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Our Journey Crafting Matter's First Product Video

August 13, 2019
7 Min Read
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Matter's Vault

Our call to adventure in crafting Matter’s first product video and the mission to share Matter with the world.

Why a video?

Matter is solving a problem that is not fresh in people’s minds when they wake in the morning. Giving and receiving feedback can be challenging, stressful and scary. When done on a team or organizational level it can be both challenging and daunting. We desired to accomplish a narrative which conveys how Matter makes people’s lives better. To help people see how Matter can help them become the best version of yourself and unlock their potential.

Embarking on a visual odyssey

We started by constraining ourselves to an aspirational video. We believed that the best way to explain Matter at this stage was not to display screens, user interface or product flows. So we ventured into the unknown and shot for the moon.

Inspiration and mood boards

Inspiration sparked pretty late in our process. The imagery was shared in our Figma project dubbed “Inspiration Station” as a way to mind meld and align with the team. The inspiration came from comic books and the recent release of Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. Their approach to animation welcomed a desire to be risky, try something new and to challenge ourselves in our craft. The usage of Ben-Day dots, the explosions of colors across the screen and how simple black and white overlays can bring subjects to life made for unexpected compositions. I encourage you to check out how it’s made video.

Inspiration from Spider-Verse, No Man’s Sky, child-like imagination to your proverbial motivational poster.

Whether it was the wide-open landscapes and oddly colored flora and fauna of No Man’s Sky, to the benign brevity of office culture and their motivational posters, we looked at it all. I found inspiration in child-like imagination. Fondly remembering the days, I spent traveling to far-reaching planets in my cardboard boxed spaceship as a kid or pilling pillows and blankets onto your downstairs coach to form a fort. What inspired me wasn’t the simplicity in the objects we’re so accustomed to in our daily lives instead, the endless amount of hours playing and the sheer joy that it brought back then, and the nostalgia it bears today.

Crafting our narrative style

In the beginning, we knew we wanted to center around a hero or main character. It felt prudent to demonstrate their journey, personal growth, and ultimately their reward. We desired a feeling of fulfillment in the video. Showing where they are today, and what goal they want to achieve for themselves. We explored a few concepts early on. From a chef to a forest quest and ultimately landing in outer space. Along the way, there were many ducks involved. Our Matter world ended up being an abstraction of ordinary office life and the metaphorical hero’s journey.

The ordinary world, or how we see the world today. Is comprised of simple Black & White hand-drawn style to effectively and quickly center on the subject matter, our hero and their work life: this alleviated distraction and the need to fill the screen with extra detail. Within the black and white there is a subtle nod to the mundanity of life in the workplace.

Our abstract world is both the journey and what lives in our hero’s mind. There live the fantastic ideas and dreams that live inside our minds. We achieved this dichotomy with our use of hand-drawn black and white sketches for the ordinary world to punchy colorful patterns and shapes in the abstract world. Color & patterns are used as focal points to help communicate the distinction between reality and abstract.

Key concept sketch and iteration for the visual style .

Discovering our Hero

Early on in the process, our hero started as a duck. Yup, a duck. An anthropomorphic duck in fact, with real-life problems and your run of the mill trials and tribulations. Our Duck happened to have a lifelong dream of being a director but currently remained a portrait photographer for kids. Ultimately, our duck friend ended up being only one of our many iterations we would go through.

Concept sketches.

When it came to finding our hero, we knew we wanted to be inclusive and diverse with our characters in the video. Trying to maintain a gender-neutral outlook served to be a bit of a challenge when using such a minimalistic hand-drawn style. In the end, we’re delighted with the result.

Our Hero’s Journey

Matter helps you unlock your potential through fun and engaging feedback from your peers. This feedback helps you to become the best version of yourself. We felt challenged when it came to demonstrating what a fantastic ride a career journey can be in less than 90 secs. How will we show the accomplishment or achievement of getting from A to B. What are the aspirational wants and goals of our hero? What will resonate with a broad audience? Many of these questions came up during our discovery and scriptwriting period.

When it came to our hero’s journey, we knew that it was not only about the result or destination, getting your dream job or becoming CEO. Instead, it’s about the people you meet along the way. The people that help you become better through guidance, mentorship, and feedback. We first introduce the hero to our little robot friend. Bright, enthusiastic and ready to help. Our robot is our first supernatural aid or guide that will help our hero get started on their journey — charting our their path from them, and showing them the way to reach their goals.

We wanted to relate the characters in the ordinary and abstract to one another.

Finding our voice

I had a strong inkling of the direction we would land on for the voice of our Matter video. After listening to so many talented actors, we still felt we hadn’t heard the voice for our video just yet. We poked fun and reluctantly suggested to listen to a British or Australian accent in some of our takes. Not only because every time Jony Ive says Alu-min-EEum in every Apple video, but we also fall out of our seats and inch closer and closer to the screen. But, primarily there is a level of sophistication in tone and delivery. It grabs your attention! Funny enough a few of our first submissions fell somewhere in between David Attenborough and John Cleese. But we found our voice.

This was the first time I experienced VoiceOver and Voice Over casting for a product video. I found myself completely enamored by the process, and ill fatedly unequipped on how to deliver feedback. I had no idea how to provide constructive feedback, direction or criticism to a voice actor. Fortunately, I had a friend who was a voice actor! I called her up and asked her as many questions as I could. It was beneficial and served as a gentle reminder, that we often don’t have to know how to do everything. If you’re willing, there are a lot of people out there ready to help you along the way. Thanks, Ning!

The music of Matter

One of the more challenging endeavors during the process was finding the right tune for our video. We started with guitar strumming campy songs, or your run of the mill fast-paced shopping center mall music. We felt that guitar (acoustic) + string just wasn’t the right pace or tone for our video.

We eventually landed on the tone you hear today by falling somewhere in between Archer’s Title Sequence, and David Bowie’s a Space Oddity. At least, that’s what I would like to think. The incorporation of brass and percussion had us feeling like we were watching The Incredibles or some version of a Pixar films credit sequence.

Design giants and our supernatural aid

As the Founding Designer, I joined an excellent team of two, Brett Hellman, our CEO, and Kerem Kazan, our Founding Engineer. Not to mention the two titans who stood before me. Josh Williams and Brian Brasher; a dynamic duo that is all too familiar with designing startups and crafting amazing experiences and design. Josh and Brian helped to shepherd Matter’s brand and design system before my joining. With great power comes great responsibility, and thank the stars for version control.

We partnered with Thinkmojo for our video. A process that started nearly three months ago. We knew after our first meeting with Andrew, Amy, Seb, and Brendan; we had landed a dream team. They exceeded Expectations throughout the entirety of our project, and we’re so grateful that they shared the enthusiasm and dedication to create something we’re all so very proud of. Thank you to the Thinkmojo team.

I joined Matter nearly eight months ago after my tenure at Atlassian. Atlassian was one of the best places I have ever worked. I aspire to achieve a similar moniker for Matter.

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