Creating the San Francisco Police Department’s Recruiting Website

Ryan Anspach’s Creative Journey

Ryan Anspach, a motion graphic designer at Epic, recently shared insights about his favorite project at Epic – the San Francisco Police Department’s (SFPD) recruiting website. This project stands out not only for its innovative approach but also for the creative freedom it afforded Ryan and his team.

The Freedom to Innovate

When asked why the SFPD website was his favorite project, Ryan’s enthusiasm was evident. “Because that department gave us more creative freedom than we usually get with most police departments,” he explained. Unlike many other projects constrained by conservative guidelines, the SFPD allowed for a more experimental and visually striking design. This freedom enabled the team to infuse the website with a vibrant, almost sci-fi aesthetic, setting it apart from the often repetitive designs seen on similar government websites.

A Bold New Style

Ryan highlighted the creative vision brought by creative director, Mike, who developed a colorful style that became the backbone of the project’s branding. This new style was not just about aesthetics; it was about making a statement. “It was almost a sci-fi kind of cyberpunk look that we added to the videos,” Ryan noted. This included compositing neon lights and colorful shapes into the city environments where officers were featured. The result was a series of visually compelling scenes that showcased the police force in a distinctive and memorable way. 

Ryan’s Role: Bringing Graphics to Life

As the motion designer, Ryan’s responsibilities were extensive. He created all the animations in videos, ensuring every graphical element was perfectly integrated into the real-world footage. This involved detailed tasks such as tracing around objects and people in shots (a process known as rotoscoping) to layer in the graphic elements. “From the footage, I rotoscoped the objects and people or keyed them out in the case of green screen footage. Then I would layer the graphical elements into the background as needed,” Ryan explained.

One of his favorite tasks was compositing these elements in a way that made them look realistic as if the neon lights and colorful shapes were genuinely part of the scene. This was a skill he had worked on previously but was able to refine significantly during this project. “Making things look realistic, not too cartoony or fake,” was a key challenge that he successfully overcame.

Overcoming Challenges

The SFPD website was Ryan’s first project with Epic, making it both exciting and daunting. The complexity of the project required him to apply a wide range of skills, from motion tracking to rotoscoping, often in intricate and time-consuming ways. “It was pretty ambitious because we had so many effects shots, so much compositing,” Ryan recalled. Despite the challenges, this project provided a comprehensive learning experience, preparing him for future tasks and honing his efficiency in dealing with tedious tasks like frame-by-frame rotoscoping.

Setting a New Standard

The success of the SFPD website project has had a lasting impact on Epic’s approach to similar projects. “I think it laid out a template for other police departments to look at and go wow, that’s something really unique,” Ryan remarked. The project demonstrated the power of bold, distinctive design in making a police department’s online presence memorable and engaging. Although some departments might still prefer a more conservative approach, the SFPD project set a benchmark for what is possible when creative boundaries are pushed. 

Reflecting on the Journey

Looking back, Ryan is proud of what he and his team accomplished. The project was not only a personal milestone but also a significant contribution to Epic’s portfolio. It showcased the full range of Ryan’s skills and set the tone for future projects. While he acknowledges that there are always new techniques to learn and efficiencies to improve, the experience and success of the SFPD website have undoubtedly paved the way for future projects.

In conclusion, the design of the San Francisco Police Department’s website was more than just an exciting project for Ryan Anspach; it was an opportunity to break the mold of traditional government sites and create something truly unique. Through creative freedom, innovative design, and meticulous attention to detail, Ryan and the team at Epic created a visually stunning and engaging recruiting platform, setting a new standard for others to follow.

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