Ask the Expert: Creating the Vans 50th Anniversary Pro Classics Era Video

The motion graphics studio Already Been Chewed (ABC) partnered with Vans to commemorate 50 years of pushing the limits

March 16, 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of Vans, one of the most iconic brands in action sports. The shoe company started out making custom shoe orders in a small shop in Southern California, brought the world its first skate shoe, and has had a major impact across fashion and action sports.

The journey Vans has embarked on is one that embraces individuality, creativity, and passion, which is why the partnership with design studio Already Been Chewed (ABC) commemorating its 50th anniversary makes perfect sense. ABC is a design studio based out of Dallas, Texas, that focuses its creative faculties on action sports, a soft spot for the skate-rats-turned-design-junkies.

Vans approached ABC with a mission: create a short video that incorporated not only Vans' pioneering and rebellious spirit but also artwork that would stand on its own. The result: The Vans Anniversary Pro Classics Era.

TransWorld Business interviewed Barton Damer, founder of ABC, and Chase Nann, creative director at Vans. We looked into how both companies collaborated on this project, and found out exactly what it takes to create an iconic anniversary celebration.

Vans, you initially came to ABC with the idea. What was your initial inspiration for the concept?

Chase Nann: The initial inspiration for the concept behind the Vans 50th anniversary Pro Classics collection spot was to show how 50 years of skateboarding heritage and modern day performance upgrades come together to make up this very special collection of shoes. We wanted to physically showcase the pieces of skateboarding history; old school skateboards, jump ramps, VX cameras, etc., coming together with the modern performance features in anamorphic style to build a shoe. We approached ABC with this concept of an anamorphic shoe made up of all things skateboarding and asked them to bring it to life.

ABC, what went into creating this video? What did you feel reflected the milestone of Vans 50th anniversary, and how did you incorporate certain concepts to make sure Vans' vision was accurately portrayed?

Barton Damer: Vans approached us with the initial idea of using anamorphic imagery to create the Pro Classic Era. We brainstormed with their team and created a list of objects that represented a variety of generations in skateboarding throughout the history of Vans. Sort of like a historical timeline… but cooler.

Already Been Chewed's anamorphic artwork lives on the Vans homepage

Already Been Chewed’s anamorphic artwork lives on the Vans homepage

In what ways does the animation reflect the values that Vans holds, especially for a landmark anniversary of 50 years?

CN:The animation reflects the values Vans holds dear in a number of ways. First, it is all about skateboarding, from old school boards and historic images of Tony Alva and Stacey Peralta to modern day boards, obstacles, and riders. Vans has always been about skateboarding, supporting it and the culture surrounding it, and will always continue to be all about skateboarding. Secondly, it's about creativity and enabling that creativity. We had a weird idea for a shoe built of the history of skateboard parts. We let ABC, a very creative group of people, use their creativity to design, build, and bring this idea to life.

What were some of the challenges that you ran into working on this project, and bringing the concept to life?

CN: A few of the challenges we ran into bringing this idea to life were; 1) How do you take a random list of objects and arrange it in a way that forms a shoe? A pretty complex visual illustration to create. 2) How do you make nods to our heritage in skateboarding and not make it feel like a history lesson? And 3) how do we make this appealing enough that viewers who don't know our history in skateboarding would want to find out more?

BD: We went through a lot of exploration deciding how abstract to treat the artwork or how literal we should make the shoe. Some of the earlier concepts look more like a pile of objects and if you stared long enough you realized it made up a shoe. We then tightened the look of it to read very clearly as a shoe first and then you notice all the objects making it up.

The carefully chosen details that make up the final shoe in this shot all reflect Vans' values

The carefully chosen details that make up the final shoe in this shot all reflect Vans’ values.

How did ABC go about creating the anamorphic animation? Can you give me insight into your creative process, and the steps it took to create the video for Vans?

BD: This was the first anamorphic artwork we've done involving animation. We've used this technique on other artwork for print so creating it for animation required some new considerations. Our process involved initial sketches, sample animations, and a concept phase where we created the first print "hero" illustration.

After the print illustration, we provide style boards for each bullet point their Marketing team wanted to communicate. The style boards are still images from the key frames in the video. Once those are approved we move into animation.

This was the first anamorphic artwork ABC has done involving animation.

This was the first anamorphic artwork ABC has done involving animation.

We worked with a great team including Vans in-house team of 3d modelers who had a library of Vans shoes available. We then modeled and textured the other objects that we felt represented Vans historical timeline and began to fit them into the shape of the shoe for the Hero illustration. We chose to make everything look like it had been spray painted so that the spot would have a bit of a grunge/lo-fi vibe to it rather than feeling like shiny 3d graphics. That also made the most sense rather than making it look like colorways of Vans shoes that don't exist. The sneaker heads will notice.

How do you feel the video will resonate with viewers?

BD: I think skateboarding and action sports audiences are open to this type of video and it's creativity. It doesn't feel overly produced and we were pleased that it feels on brand.

CN: The video is so visually interesting and complex we hope it will resonate with viewers in a way that says Vans is a creative brand, is a brand with deep history in skateboarding, and continues to be about skateboarding.