If you grew up in the Northeast, chances are that you ate ice cream at Friendly’s Restaurants when you were a kid. As their digital agency of record, we create dozens of high-impact creative and media strategies to generate both sales and brand equity month over month, year over year. So when the creative team was brainstorming how to end 2017 on a sweet note, the idea of helping their consumers look back on the past year of sweet memories came to mind. The result? A stop-motion video that would bring their slogan, “Life with extra sprinkles,” to life. Literally.

When creating social content, you want to grab people’s attention immediately as well as compel them to feel a genuine connection to your brand. With Friendly’s being an 83-year-old brand, we knew we had the nostalgic association already there, but we wanted to take it to the next level. And since video has become increasingly more popular on social, we decided to experiment a little to create something special for Friendly’s fans.

Moreover, in 2017 alone, #Friendlys generated over 1,800 useable user-generated photos and content (UGC). And considering the fact that UGC is becoming an increasingly important element of brands’ social and marketing strategy and that Friendly’s customers love to post adorable photos of their families enjoying ice cream and food, we figured what better way to show them some love than by incorporating their photos into an end-of-the-year video?

However, to do this required a fair amount of prep. Here are some key lessons and takeaways we learned along the way.

Set up your workspace for success

When taking on a project like this, it’s imperative to stay organized. Case in point? One of the first things we did was organize all our props and materials. We separated all of our props by video section and put them in separate baggies. This made it easier to grab materials during the day of so we weren’t scrambling for props.

We also made sure to have the right equipment ahead of time. Some must-haves for us? A DSLR camera, a camera clicker (a true lifesaver!), a tripod, large white foam boards for our canvas, sandbags to weigh down the tripod and paper towels for easy clean-up.

Checking to see if the lighting is good was also necessary. Is there natural light or artificial light, and will it be consistent during the length of the shoot? We did our shoot in a spacious area with a lot of natural light. However, we shot the sprinkle typography sections the day after and at a later time and noticed the light was a little darker. We ended up editing this in post-production, but it’s definitely something we’ll consider next time around.

Lastly, before we started we mapped out our canvas. We measured out a square border in pencil for us to stick to because we knew that the video would need to be a square format for Facebook. This made it easier to frame our scenes and keep everything consistent.

Have a step-by-step game plan

Fact: storyboards are your best friend. We planned all of our frames ahead of time and recreated them the day of the shoot. We wrote out all the transitions we wanted and how we would execute them, etc.

   

When it was shoot day, we actually worked backwards. For every section, we would lay out all of the props to create the final frame of the section. Next, we would take a picture of it, remove one item and then take another photo. We continued this process step-by-step during the entire shoot. In post, the photos were rearranged in the correct order.

Another life-saving move? We numbered the photos as they were being taken. Keeping track of the names and numbers of the photos made it easier to weed out which ones were duplicates or re-dos. And having a log of all the photos taken was very helpful when trying to order the photos later on and put the video together in After Effects.

Keep in mind typography tips & tricks

   

When you’re creating anything that has to do with typography, you must be both resourceful and strategic throughout the whole process. For example, we found that when working with sprinkles, using your hands is the easiest method. If you need a few extra sprinkles, using everyday objects like a paper clip or a piece of cardboard can help. It’s also vital to have a sketch of the finished product on hand to reference if you are imitating something specific like we did with the “F” from Friendly’s logo.

In terms of how we ended up executing everything, we first created the typography stills on separate canvases for the beginning and end takes. To create the transitions took a little more creative thinking since we only had one try to get it right. For example, in order for the sprinkles to come in and create the word “sprinkles” for the first part of the video, we had to find a way to disperse the sprinkles off the board. Since the room we were working in didn’t have outlets, we improvised and ended up blowing the sprinkles off the board to the best of our abilities.

In a similar vein, for the last frame of the video for the Friendly’s “F,” in order for us to make the sprinkles disperse in swift motion off the screen, we had someone carefully place their hands underneath the top of the board and pick it up to let the sprinkles slide off.

Putting the actual video together took some more finessing in order to have each frame move into the next seamlessly. After bringing the assets into After Effects, the video needed to be reverse time-mapped in order to look like the sprinkles were coming together to form the word “sprinkles” and the letter “F.”

All in all, we had a blast creating this video, experimenting with sprinkle typography and creating a story for our client. And we’ll definitely be keeping all of these learnings in mind when creating future videos in the new year.

Be sure to watch the full video below!