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World First: X-Ray Animated Travel Story Using Full-Sized Airport Luggage Scanner

Club Med and BAFTA nominee and Art Director/Creative Lead at animation studio 3.81, Matt Oxborrow, have teamed up to answer the question "Is your luggage having more fun than you when you go on a holiday?" Find out in the delightfully unique animation, Sun, Sea and Scanned: A Flip-Flop Family Holiday (below) created using a full-sized airport luggage scanner.





Inspired by the 'other worldly' look of luggage when viewed through the screen of a security airport scanner, the colors and shapes you see look nothing like what you remember packing. So Club Med decided to have a little fun with that and created the story of a family of flip flops and their holiday inside your luggage.

Their adventure includes:

  • A bottle of Head & Shoulders shampoo as a speedboat.
  • Hairbrush water skis.
  • Chewing gum eyebrows.
  • Flip flops faces with metal bead mouths and coin eyes.
  • Tennis ball sun.
  • Paperclip aeroplane.
  • Hair straighteners and multi-plug adapters as skyscrapers.

Watch the video again to see if you can spot everything.

Matt, hard at work packing the suitcase.
No doubt you're wondering how Matt and his team managed to shoot this master piece without holding up passengers at a busy airport terminal? Turns out their first challenge was to get a full size airport scanner into their London office.

“It was a nightmare,” Matt recalled. “First of all, it was too big for conventional doorways, so it wouldn’t go through any doors in the building. It was too long to go into the lift."

The scanner used was the TR70: a huge 2280 x 905 x 1255mm machine weighing in at 450kg! This highly-specialised piece of kit allows x-ray technicians to identify the most cleverly concealed items.

Designed to detect dangerous luggage,  the TR70 turned out to be a perfect - if unusual - artistic medium. With the ability to adjust the strength of the x-rays it was possible to make certain objects appear lighter, and others much darker, preventing the images from becoming flat and lifeless. The machine could also invert images, offering a simple solution when it came to creating night and day.

Objects taped into the suitcase.
To create each scene items were meticulously arranged inside the suitcase and taped into position. It was a lucky bonus that the tape didn't show up on scans. The bag was then sent through the scanner via the machine's conveyor belt.

Unfortunately it wasn't as simple as just arranging objects into scenes as Matt describes.

"Anything that wasn’t a solid object – an electronic device, for example – it wasn’t the shape of the device that you saw at all. It was the shape of the parts inside it that appeared on the screen."

Diagram of the Scanner's Control Panel.

The scanner's sole purpose is to identify suspicious masses in everyday items, but these aren’t always easy to recognise. To help make sure they are, the TR70 incorporates technology which allows scanner technicians to create the clearest image possible. Certain items, however, just weren’t dense enough to show up on-screen at all, such as tape and tissue paper which both proved useful for holding everything in place.

'Energy Stripping' created the
colour seen in the images.
‘Energy stripping’ determined whether the items were organic, inorganic or metallic, with each one showing up on-screen as a different colour. The colours in an image could also be reversed, offering greater definition of certain items, while an ‘auto focus’ function enabled the outline of items like wires to be much more clearly defined.

Although each scene looks deceptively simple it was actually quite a complex process of experimenting with objects to see what would show up in the scanner and getting things layered just right.

“If we were lucky, it took us maybe a dozen tries per frame to get one right. We had to find the right materials, the right layout – we put it through 20 times before we get anywhere near what we wanted.”

Matt said that they deliberately stayed away from using objects that were too outlandish, preferring to stick with objects likely to be found in a typical family holiday bag. In doing so the animation has a real feel of familiarity and fun.

Next time you go through an airport scanner you just might want to take a peek and see whether your luggage is enjoying your holiday too.

For further information about how this animation was made read the Sun, Sea and Scanned post on the Club-Med Blog.


- Collaborated post with Animation and Video and Club Med

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