made lots of notes on her presentation in the hopes that it would help our project further down the line.
After that and for the rest of the day, me, Hannah, Jerry and Will took some time to get to know each other and get a feeling for what skills we could bring to the team and we started jotting down all of the potential ideas we had each been cooking up by ourselves over the previous week. Many of the ideas, naturally, included pigs in some way or another, but we all dismissed anything pig-related fairly early on because it would send the wrong message. Still, it was important to get those ideas out on paper to see how they could possibly be modified to work.
Some of the more interesting ideas that we came up with were the use of ‘Pick up lines’ such as “I want to blow you” and “He dumped me!”, both referring to the use of tissues. We thought these were cheeky enough to be appealing to students, while not being too offensive to use throughout the campuses. Another idea which I had was to use a poster campaign of people looking like they’re having an orgasm, but it’s actually a sneeze. There were some great ideas very early on from all four of us.
On Friday, we continued with further research into what the virus actually looks like to see if we could incorporate that into anything. We found that the virus was quite spikey in nature when looked at from an illustrative point of view. With this in mind, we thought it’d be a fantastic idea to incorporate this shape into some sort of physical spikey ball that could then be given to all students as an induction gift.
Our first two days of working on the project had proved to be quite productive, as we were putting together some good ideas after just two days.
In the next entry: Choosing our final ideas and presenting them