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Feb 23

A Very 3D Christmas


In: Tutorials

Every year Union creates a Christmas card to share with clients and friends. Seeing as we’re an interactive based agency, our Christmas cards live on the Web. In years past we’ve created tech heavy interactive experiences. This year, we wanted to stretch our creative legs a bit and come up with an engaging experience that didn’t rely on flashy tech but rather on a story and social media.

We decided we wanted to present our Occupy North Pole concept in the same way Occupy Wall Street was connecting with the masses: through blog posts, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. For the YouTube videos we decided to represent the world of the North Pole using the iconic Rankin/Bass stop-motion television special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. We quickly realized that the videos would need elf protestors. Of course, being a feel-good family movie, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer didn’t include a single elf waving a protest sign, let alone a whole group of them occupying Santa’s front yard. So to make our vision come to life, we decided to create the missing elements ourselves to supplement the edited Rudolf footage. Since I tend to look for pretty much any excuse to work in 3D, the job of creating the protesting elves fell to me.

For the elf protest shot, I created a panoramic matte painting using elements from multiple shots in the film. I then edited them together and finally hand painted this new landscape to create a single image of the igloo camp outside Santa's workshop.

Once I had the backdrop in place it was down to designing and rendering a 3D elf and turning that elf into a rioting crowd. I started by referencing stills taken straight from the movie so that the style would blend as seamlessly as possible and maintain the fictional world we wanted to convey.

I then shrank the elf down to fit into the scene and superimposed him on top of the matte painting enough times to create a crowd. With all the elves in place, I scaled each elf in the crowd so they were all different sizes and offset the video playback so they weren’t all performing the same action at the same time.

To make the scene feel more natural, we created angry mob sound effects by grabbing everyone in the office and recording us yelling over each other. Finally, once all the shots were in place, we added a CNN-esque news ticker at the bottom of the screen, filled with funny news snippets unique to each video.


Between the YouTube video releases we also created a series of blog posts with infographics and additional faux photography (like the awesome casually peppermint spraying polar bear) created from bits of photos, 3D elves, and hand painted elements. We released all of these components over the course of a few weeks to create a topical interactive story that unfolded in real time across YouTube, twitter, and our Occupy North Pole website.



UNION is a full-service digital agency. We create experiences that help brands thrive. We believe to be relevant in today’s marketplace, brands must lead with a digital-first philosophy. We craft engaging digital experiences and integrated campaigns that are built on strategy and driven by data. At the heart of what we do is help brands create meaningful and enduring relationships with highly connected consumers.

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