Release Date: August 31, 2022
Building the mempool.space overview video was particularly special to me. It was an opportunity to lead by example—to demonstrate that open source projects can and should place value on how they present themselves to the world. In service of this objective, I can’t think of a better partner to have worked with than the Mempool team.
Beyond the extremely useful set of tools and data, anyone who has visited mempool.space has noticed how much of a joy it is to use. There’s an attention to detail that permeates every aspect of the project from the intuitive UX patterns to the consistent application of a thoughtfully developed visual identity. This was no happy accident or tacked-on facade. The way these elements come together so cohesively highlights the fact that the team has prioritized presentation from the start.
My approach to projects doesn’t start with the deliverable. The video is not the complete product here; it’s a vehicle to achieve specific objectives for the client. This also means there must be an equal understanding on the client’s side that we must work together to meet in the middle.
When choosing to work with a client, part of my evaluation is whether their product and brand is a good fit for a high production value video. If a video is to serve a purpose (e.g., drive conversions), it needs to seamlessly fit within an existing ecosystem where there are no perceivable fault lines between the brand’s identity, product, video, and other marketing efforts. Spending time and money building a high-end video to deliver prospective users to a rudimentary website or clunky app experience will nullify any impact the video has. I would argue that it could even backfire to cause users to become confused or worse yet, distrust a brand for misleading them. I never want to deliver an ineffective product or waste anyone’s time or money, so seeing eye-to-eye here is a prerequisite for working together.
Every animation project begins with a pre-production phase. I kicked this project off with conversations with wiz and team to understand the following:
- Their objectives for this video and how / where it will be used
- Where they stand as an organization and if they’re currently experiencing any challenges
- Any points they’d like to specifically highlight in the video
- Upcoming features they’d like to include (lightning explorer)
- Desired release date for the video
After coming to a consensus on the type of video we wanted to produce, we drafted an outline for the script, which I then turned into the full script. For the voiceover, we tapped mempool enthusiast and Bitcoin Core maintainer Gloria Zhao to provide narration. It was a nice Easter egg.
Prior to starting work on building the animation, wiz and I discussed the scope of the project. Will this be a standalone, one-time video or will we be working on other possible videos in the future? This info will determine how the animation is built. It means the difference between creating dynamic and reusable components (more upfront work) versus simply laying down an animation in a more ‘linear’ fashion to get the job done. The latter project style would require a lot of reverse engineering if I were to revisit it a year later.
Since future videos were in the cards, we decided to take the low time preference route. The most notable result of this was a faithful recreation of the mempool.space dashboard within Adobe After Effects that pulled in values from a JSON file populated with data from the mempool API. This would allow me to change the block data in the JSON file and have all of the dashboard values adjust accordingly.
Be on the look out for a behind the scenes post detailing how some of the more complex scenes from the animation were constructed.
The launch of this video solidified my commitment to bringing high effort, thoughtful presentation to bitcoin projects; in particular those with alignment on the basis of shared objectives or philosophy. There are tools, products, and services being built in bitcoin that deserve to be taken seriously and can only be brought to a state of finality through an approach that takes inspiration from the great works of our analog past. The most exemplary engineering achievements of mankind have combined a society’s most advanced technologies with uncompromising beauty.
My goal is to push against the notion that serious bitcoin tools should present as the digital equivalent of a brutalist municipal building; functional but offensively hideous. Rather, bitcoiners should strive to create lasting, impactful, and complete software that lays the foundation for a renaissance in craftsmanship, where we build the future with the same enduring spirit that shaped our past.