Google Maps and Motion Graphics

Over the past year or so I have noticed more productions that take reference from Google Maps, specifically the street view mode. The ones that I am looking at combine this with animation in innovative ways.

Aside from creating controversy, mainly over its use of ‘streetview’ images, Google maps have permeated almost every medium – from powering apps and sat-navs on our mobile phones, to plugins on websites, programs on our PC’s (Google Earth) and games that can be played by anybody with access to the internet. The area I am most interested in is the video and advertising aspect of its use.

Channel 4 Street Summer

Last summer the street view theme has been used to great effect in Channel 4’s Street Summer promo.

Created by the team at 4 creative, and post production done by MPC, I think that it is an incredibly effective concept. It is made to look as though you are viewing it through Google’s Streetview, something that will be familiar with the promo’s audience as it has the telltale ‘fisheye’ look and blurs and artifacts where the images are stitched together. Footage of urban artists and sports are stitched seamlessly into the scene, so they appear to be part of the streetview. You can watch a visual breakdown by MPC here.

This was a very effective campaign, it got the audience - most of whom would be very familiar with the references, artists and content – communicating and commenting on the spot online, which in turn created more buzz. Although the promo was shown on Channel 4, it has a viral feel to it, which furthered its reach.

Mercedes - Escape the Map

Mercedes’ interactive promo, ‘Escape The Map’ was another take on the Google Maps world. Agency Abbott Mead Vickers teamed up with VFX company Digital Domain to create an interactive world that is based within Google’s Streetview. Combining real footage with VFX artifacts and glitches that you might find in a streetview image into an ‘interactive’ story is a great idea, and one that feels instantly immersive.

I feel that this is a fantastic idea, and little touches like being able to look up and see Google’s navigation controls floating in the sky are satisfying, but I felt the execution of the piece is ever so slightly disappointing. Once I realised that you can look around, explore a bit and discover that the goal is to escape the map, I got quite excited about the possibilities. I imagined having to search around for clues and interact with blurred faced characters, avoiding the “Google Police” or whatever it is you are running from, in a hark back to old point ‘n’ click adventure games.

In reality (or in my experience, maybe I did it wrong) it is a five minute watch, where you have one choice and one mini-game, which is not what I was expecting. I can empathise with the creators here, I’m sure that they would have wanted it to go further but with such an ambitious project they had to place heavy restrictions on the scale of their ambitions. As a mini-game for a campaign it did just about enough, and as a result it was an incredibly polished and immersive piece. 

Address is Approximate

Probably my favourite of this Google Maps trio. It is an emotive stop-motion piece that is, in my opinion the most effective concept of the three and the one that I have seen shared the most on the web. A self initiated work by Director Tom Jenkins (of London's the theory), this is also the only one of these pieces that wasn't a commercial project.

The animation follows the movements of toys in an office who come to life when everybody goes home (yes, not very original so far, but bear with me). The main character has aspirations of driving to the Pacific Coast, so he hops on a pink Cadillac toy car in front of a screen and starts his journey, via Google Maps's 'street view', in New York.

What makes this so special is the little touches that accompany what you are seeing on the screen. At one point the camera cuts to a toy frantically clicking on the mouse button in order to load the next streetview image. When there are buildings going by, boxes are animated to come past the screen in the same way. When he is travelling at night through a tunnel, 2 desk lights rotate above the screen to recreate passing streetlights and as he is 'driving' down a highway during dawn, the desk lamp recreates the sunrise which gives a further feeling of immersion. Even though the concept of the video leaves you slightly detached, at every point there is always the familiar surroundings of the office.

You can gain an insight into the creation process here by reading Tom Jenkins' interview with Digital Arts magazine, and watch the animatic.

Google Street View

I really should have been aware of this promo for Google Street View, so thanks to Jane for pointing me in the direction of this. Directed by Mate Steinforth at Sehsucht, this is a pretty nice concept, somewhat alsong the lines of 'Address is Approximate' but with less character and story to it. Still a very effective and well executed promo.

Channel 4 Street Summer

Mercedes - Escape the Map

Address is Approximate

Address is Approximate animatic

Google Street View

By: Jonny
Posted: Tue 28th Feb 2012

Tags: Articles, Address is Approximate, Channel 4, Escape the Map, Google Maps, Mercedes, motion graphics, MPC, Street Summer, VFX


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