Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta | Strong4Life | Ava’s Complete Guide to Car Seat Safety

CHOA's Car Seat Safety Campaign Is Fun, Factual, and Even Downright Magical

If you talk to a nurse, you know car seat safety is one of the most serious and most underestimated areas of childcare there is. Parents think car seats are simple, but the truth is they’re deceptively complex, and one wrong move can put your child’s life in danger. 

See that? That’s the type of scare tactic Chidren’s Healthcare of Atlanta challenged us not to use while writing their big car seat safety campaign. Frightening statistics and graphic imagery are one way to get people to pay attention, but wouldn’t it be great if someone could create engaging instructional content about safety without going negative?

Enter Ava’s Complete Guide to Car Seat Safety. Ava’s a certified EMT with a wealth of car seat knowledge and penchant for educational magic. From the charming confines of her Car Seat Safety Lab, she provides parents with all the information they need to protect their kids in the car; no scary stories, no bleak predictions.

Chasing Ava

Ava makes everything look easy. As with most things in production though, making her make everything look easy was anything but. Penning 12 scripts about car seat safety and making it fun? That’s no small task, but writers Cameron Shaw and Jordan Nowlin were up to it. And yes, they did learn a ton about car seats in the process.

From there, Director Emily Payton took the reins for a grueling 4 day shoot at LensHead Studios. Her technical knowledge, crystal clear vision for Ava as a character, and – perhaps most importantly – her ability to work well with kids, made her the perfect choice and she absolutely crushed it. She also collaborated heavily on the set-build with Art Director /Production Designer/Set Dresser extraordinaire, Melissa St. Clair.

And speaking of Melissa! This was maybe the finest set-build we’ve achieved to-date. We had hand-painted decorative car seats, a cozy reading nook, and of course, a fully functional, modular model of a car interior (the Car Seat Demo Display, or CSDD). We knew it would be hard to effectively & beautifully shoot all the aspects of car seat installation & safety inside a real car. The CSDD was an impressive work of engineering in its own right, and it also solved one of our biggest production hurdles.

Even so, there was no shortage of challenges to face. Perhaps the most harrowing moment of all came when writer-turned-1st AD Cameron Shaw had to drive his car through the hot set on the last day of production. 20+ crew and clients collectively held their breath while Cam shimmied the car into place with guidance from Gaffer Collin Ingram, Melissa, Emily, and Director of Photography, Alesso Graci.

Ava Goes to Post-Production 

With our shoot safety wrapped, it was time to get into post. To ensure consistency in style, Cameron took on the role of Lead Editor for all 12 of our videos. Each video focuses on a different type of car seat safety, from rear-facing to forward-facing, to booster seats, and beyond. Maybe we’re biased, but we think they’re universally charming, and seeing all the hard work of production come to fruition was immensely satisfying. From the very first sample showing a car seat appearing from thin air, we knew we had something special. 

While most of the switches were accomplished simply in Adobe Premiere, 3D animator David Hixon handled the task of making the car disappear in After Effects, bringing some extra panache to one of our biggest VFX undertakings. Not to be outdone, however, fellow animator and artist Anneli Brown conquered a host of magical chalkboard effects. She drew them herself, and used motion tracking to make them appear as though they were actually drawn on the board! Doing this in post allowed us to deliver more detailed chalk drawings without taking time out of our packed production schedule to create them.

Ava’s Impact

Children’s was thrilled with the completed campaign, and while happy clients are always our goal, this one felt special. After all, the purpose of the campaign was and is to literally save the lives of children! Success means helping people, and that’s a pretty amazing thing. It’s no coincidence that many people on our team, from the director to the writer to many others, point to this project as one they are most proud of.

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