The Richmond Forum

2016 Open


The Richmond Forum, which boasts past speakers such as Steven Spielberg, Tony Blair, David Blaine, and Neil Degrasse Tyson, brings leaders from the world stage to our stage in Richmond -- to expand horizons, stimulate conversation and inspire our community.


Our client came to us with a blank canvas. He wanted to revamp the current open, and tell a story of how The Richmond Forum is more than just a one night event; it’s a conversation starter. The ideas shared on the night of the Forum leave with every member of the audience and then create a ripple effect in our community and beyond. Our team began researching and building a visual language based on the simple notion that an idea, opinion or story could be greater than it seems from a single perspective. That by being open to the viewpoint of another, one is able to build onto, and subtract from preconceived ideas and revise and redefine one’s understanding. 


As we worked in tandem with the development of the script, we explored the overall feel of the piece. What sort of tone did we want to relay to our audience? Something stark yet beautiful, with pops of blue and gold metallics to play off of the Forum branding. It should be simple, yet interesting. This was the first pass at establishing the visual language.




We collaborated with several writers who had a solid knowledge of the The Richmond Forum. As we got closer and closer to a concept and storyline, Bill Chapman, Executive Director of The Richmond Forum and former marketing agency director, took a stab at the draft and blew us away. He reworked the script into what it is today. It was beautifully crafted to perfectly express the complexities of the world and how to better understand it through the ideas, experiences and perspectives of others. And no better person to write it, than the man himself. Bill's visual phrasing was as eloquent as it was stimulating and it launched us confidently into the next phase of development. 



With a complete script, we began sketching blueprints for each scene.  We knew that playing with shadow, layers and dimension was going to best articulate our concept. Finding striking ways to do that was crucial. As we explored interesting and clever transitions, we knew that the trick would be in the execution. The mountain tops/fingerprint/tree stump transition was particularly appealing, however, the challenge was in the camera move and varying scale of each element within its particular environment. Using sweeping movement and slight rotation of the elements ended up being the most seamless solution.

Focusing on elements that had double meanings was also a priority. Most notable, the nautilus represents nature, art and science (the golden mean) all in one. To add to the complexity of the visuals we were inspired by past speakers and topics that were covered at The Richmond Forum. 

Although there were many more, here are a few of the reference images we pulled for each section. You can see that we researched styles across the board to help determine what our look would be. Pulling a little from each of these references helped to identify and further develop a style that unifies each scene.


Dave Swain, nationally recognized voice talent, motion graphics artist and partner at Cream, recorded a scratch track that was intended to be just that. However, our client loved the smooth, approachable delivery, and we all agreed that Dave was the perfect choice.  He recorded at In Your Ear, where custom music was being composed by Carlos Chafin to complement the animation. 



After many hours in Cinema 4D, Houdini, OctaneRender and, of course, After Effects, we were close to completion. With each new render, our concept was coming to life. Watching it with final audio in the studio was exciting and satisfying. We had the privilege of attending the first Forum of the season, and we couldn’t be more honored to have been given this opportunity by the wonderful people at The Richmond Forum.

Below are final stills from the finished piece.