“The Rube Goldberg concept for our holiday video was creative and showed us that KJO understood our business. We had a tight timeline and we knew that bringing it all together in such a short period was going to be quite the undertaking. KJO met our challenge head on and delivered a great piece. The responses from our clients and business partners on the video have been widely positive.”
– LYNNE BRENIMAN, Multimedia/Video Production Manager, Global Marketing & Communications, Black & Veatch Corporation
We’ve made holiday greeting videos for KJO before. This time though, it was for Kansas City-based engineering and construction company Black & Veatch, one of the largest privately owned companies in the world. Demolishing some ornaments wouldn’t cut it.
Black & Veatch had a few guidelines for us to adhere to, but creatively, the only limit was our imaginations. And time. We had two weeks to conceive, execute and deliver. The bar had been set high with some of the company’s past holiday videos. We wanted to raise it a few more notches.
The previous videos had been very heavy on motion graphics, so we decided to go the other way. Do it all practical. We kicked around vague ideas involving collaborative murals and Chinese lanterns before landing on an idea that had engineering concepts at its foundation.
We’d build a Rube Goldberg machine.
We had points of reference from our favorite childhood movies (Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, The Goonies), but our machine was representing one of the top engineering and construction firms in the world. It couldn’t look like something that Mikey and Mouth cooked up to keep Chunk out. Luckily, we had a partner.
We had worked with 3 Axis before and knew building a Rube Goldberg would be right up their alley. We gave them some general guidelines. We wanted different actions of the machine to represent the areas Black & Veatch work in: energy, water and telecommunications. This is what they came up with:
The final machine was 20-feet long and weighed more than 350 pounds. Just getting it in our studio was a challenge. The entire 3 Axis team spent a day at KJO setting it up and testing every action over and over.
All we had to do then was shoot it. Not an easy task.
Rube Goldberg machines are, by nature, prone to snags. For example, say each action of the machine works 95% of the time. We had 18 actions that had to go off without a hitch. That 95% success wasn’t very comforting when you considered every action had to work successfully at the same time.
Take 1 went surprisingly well. A hiccup at the end tripped up the final reveal, but it was a good start. Turns out we were lucky. On subsequent takes, not so much. Again and again something would go wrong. We’d get one action perfected, then a problem would arise in another action we’d thought was solid.
Take 21. That’s the first time the machine worked perfectly from start to finish. But we weren’t done yet. The takes piled up as we made adjustments to the way we lit and shot the machine. The complete, one-shot take that you see in the video… that’s take 40.
Did we mention all this was going down in the two days before Thanksgiving? We still had post-production and original music to be composed. Our undaunted editor Aaron Dewitt spent much of his Thanksgiving weekend in the KJO office editing, making graphics, and coordinating with Lawrence musicians Primary Color Music on the soundtrack. We delivered the final video on time, the Monday after the holiday. To this date, it’s been one of the most challenging (and fun) projects we ever tackled.