Audubon’s Birds Of America | National Museums Scotland
Bringing the book to life
In 2022, Chocolate Films collaborated with National Museums Scotland to create audio-visual content for the exhibition Audubon’s Birds of America. The exhibition ran from February 12 to May 8 2022 at the National Museum of Scotland and it’s due to go on tour at different galleries in 2023.
The exhibition focuses on the life and work of American artist John James Audubon (1785-1851) and his book Birds of America. In collaboration with National Museums Scotland, we wanted to allow the audience to see the publication as well as the author himself, his artistic style, and the journey behind creating the book. It is not only one of the most famous bird books, but it is also the most expensive book in the world.
We wanted to do the book justice and worked closely with National Museums Scotland to make sure we told Audubon’s story engagingly and creatively.
We wanted to tell the incredible story and the legacy of this great work in ornithological and conservation work. The goal was to create inspiring and informative audio-visual content to guide the audience through the exhibition. We did this through a series of projected videos, evocative soundscapes, and insightful documentary films.
We created an immersive and informed experience to appeal to the target audiences of heritage lovers, cultural challengers, and zeitgeist seekers. We wanted the AV content to celebrate the artistry and technical construction of Audubon’s work, while also drawing out stories of human interest and contemporary issues.
Immersive AV experience
We produced engaging videos, beautiful displays, and a calming soundscape. The audience also had the opportunity to see one of the original books, which was loaned by Mitchell Library.
We created an atmosphere that incorporated Audubon’s spirit and work. Not only the work but also the man behind the work. The animation was the centerpiece of the AV content, bringing the journey to Edinburgh to tell the story of how Audobon travelled to the city in the hopes of finding a publisher for his works.
The film combined existing assets of portraits and illustrations, including maps of Edinburgh at the time, with stunning bespoke motion graphics design. Taking a cue from the very process of developing Birds of America, the visual journey transformed line drawings into painted colour. At the core of the film is the bird’s-eye map of Edinburgh, as if an illustration on one of the diary pages. In black and white throughout, the map bursts into colour around the relevant points of interest, as the camera dives ‘into’ the map to find ourselves in the relevant scene.
In this way, the film highlights locations recognisable to those familiar with the city and hopefully will inspire new visitors to walk these streets to see for themselves after the exhibition.
A team of Audubon experts
We were lucky enough to have the world’s top Audubon experts on board for interviews, although they all happened to all live on the other side of the world.
We were able to build on our existing networks for local talent to utilise film crews in other countries, and used in-depth style guides to ensure a consistent quality and look across all the interviews. The post-production work was carried out by our Glasgow team.
Popular exhibition due to go on tour
The exhibition showcased 46 unbound prints from the NMS collection, most of which have never been on display before as well as a rare bound volume of the book. Audubon is an American icon and his bird illustrations are still some of the most famous in the world. We were excited to be part of this project and sharing his art with the people in Edinburgh.
Audubon’s Birds of America opened for visitors February 2022 and was a success! It received fantastic reviews in various newspapers and it’s due to go on tour in 2023. The exhibition was mentioned in newspapers such as The Edinburgh Reporter, The Scotsman, The Spectator, and The Times. It got 4 stars in The Times, and Claudia Massie from The Spectator called the exhibition an ornithologist’s dream.
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What does the future look like for birds?
In one of the videos, this question is raised. Audubon wrote about big flocks of birds flying over the United States. Birds that have now become extinct. The exhibition not only takes the audience back to the past, but it also has a clear message directed at current climate changes. We interviewed ornithological experts, who all give their opinion and concern about the birds and their future.
At Chocolate Films, we support and work with businesses and organisations that actively promote climate action. As a video production company, we are focused on reducing the environmental impact of our work and promoting sustainability. We work for example with local crews in other countries to reduce our carbon footprint on international shoots.
Producing AV content with a specialist team of filmmakers - Chocolate Films
We’ve collaborated with museums and galleries since 2001 and produced AV content for Museum of London, The Science Museum, Postal Museum etc.
In any exhibition we’re involved in, we want to understand and help curators and exhibition designers to tell the story of the exhibition as informative and powerful as possible. Our creative team will use their knowledge and skills to produce content in a range of styles and techniques.
We will recommend creative solutions to how we can make the exhibition stand out from the crowd, whether it will be to incorporate soundscapes, animated explainers, historical re-enactments, or video mapping.
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