Two weeks. 33 custom animations. To run on some of the world’s most famous screens.

That was the challenge our friends at Adaptive Biotechnologies presented when they asked us to help them pull off a total Times Square “domination” experience. We’re talking animated videos (33 in total) running across four massive placements simultaneously — the Nasdaq tower and Marquee, the Reuters Tower, and the Walgreens Tower. Oh, and they only had 2 weeks until launch. No pressure, right?

A tight timeline meant we had to rely more than ever on our careful storyboarding process, especially because these screens were far from conventional, with crazy dimensions, curved screens and windows right in the middle of the unit. You can preview just some of these storyboards below, and if you want a deeper dive, you can view the complete boards for the Walgreens Tower here.

With the storyboards client-approved, we could move on to a complex set of After Effects templates provided by the panel vendors. We used the templates to set up and create all the animations.

A look at the After Effects project file for the Nasdaq Tower

These templates were our lifeline. Since there could be no previewing of animations before they were live (for tens of thousands of people to see – again, no pressure), the templates were a way visualize what the final product would be when viewed from the street.

Nasdaq Tower Preview
Reuters Tower Preview

These templates also allowed us to view multiple units at the same time. Because on top of everything else, we gave ourselves the challenge of synchronizing the animation between the Nasdaq and Reuters Towers, so that when one set of cells leaves the Nasdaq Tower it “jumps” across the street to the Reuters Tower, making for a more arresting viewer experience. You can see a preview of that below.

Total synergy! Both towers in sync.

The previews for the actual production? Well those were much less exciting (below is what the Walgreens Tower looked like just before we shipped it). But the real exciting part was traveling down to NYC for the unveiling.

Fun fact: Before the campaign went live, the Planet Nutshell team got to ride the elevator to the top of the Walgreens tower where the New Years Eve ball resides.

Another fun fact: The floors above the first floor, which contains a Walgreens Drugstore, are completely empty. The building owner earns more money from the displays on the outside than from having tenants inside.

The Walgreens Tower in Production Preview Mode. This was shipped to the display vendor.

After a lot of hard work and diligent planning, it all went off without a hitch. And we thought the final result was better than any After Effects template. Here’s what the Nasdaq Tower looked like from my perspective, just an average guy on the street:

Yay! It works in real life!

A huge thanks goes out to all the folks who worked on this:

Creative Director: Joshua Gunn
Art Director: Jennifer Sanchez
Storyboards: Jennifer Sanchez, Mollie Davis
Production Coordinator: Kharma Jones
Animation: Jennifer Sanchez, Mollie Davis, Brien Hopkins, Mac Wójcik, Ethan Barnowsky
Design & Illustration: Ana Hill, Natalia Brondani