Surfing YouTube with the Greenpeace Tag, it’s quite easy to discover unknown videos edited using our images. They are user generated productions from people from all over the world that care about the environment and want to spread a positive message. Ok, it should be nicer if they would make clear that are not “official” Greenpeace video (just say it in the end board and in the description), but I honestly find wonderful that so many people spend time and use their skills to do something for this planet using Greenpeace materials. It means that what we are doing works and - as this blog says - we are making waves.

Mostly of them are really great pieces of work but sometime we find something really brilliant. The best example is for sure the Rainbow Warrior animation that we discovered few months ago:

To give you an idea of our reaction, I can simply quote the comment that Brian wrote on YouTube:

"Better than most Greenpeace commercials I've seen, and I've worked for Greenpeace for 25 years!"

And of course we added it on our site! We discovered that It was made by Johannes Kuemmel as his final project for the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg. He started from the concept “You don’t have to join us to join us” a motto the Leo Burnett Agency created last year for our anti-Whaling campaign. He was so kind to give us the rights to use it, and we are now very happy to feature it and to meet the producer.

Hi Johannes, could you please tell us something about yourself and your background.

After completing a Master of Arts degree in France I enrolled at the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany to study film.

My focus here has been writing and directing commercials with a concentration on visual effects. Parallel to my studies, I work as 3d artist and storyboard artist.

From your showreel I can see that you have worked using video and 3D animation with big names in production of commercials.

What differences do you find between the two media and which do you think suits most to express your creativity?

Shooting live-action gives a lot more freedom to improvise. Things just happen – which can sometimes be great, sometimes disastrous... especially with very small student budgets.

In 3d, the only limits to visual expression are the artistic and technical skills of you and your team. You learn more and get better with each project. You can also do things that are simply impossible to shoot.

I think using clever combinations of both delivers the best results.

Let's talk about the Rainbow Warrior animation. Why did you choose to produce a Greenpeace video for your final project at the Filmakademie?

I had the basic idea one year before I produced it. I had always wanted to do a Greenpeace commercial because it is not only a “cool brand” but an organization that I really want to support.

We are required to complete 3 diploma films and for this one, we had complete freedom to choose the product and the way of doing it. I chose Greenpeace…

My parents are Greenpeace members, that’s why I always read articles about the campaigns in the ”Greenpeace Magazine” and I remember the big Greenpeace actions that I’ve seen in the news. So from early on, Greenpeace are “the courageous adventurers with rubber boats” for me - the only ones that really, visibly fight for the environment instead of just talking about it. I wanted to play with that image and spice it up with irony and humor.

While researching the project, I decided to become a Greenpeace member. I could only afford the smallest monthly amount. I’m still a poor student and every Euro counts ;)

The final result is really impressive, please tell us more about the production process.

It took 6 months from the first storyboard to the final film. The actual production was around 3-4 months.

Not much is real. We shot elements for the ocean during a storm in February at Sylt, an island in northern Germany. We filmed ship trails and splashes on a ferry to Denmark on our way to the holiday house of my student producer Max Penk's parents. Then we spliced up all these bits and pieces together for the ocean.

Together with Ralf Noack, a camera student, we then shot 2 actors in front of a blue screen marked with tracking points. Georg Melich is the first activist (pulling a rope) and Thomas Sohsna is the vomiting guy at the end. The puke shot was a lot fun!!

All the rest is CGI. The core CGI team was just Thomas Hinke, an animation student, and myself. I modelled and textured the ship, prepared the footage of the actor (keying) and composited everything together. Thomas created the digital characters and animated all the movements. He also worked on shading and rendered the different layers.

We used Softimage XSI for the 3D elements and compositing was done in Adobe After Effects. For keying, I used the The Foundry Keylight Plugin. Two animation students, Ando Avila and Marius Plock, tracked the blue screen footage using Pf Track. Music was written by film-music student David Christiansen and performed by the film-orchestra Babelsberg.

The Rainbow Warrior looks so real, everything is in the right place, just like the real one. One curiosity: have you ever been on board?

No. But I would love to! At the time we needed reference material, it was on a mission somewhere far away. So we relied on press photos that Greenpeace Germany gave us, pictures I found on the Internet and youtube video material.

Here at Greenpeace we are producing short and effective videos aiming at the web audience. Do you think that social organisations could and should use this communication channel and produce what are effectively commercials, to draw attention on important, global issues?

I think the way Greenpeace uses the web is very good.

Some people believe that advertising is something evil. But I don’t think this way. Advertising is communication. It is like rhetoric: the better speakers will more likely achieve their goals. Commercials are just high tech rhetoric ;)

I believe that since we have the possibility to post and watch videos so easily and with low media costs NGOs absolutely have to use this!

The big advantage of the internet advertising is that you can now target people much more precisely. This can be very important for NGOs: I’m sure deep inside everybody wants a better world. You just have to strike the right nerve and communicate specifically for different targets.

In general, I think there should be very short videos with high impact for the first contact with people visiting other sites or discovering them on youtube (I made “Rainbow Warrior” for this purpose) and longer, more informative videos for those who want to know more on the official website itself.

The first, short ones should be impressive, entertaining, maybe even controversial. The second, longer ones should be more serious.

I remember I saw some Greenpeace videos during research where I was thinking “wow, that’s cool”. I guess these clips motivate people to learn more about the organization, and voilà, they are surfing for half an hour on the greenpeace website…

Greenpeace has the big advantage of being able to deliver spectacular images from their campaigns. So watching Greenpeace videos is never boring.

Nowadays the web is riddled with viral campaigns, do you think there is still any point trying to get a message out through this route?

All this viral discussion is very interesting. I could go on for pages about it! To put it shortly: I guess a funny idea is not enough any more.

Some people think virals are just cheap commercials for the internet. I’m sure: that’s wrong. I'm working on a new viral with a completely different “mechanism” at the moment and I think I will do more in the future.

Well, thanks for this interview! Any final words or future projects that you want to tell us about?

I’m happy that Greenpeace liked my viral. I hope now that it works and draws attention to the Greenpeace websites.

It would be great if it leads some people to finally click on the “become-a-member” button…

I’m doing 2 more advertising films (1 viral) and one trailer for an animation project until January 2008 –then I will hopefully get my diploma and enter the real life!

Good luck for everything, I'm sure we will meet again.


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