Thursday
Jun282012

My Submission to Union Pacific's "Great Big Rollin' Railroad" Video Remake Contest

…or The Last Six Months of My Life

At the beginning of the year I came across this press release disclosing the fact that the Union Pacific Railroad would be holding a contest to launch the celebrations for their 150th year. It sounded like a perfect opportunity for me to expand my foray into railroad graphic arts so I eagerly set about to create a submission for the contest:

Omaha, Neb., January 03, 2012 – As part of the launch of its 150th anniversary celebration website, Union Pacific Railroad will award more than $35,000 in prizes to the top entries that remake the company’s classic 1970s television commercial, “We Can Handle It.”

Video remake contestants can find information, rules, sheet music to the commercials Great Big Rollin’ Railroad theme song, and other resources at www.up150.com. Entries are encouraged from all music genres including blues, reggae, pop, country, rock, hip hop, rap, jazz and others. The grand prize winner will receive $15,000, two finalists will receive $5,000 each and six runners up will receive $1,000 each. One entry each month also will win receive $1,000. Entry deadline is July 1, 2012, and contestants must be 18 years of age or older.

The original We Can Handle It television spots featured hand-clapping, foot-stomping employees from across the Union Pacific network singing the Great Big Rollin’ Railroad lyrics in a variety of settings, some more on key than others. Several different versions of the commercials were produced and aired. Still popular today, the Great Big Rollin’ Railroad ring tone has been downloaded more than 100,000 times.

Upon reaching the web site dedicated to UP’s Anniversary, UP150.com, I discovered the “assignment” was as follows:

  • Show your railroad pride by remaking the classic Union Pacific Great Big Rollin’ Railroad commercial.
  • Create and submit a spot that is no longer than 60 seconds in length featuring the song used in the original Great Big Rollin’ Railroad commercial. You can perform the music in any style you wish, but you cannot change the original lyrics.
  • Your Submission should be in commercial form consistent with these Official Rules.

It seemed simple enough except for a few things:

  1. I am not musically inclined whatsoever.
  2. I lacked the skills necessary to produce the vision of the commercial that I had in mind.

Joe’s Video Submission for the Union Pacific’s “Great Big Rollin’ Railroad” Video Remake Contest

My vision was to have the commercial based around a museum setting that showcased some key Union Pacific exhibits and remain close to the historical significance of the various milestones in the Union Pacific story. To that end I knew that I would have to virtualize most, if not all of the commercial. I was OK with doing just that since I love technology but the issue was I that I had never done something like this before.

I spent the next few months, (totally neglecting most other aspects of my life like this blog), learning how to build 3-D models and sets and render the same. I learned about animations and key-framing as well as motion graphics and, much to my surprise, how to edit and assemble a musical track. I owe a great deal of thanks to my daughter Jessica and her beau, Joe, for giving me their well-meant musical criticism and suggestions along the way. They are the voices singing the jingle in the commercial and give warmth to the effort.

Eventually the finished effort took shape and the hard part of fine-tuning and tweaking the edits came and went. Just a couple of days before the deadline I was able to submit my entry.

I am happy with the way it turned out except for some saturation issues in some scenes that I can only attribute to the encoding and cross-encoding of the video to shrink a 1.1GB file under the 200MB submission limit imposed by the rules.

I would love to get your feedback on my effort so jump over to the Union Pacific’s 150th Anniversary GBRR site by clicking on the image on the right and check out the video and let me know. Also be certain to look at the other submissions as there are some amazing and some funny videos to be sure!

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