Travel Alberta Uses Cinemagraphs to Stop Time and Capture the Adventure of the Rockies

Last year Travel Alberta, Critical Mass and Flixel worked together on a suite of stunning cinemagraphs that showcased the beauty of the province. The campaign won awards, accolades and attention from the advertising industry and consumers alike, and now Travel Alberta has returned with a new set of cinemagraphs that are just as stunning as the first, although in an entirely different way.

Cinemagraph of Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.

Where Travel Alberta’s previous cinemagraphs masterfully showed the breathtaking landscapes of the province, (as seen above), this new set aims to communicate that thrilling feeling that hits you right in the gut in a moment of adventure in the Albertan Rocky Mountains.

We sat down with the creative minds at Travel Alberta to discuss what drew them back into the world of cinemagraphs and what they’ve learned over the course of two cinemagraph campaigns.

So, why do cinemagraphs again?

To put it simply, they really worked from our perspective as marketers. It’s fairly obvious to tell moving images are better at capturing the attention and imagination than static ones. Your eye is just instantly drawn to the image, and in the case of cinemagraphs, you become a bit hypnotized. But the trouble has always been that video comes with a large file size and video media buys are generally significantly more expensive. Our cinemagraphs gave us the opportunity to make use of more affordable buys without sacrificing the opportunity to really put the beauty of our province on display.

Cinemagraph of snowshoers at Fortress Mountain, Alberta, from previous Travel Alberta campaign.

Secondly, and this one is always a bit more exciting from a creative perspective, cinemagraphs provide a really lush opportunity for storytelling. A perfect image can already communicate so much, so when you’re able to add the subtle motion of cinemagraphs you can really create something incredibly inspiring. Even after all the hours we put in creating the last batch, we can’t get enough of looking at them. There is just so much opportunity in the medium for what we’re marketing that we couldn’t help but come back and make some more.

It probably would’ve been easy to just make more in the spirit of the first batch. But that’s not what you did this time, is it?

You’re totally right. There’s honestly so many incredible moments and places in Alberta that we could probably spend a lifetime making cinemagraphs and never really get tired of it. But we wanted to challenge ourselves and make something a little more conceptual. We wanted to use the technique to create something that told a slightly different story, while still presenting the province in an exciting way that was in line with the brand.

This time, we decided to use cinemagraphs to tell a great story centred on the emotion of thrill. Alberta’s Rocky Mountains are a bit of a playground for adrenaline junkies, and there are so many opportunities for a thrill in the winter that we wanted to really show that off.

The thing is, that feeling of thrill is just a passing moment. But in a lot of ways it feels like it lasts forever. We often talk about how “time slows down” or even pauses when you’re mid-air on skis. That’s the moment of thrill that we were really trying to capture, and we felt that the endless, repeating beauty of a cinemagraph communicated it perfectly.

So, we staged an athlete in the climactic moment of their activity, frozen in time. We sprayed snow up into the scene and recorded the whole thing, giving us the basis for our cinemagraphs. At the same time we shot a series of short films with Grind TV that would live on YouTube, all supporting our story of thrill. 

The beauty of the cinemagraph and its hypnotic appeal, combined with our conceptual approach, allowed us to really put the focus on a universal moment. We took away the backdrop and the context that made the scene feel distant or out of reach and let the image draw the viewer in, and inspire them to imagine themselves in that exact moment. We’ve all felt our nerves flare up before doing something that requires courage, and we’ve all felt the jubilation that comes immediately after completing that task. All we needed to do was invite people to see that universal emotion in the cinemagraph, and then they’d surely see themselves in that moment, and in Alberta. You can read the full story here:

What did you learn from your last campaign that influenced this?

People love cinemagraphs, and they generate lots of engagement and attention. We’ve got the numbers to prove it (and an award or two as well!). There’s just something so natural and refreshingly passive about cinemagraphs. People seem to love that. If you’ve got a great story or a beautiful landscape, cinemagraphs just let you show it off in a really nice way. You don’t need to yell at people to look at it. Maybe it’s a bit silly to say, but cinemagraphs sort of give truth to the line “if you build it, they will come.”

Beyond that though, we learned a lot from a technical perspective. The last round of cinemagraphs was made from footage that had not been shot with this medium in mind. We had to spend more time going through the footage finding the perfect moment to capture: one with no camera movement, but nice energy in the frame that we could capture and animate. This time we set out from the beginning with cinemagraphs in mind. We learned from the last time that if you plan for cinemagraphs you have a little more creative freedom in what story you’re telling with them.

These are significantly different in terms of style and content. Are cinemagraphs better suited to one kind of story or another?

If anything, our two campaigns prove that there isn’t one kind of story that’s better. The last ones showed off a kind of timeless beauty anyone could connect to. This time around we’ve created something that’s a bit more story-based, and they communicate an emotion really nicely.

Nobody would say that a film or a photograph is more suited to one kind of story or another. And if they did, someone out there would surely prove their claim wrong. That’s the thing we’ve really latched on to about cinemagraphs: they combine the strongest elements of film and photography into something really fresh and exciting. We’ve done beauty, now we’re doing emotion. Surely that’s not the limit. There’s no doubt we will all being seeing some other pretty cool things being done with the technology.

(Flixel Marketing Manager)

When Cassandra was six, she was asked to share a story with her class…and hasn’t stopped telling them since. Now she does so through photography, video and writing, but with the same sense of wonder - and love for glitter - as her inner kid.


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