This animation project sprang into the world the way the best ones do: from a really good idea. The original concept was to depict three citizens going about their lives, “just like you,” before stepping up to answer the call. As a volunteer firefighter myself, this made perfect sense; it really gets right to the heart of how volunteer companies operate. We are all off doing our own thing, leading totally different lives, working totally different jobs, and then the pager goes off, and boom! We’re suddenly an engine company ready to go to work. The line “just like you, except…” carried from the concept pitch all the way through. That was the crux of the script, really. All I had to do was flesh it out.
Assistant Chief Tohanczyn provided me with my three “stars,” who were good enough to pose for a couple of pictures in street clothes and PPE, which I used as the basis for the character designs. All the illustration was done digitally, but I drew it all by hand using a pen input device rather than using any kind of automated software-based approach, which gave me the more figurative, old-school cartoonish look I was going for. These illustrations got layered up with numerous paper and screen printed ink textures that I scanned to give the final piece a little grit and an organic feel, as though it were made from paper.
I spent a lot of time on small details, like getting the look of Engine 12 right, because I know from seeing my own department’s reaction to animation I’ve made how much of a kick everyone gets out of seeing familiar equipment illustrated on screen. From there the illustrations got cut into many, many layers and moved into Adobe After Effects, which is my principal animation tool, where the magic happens. The magic is more meticulous than magical, really. For example, the opening shot of the long-form piece alone is comprised of over 70 distinct layers, each with independent position, rotation, scale, and so on. It can be tedious work, but it’s always fun to see it come to life.
I am lucky enough to get to make animation every day, but it’s not every day I get to make animation for the fire service. I am grateful to Colmar for bringing the project to First Arriving, giving me the chance to get involved in this project, which was a very fun one for me. I hope it serves you well.
HATFIELD TOWNSHIP, PA – FEBRUARY 25, 2020: The Colmar Fire Company is excited to announce a creative new initiative to recruit more volunteers into its growing ranks. Following up on the progress of launching its new recruitment-focused website in December-2018, the fire company embarked upon a project to create an animated recruitment video with its strategic partner, First Arriving, a Richmond VA headquartered marketing and technology company.
The four-part animated short will be officially launched on the fire company’s website: colmarfire.com and social media channels starting Wednesday, March 11th at 6pm, with subsequent launches at 6pm on the next three consecutive Wednesdays.
Creation of the animation was led by First Arriving’s animator Jonathan Weiss, creator of “The Call: A Portrait of America’s Volunteer Fire Service” – an Internet-favorite that provides insight into the value of the service volunteer firefighters deliver in the United States. An experienced animator, Weiss himself is a volunteer fire chief in Vermont.
Colmar’s Recruitment & Retention Coordinator, Asst. Chief Justin Tohanczyn saw “The Call” and knew that it was a format they wanted to use to tell the story of the great work their volunteers do in their community. That’s when he reached out to First Arriving to make it happen.
“First Arriving executed our vision for the videos better than we could have hoped for; the look, feel and storyline fit our mission perfectly,” Tohanczyn commented.
“We love it when our partners think big, and animation made this a big, fun project to help the small but growing Colmar Fire Company increase their ranks,” said Tiger Schmittendorf, vice president of strategic services for First Arriving and also a volunteer firefighter outside of Buffalo NY.
The animated clips follow three of Station 12’s firefighters, two males and a female from diverse backgrounds and occupations and tell the story of how they fit volunteer service into their busy lifestyles. The series answers the question of “Who answers the call for Colmar?” showing how each featured member is “just like you, except…” they’re also a Colmar volunteer firefighter who save lives, save property and save millions of tax dollars. Each video ends with sharing the call-to-action: “Do you hear the call?” along with the fire department’s website where interested individuals can sign up to learn more about serving.
The all-volunteer fire company is currently seeking community-conscious citizens to serve as firefighters, junior firefighters (Ages 14-17), emergency medical technicians, fire police officers, driver/operators and support staff to perform critical but non-emergency roles such as event/fundraising coordinators, photographers, ladies auxiliary, data entry specialists and housekeeping and maintenance staff.
If you or someone you know is interested in joining their team, visit colmarfire.com to complete a simple online inquiry form, email [email protected] or call 215-822-1444 to learn more today.