8-Bit Fun with Origo’s “A Digital Christmas”

I wrapped up the Holiday Video for Origo not too very long ago and wanted to take some time to talk about the process behind it. It’s a fun video– very different from last year’s but really fun it its own way. Holiday videos are great becacuse they allow a lot of creative freedom. They still have to align with the agency’s brand messaging and fulfill a good holiday message, but there’s a lot of opportunity to try something new and, since there aren’t thousands of dollars of client money on the line, at a fairly low risk. This year, the video is an homage to and takes on the style of an old video game where santa runs around town handing out presents. If you haven’t already, check it out above.

Pretty neat, huh? To really sell the style, it’s based around only two colors (one of which is Origo red, naturally) and a grid 100 pixels wide and 57 pixels tall (roughly approximated by the background). There’s no cheating either— pixels stick to the grid and when animated move from one cell in the grid to the other without any sub pixel action. That creates the blocky motion that can be seen especially in places like the presents being tossed or the skyline moving and goes a long way towards conveying the feeling of an old-style game that we were going for.

The Pixel Grid

Artistically, the format presented interesting challenges as well. Each asset is created from little white squares and sticks strictly on the grid. With such a limited number of pixels and colors to work with, finding a way to represent things like Santa, a holiday party and the Columbus skyline was a fun challenge. Practically, that meant that everything had to be illustrated very carefully to be clear and fit with the design. If I wanted to make something larger or smaller, I couldn’t just scale up or down, I had to redraw entirely at a new size. The big Santa that goes down the chimney is an entirely different illustration than the little Santa that drives the sleigh, for example.

Adobe After Effects 11.0ScreenSnapz001
Far too many keyframes

Creating the text was an enjoyable challenge as well. I’ve always been interested in typography and the whole question of what makes a letter a letter and drawing letterforms using only a limited number of blocks was a fun exercise to that end. Letters like “L” were easy, but with no curves, no diagonals and a height of only 5 pixels, Letters such as “D”, “R”, and “M” required a bit more finesse.

Best part about the whole thing, though? The render time! No motion blur, no particles, no nothing. Probably the quickest render of my professional career.


This year’s Holiday Video was a lot of fun to do and I had a great time exploring the new concepts and techniques utilized. Everyone at Origo loves it, we’ve received lots of positive feedback from clients, and it made for a great way to end out the year.


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Motion Blurb

Elliott Cennamo is a Motion Graphics designer living in and working out of Columbus, Ohio. Elliott has had the pleasure of working with some of the world's top brands and, in addition to being Emmy Nominated, Elliott's award-winning work has entertained in major sports arenas, been broadcast nationwide, and been used to spur changes in public policy.