The Making Of Runtime – An Art Direction Perspective

The team at iPullRank created a 30 minute film on technical SEO for MozCon called Runtime: The 3-Ring Circus of Technical SEO. Here's how the magic happened

Introduction

Long nights, no sleep, and a ton of creative adrenaline. During a worldwide pandemic, there are few if any opportunities to thrive creatively in the SEO landscape. However, when we discovered that Mozcon 2020 would be virtual, it seemed like the perfect chance to take advantage of the digital format and tell our story. 

“Let’s make a movie!” said Mike King.

With about a three to four week timeline, the iPullRank team dove headfirst into this creative vision and literally never stopped pushing. Although, with such limited time and overlapping work, we knew the only way this would happen is with aggressively focused project management

It sounds like something minor or “would be nice” to have, however, when applied correctly, project management methodologies can create a clear path to success in the quickest and most efficient way. From your local unicorn designer, this was our path.

Pre-production

Moodboards

This begins a course of non-stop ideas, inspiration, and research on where to even begin making a movie for an SEO conference. We started jumping into mood boards and visual inspiration. 

Knowing that Mozcon was “circus” themed, we conceptualized many visual motifs and storylines that we could follow. We started with three initial circus-themed ideas but creatively we didn’t want to be restricted to the stereotypical PT Barnum circus. 

Mike King then suggested taking a less literal and conceptual connection, which led us to The Joker. Considering our current environment and the storytelling approach we wanted, this dark clown theme sparked the idea for the rest of the movie. 

Illustrations

After we selected a creative path from the mood boards, we jumped straight into sketching and planning illustrations. 

I drew a lot of inspiration from modern pop art with bold colors, high contrast light sources, and clean simple shapes. All creatives have a different approach to conceptualizing their work, however, in this case physical drawings were the easiest way to map out our visuals and style.

Starting with character design, we created the visual personas for the “dark clown” and our heroine from multiple perspectives. Following that, we created different scenes, backgrounds, and environmental designs.

Script

We took an unorthodox approach and started creating visuals before the script, however, because we worked in parallel, the visuals inspired the script, and vice versa, as we continued to work. 

From this creative drive, emerged our heroine, Casey. The more we progressed in building out the story the more connected we felt with our heroine and wanting to learn about surviving in her world. 

Voice Over

At iPullRank, we are very fortunate to have multifaceted workers, as each person is practically a unicorn in their respective fields. So when it came to selecting voice actors for our hero and villain we approached Neferkara Aaron, our personal Swiss army knife. She already has experience in the music recording space and happily took on the majority of the voice-overs and sang for our song in the title sequence.

Screen Recordings

This piece seems like the simplest, being that screen recordings are easy to produce, however, it is the entire foundation of the education portion of the movie. Mike King took on this piece and focused on creating content that users could see and was easy to follow. 

Although the material is complex, the recordings in combination with our resources and collateral can help anyone improve and learn SEO.

Stock Video

Given that we’re not a movie production company and our quick turnaround, we of course resorted to available stock videos to support our storyline. However, there was still a good amount of strategy in selecting the correct sequence so the integrations felt natural. 

In several examples, we took the approach to integrate illustrations into the filmed video to show a visual connection between the two.

Production

Storyboarding

After mapping everything out, identifying all needed assets, and beginning the development of assets, we got to the final stage of pre-production. 

Our storyboard was the complete guide to represent the video production needed. It was put together in a slide deck that combined all elements of illustrations/sketched, script, and video examples into our 3 acts. 

Post-production

Finally here, with so many moving pieces, when we arrived at the production stage we were ready to put everything we have into the final piece. We were running short on time and still developing final assets, so that is when we kicked up our project management to 150%. 

We began running multiple agile sprints, managing all animators/video editors, and reviewing production as it is was completed. In the final days of production, running on gallons of coffee and striving for perfection, we had many contributors that were ultimately the reason we completed this movie.

Watching this concept grow from an idea to a finalized production was a great experience for myself and iPullRank. As any creative knows, making a piece is always a labor of love, but creating an impactful story to help and teach the SEO community made it worth it. 

We hope you enjoyed the movie and please feel free to visit our resource center to rewatch the film or to learn Casey’s techniques to defeat the dark clown!

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