Professor Derek Sawyer approached me with the idea of creating a unique animation for the Ohio Stadium South scoreboard during home OSU football games. The premise was simple: after a big play such as a touchdown, pick-6, sack, fumble recovery, etc – the fans in the stadium jump and cheer. These celebrations actually cause seismic waves that are picked up by two seismometers that Prof. Sawyer has positioned in Ohio Stadium. The readings are then fed to the scoreboard operator crew in the control center of the Schottenstein Center and added to the FanQuake animation, which is then displayed on the stadium scoreboard.
I met with Professor Sawyer for an overview of his idea. He and members of his research group already had the seismometers in place in Ohio Stadium and had been testing the set-up and obtaining instrument readings since the previous football season.
The project’s goal was to jointly improve OSU fan experience and engagement, and increase awareness of science through Professor Sawyer’s research. The thinking was: Seeing a seismic reading on the scoreboard would motivate fans to “better” that reading the next time a big play occurred in OSU’s favor (hey, it’s home-team advantage, yo.). This process served to maintain a high level of fan participation and involvement during the game. A social media blast and accompanying presence on OSU.edu and Professor Sawyer’s own site would provide details as to how the idea of FanQuake was born and how it tied into Professor Sawyer’s own research.
After covering the equipment set-up, we discussed creative vision. Professor Sawyer threw out some of his own ideas that were pretty spot-on with what I had been initially thinking as well.
The first step was to meet with the OSU Stadium Scoreboard crew. I wanted to run the project past them and see how we could coalesce the existing set-up with an After Effects-based animation. (Tidbit: The OSU Scoreboard Stadium crew is actually not located in Ohio Stadium nor any place physically close by. The control center is located in a different location on OSU main campus.)
It was apparent right off the bat that the project was a good fit for Adobe After Effects. With this being my first scoreboard animation, I wasn’t familiar with the Stadium Scoreboard workflow. Since I was comfortable in a variety of non-linear editing platforms, I was pretty confident that no matter what the OSU Stadium Scoreboard set-up was, I would be able to create an animation that meshed with what they had. After Effects ended up being perfectly viable for all parties involved.
I had a pretty big head-start on our user research: Not only was I a life-long OSU football fan who had attended numerous games in the ‘Shoe, I was also on-staff for the largest OSU fan organization in the world. Further, I actually worked at the University. To top all of that off, I was also a former college football player. This provided me a unique insight into a variety of facets of fan engagement and the OSU football experience.
We were in a unique position to leverage a brand that had tremendous brand-recognition in both the college football and academic worlds. Usually you get one or the other. OSU football has been a college football powerhouse for decades. OSU’s standing as a world-class academic institution was also established.
OSU’s Athletics Department had significant marketing data. I leveraged that as well as data from a variety of external sources.
A New York Times study found there to be around 80 million college football fans in the United States. That same study ranked OSU #1 with over 3.1 million fans. Further, OSU was named the #1 brand on [FanSided’s Fandom 250](https://fansided.com/fandom250/ohio-state-buckeyes/2017/). To put in perspective how much the list encompasses, we’re talking about a list that includes the fan bases of Game of Thrones, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Star Wars to name a few.
Yeah, things just got real.
With it being such a fun and exciting project, it would have been easy to get carried away with some aspects. Luckily, I’m a big fan of Occam’s Razor and it was instrumental in helping me with the motion graphics as we’ll see later on. My thinking was that OSU football sells itself. This animation is going to be displayed after an euphoric moment when fans are ecstatic and going nuts.
Most adults have a concept of an earthquake. While many have never experienced one, Hollywood and the internet have done a great job of educating the masses. My creative thoughts were obvious: create an animation that utilized some sort of earthquake elements that we all know and recognize. That included the basics of some sort of shaking elements and rumbling sounds.
When Professor Sawyer first emailed me some of his thoughts, I immediately had elaborate creative ideas popping into my head. After meeting with OSU’s Ohio Stadium Scoreboard crew, I was given a big challenge…
Five seconds. That’s the maximum duration that the animation could be. I had to design an animation that captured the attention of the audience that was already whipped into a frenzy, and make them even more frenzied. The animation had to convey the concept of fandom and “quake”. Funny thing is, condensing the animation into five seconds actually helped me during the creative process.
Additionally, the Ohio Stadium South scoreboard has specific size / dimensions. While the dimensions are standard, the challenge comes from the rotating advertising and sponsors that appear around the animation.
I knew I wanted to use the following elements: Rumbling, earthquake-type audio effects, shaking elements and text, and some sort of radar / sonar animation. All of these were things that are synonymous to most of us when we think of an earthquake.
I also wanted to make the text split, kind of like how the ground splits open during an earthquake.
The initial animation started out around 30 seconds long on my Adobe AfterEffects timeline. The idea was to start big and do my editing cuts near the end to shrink it to 5 seconds. It was almost like creating a motion-graphics version of a TED Talk: embrace brevity, focus on the message and keep it succinct.
This was the initial version:
The typeface (Ailerons) was chosen because of its uniqueness. It had a science-y look to it, but also gave off a strong, masculine, athletic vibe. This was a good bridge between Professor Sawyer’s research and OSU Football.
I shared an .mp4 of the first iteration with the project group.
“Love it!” was the first reply from OSU Assistant Athletics Director’s office.
Nailed it on the first try.
Initial response from the project team and OSU Athletic Director’s Office was impressive. Everyone loved the animation including the scoreboard video team and the Assistant AD For Fan Engagement. The real test was fan reaction during OSU football games – and it was fantastic. My social media feed erupted with direct and indirect communications immediately after it was unveiled on the main South Stadium Scoreboard. “Just saw your FanQuake animation, man! Awesome!” was one of the first texts I received.
Highly non-procedural validation process, but immensely gratifying.