A Brief History: Google Street View

Street View Main Image

This is the first in a series of blogposts in which we will delve into our archive to show you how we made some of our favourite films. We hope you will find it enjoyable, insightful and inspirational.

First up is Google Street View, which began back in 2010. In preparation for the roll-out of Street View across Europe, Google asked ATP to create a launch video which could be localised across all launch territories. We needed to give each video a strong local flavour and find a way of showcasing the high quality of the Street View imagery. Here is one of our early style-frames:

Street View Storyboard Our idea was to demonstrate how Street View could aid and simplify common daily tasks and would be an easy fit with users' everyday routines. Simulating a touch interface and the use of POV would show how natural Street View was to use and demonstrate how useful the product could be. For example, here is part of our video for the Czech Republic:

By using stop-motion, paper effects and textures, we played with the idea of Street View as an extension of a physical map spread out on the viewer's desk, and Street View being an immersive and easy-to-use addition to the user's desktop. Cut-out elements of the Google Maps and Street View UI, local landmarks and desktop clutter added to the quirky feel and helped to ground Street View as a natural extension of the traditional workspace.

The unseen protagonist of the video, as an obvious proxy for the viewer, reaches into the screen to manipulate the elements of the site directly with his hands, interacting with the site in a straightforward way, and emphasising the simplicity of the interface. He also integrates his use of Street View naturally into his day, planning his holiday and guitar lesson as he sips his coffee at his desk.

We approached the task of capturing the Street View imagery as if we were making a stop-frame animation. First we explored the featured city to get a feel for its geography, finding the best sights and monuments. Then we determined the optimum route to take, which would not only link together our favourite parts of the city, but also fit the timing of the animation. Finally, we captured our progress along that route one click at a time, creating an image sequence which could be imported into After Effects. This took the typical Street View user experience out of the browser and leant it a stylised staccato stop-motion feel.

For variety and depth, we also integrated a section rendered in 3D, with Street View pointing your way safely through the towering abstract blocks of a complex modern city. The city was built in Maya in a rudimentary grid layout, with buildings distinguished by colour and shape, in an appropriately colourful and Googley style. These renders were then brought back into After Effects and treated to feel hand-rendered and in keeping with the style of the rest of the film. You can see the various stages of this process in the video below.

The video ends with the user navigating to a famous monument or landmark, and then sweeping away the Street View screen, which fragments into nine postcard-sized pieces to reveal the empty desktop beneath, complete with a localised Google logo engraved in the wood of the desk. The video below gives an idea of the steps involved in this sequence.

The video presents Street View as simple to use and easy to navigate, an unthreatening addition to the explorer's arsenal and a natural extension of the map. By heavily localising the video for different markets and featuring local points of interest, it also resonates with the viewer's sense of national identity.

 

This approach has been rewarded, with the video being localised for countless countries.

Here is our personal favourite, from Brazil:

Credits on original creative

Art Direction & Motion Design - Mike Brookes Executive Producer - Rachna Suri Editor - Robert Waddilove Production Manager - Amy Gaunt