I’m super excited to let everyone know about a new animation called An Introduction to the Baha’i Faith by Rainn Wilson that Baha’i Blog had the pleasure of working on with our dear friends at BahaiTeachings.org, SwissVBS, and of course, actor Rainn Wilson.
When Rainn first called to chat about the idea of making an animated introduction to the Baha’i Faith, I was excited because of what was learned when Baha’i Blog made this short video about the Baha’i Faith, and because sadly, there’s still not that much out there when it comes to introductory Baha’i materials online. Seeing as how 57 percent of the world are actively online these days1, there’s definitely a need for videos like this.
Over the last year or so while working on this project, I’ve had a number of conversations with friends about what goes into making an animation about the Baha’i Faith. Here at Baha’i Blog we’re passionate about the creation of Baha’i-inspired content and exploring the processes involved, so I thought perhaps it would be a good opportunity to share a little bit about some of the considerations made, and the questions we asked ourselves, such as where to find the resources, what animation style we should use, how to write the script. After all, the goal was to create an animation that introduces the Baha’i Faith to a wide audience.
Action Through Consultation and Collaboration
This animation was the result of many months of consultation, and the collaborative efforts of Rainn Wilson, Baha’i Blog, SwissVBS, and BahaiTeachings.org. So who are these collaborators? Let me tell you:
Rainn Wilson is an actor, a Baha’i, and a dear friend, who’s passionate about the Baha’i Faith and service to humanity. He and his wife Holiday, co-founded a not-for-profit called LIDE, which focuses on the education of girls in Haiti. Rainn and I have worked on several projects together, and we even have our own podcast series on Baha’i Blog called the Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson, so check it out when you get a chance.
SwissVBS is an e-learning company based in Toronto, Canada, and you may have seen their beautiful animated works in the recent film commissioned by the Universal House of Justice called Dawn of the Light.
Hopefully, you’re all familiar with our friends BahaiTeachings.org, a content-rich website from the United States, full of articles, videos, and podcasts all relating to the Baha’i Faith.
This animation was approximately a year in the making, and it involved not only time and resources, but it came together because of the collaborative efforts and contributions of all those involved, and it was truly the fruit of regular consultation – an important principle of the Baha’i Faith.
As a well-known actor, Rainn Wilson is often asked about the Baha’i Faith, and he’s also given a lot of talks about the Faith, so he wrote the script based on some of the explanations he’s given over the years. He shares more in this article about the animation.
Let there be no mistake that we completely understand that the Revelation of Baha’u’llah and the Teachings of the Baha’i Faith are grand in every sense of the word, and trying to present something so awe-inspiring and transformative in a short and succinct way is extremely challenging. Nevertheless, we all need to try our best to explain the Baha’i Faith to others and this script is based on what has worked for Rainn. Over time, I personally hope to see many more initiatives like this come from a diversity of voices, cultures, styles, and with different explanations.
Aesthetics, Design, and Sound
When it came to choosing a style of illustration, our first iterations were a little corporate looking and cartoon-like, but we wanted to avoid this, so after exploring different illustrative styles of what the animation could look like, we decided to go back to the drawing board and try something completely different. We wanted to try and scale the illustrations way back and make them a lot more simple, elegant, and inspired by shadow puppetry. The end result reflects our aim to showcase a style that is less of a colorful illustrated story, and more of a simple design that doesn’t distract or take away any emphasis from what Rainn is saying. The final version of the video is simple, minimalistic and monochromatic (with a splash of red here and there), however, it still took us a while to finalize the style of the animation and determine exactly what images and graphics we wanted to share.
An important consideration when creating visuals about the Baha’i Faith is the fact that we do not depict any Manifestations of God such as Christ, Buddha, the Bab or Baha’u’llah out of a sense of reverence. Even the image of a hand, never mind an entire figure, cannot, in any way, represent a Manifestation of God, and this creates a really unique challenge when you’re doing any kind of visual explanation. For example, what do you depict when speaking about Baha’u’llah or Christ in a way that isn’t a depiction of Them? For instance, when Rainn speaks about Jesus Christ in the animation, and a manger is shown, it was really important to us that a child is not seen in the manger, as that would be contrary to the spirit of this law.
Even though we wanted the narration to remain personal in its delivery, we spent a lot of time exploring ways to effectively communicate the ideas presented, without being overly casual with the illustrations being used. For example, when Rainn talks about the crucifixion of Christ, we consulted about the visual of seeing the two nails in the cross, one after the other. We wanted to convey an important point, without belittling its significance. Not only did we consult about how this was portrayed visually, but we also worked together to decide what sound effects should be included that were dignified and effective.
Deciding on what type of music and sound effects to use also took a lot of time and consultation. During the course of the project, we experimented with a variety of musical styles and sounds. Ultimately, we wanted to keep the emphasis on Rainn’s words, so it was important that both the music and the sound effects did not distract from the narration, and you’d be surprised how having too many sound effects, for instance, can change the entire tone of a video. Even a specific sound effect can have literally thousands of variations to choose from and a slight difference in sound can make a video go from sounding somber, to comical.
There’s so much more that could be said about the making of this animation, and I can go on and on about it, but ultimately, much of it boils down to what viewers thought about it, and whether they actually found the video easy to watch and informative.
Here’s the animation again in case you missed it, or would like to watch it again. We hope you find it useful and share it with your friends:
- DIGITAL 2019: GLOBAL DIGITAL OVERVIEW, dataportal.com: https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2019-global-digital-overview [↩]