Aiming to highlight Southwest's more exotic flight destinations, we began work on a tropical beach birthday scene that could transport birthday users into the glow of an island sunset. Sadly, a week of shooting in the Caribbean wasn't going to happen on this one, but authenticity was essential.
An array of moodboards and concept art formed the basis for our staged beach set. With expert production design (and truckloads of actual sand), we gained the benefit of controlled conditions and a perfect sunset across all takes. A Translight -- a classic filmmaking tool -- provided the practical glow of a tropical sky.
With the look in place, we could focus on finalizing composition of our original Southwest tropical birthday song, choreographing dancers from a half dozen styles, and genuine Southwest employee talent who were going to star right alongside the pros after only a few hours of rehearsal.
Between detailed storyboards and 3D pre-viz of our single-shot camera move through the 60-second dance number, Wildlife co-founders and directors Scott & Jake Friedman setup the production for success, with an approach that would maximize shooting time in search of the one perfect continuous take.
Still, this wasn't the only consideration. The interactive components of the experience and final platforms, from mobile, to tablet and desktop, mandated a specific shooting approach to ensure the footage would mesh seamlessly with on-screen game UI and a variety of aspect ratios and screen sizes.
These elements would also impact the composition of each frame itself, bringing in Southwest blue, red and yellow overlays that had to be factored into each on-set art direction and lighting decision. Real-time video playback pulled in our early UI motion tests to guide blocking and framing throughout the day, and protected against any unwelcome suprises in the edit suite.
Post-Production + VFX
A thousand meticulous wardrobe, prop and lighting decisions, fireballs and headspins later, the footage was in the can. We succeeded in maintaining a single, continuous take for the duration of the song, and moved quickly from an approved edit into VFX.
Our in-house team performed set extension to fill in any exposed sky around our Translight base, while bursting fireworks were tuned to deliver "Happy Birthday" wishes in the night sky and book-end the experience.
Additional beauty passes and palm fronds were added for another layer of beach immersion, before our colorist gave everything a final pass of visual sweetening.
Not to be lost in the challenges of traditional production, were the cutting edge tools that delivered the whole experience, and transformed this from a mere birthday video into an interactive birthday extravaganza.
Using the Web Audio API, we synced five real-time audio tracks directly within the browser, and gave users full control over the instrumentation of their Rapid Rewards® birthday mix. We also mapped an encrypted, personalized birthday message that would be triggered directly from users' Southwest birthday emails.
Paired with light, intuitive UX, we balanced an incredible birthday music video with gameplay elements that are accessible for a wide user demographic, and that elevate the classic e-card in a fun and unexpected digital Southwest experience.