Christmas Movie O Holy Night

This TV-Tom.Com segment was prepared as a showcase for ‘integrated media’ – the term I coined for combination of animation with traditional material such as puppetry, miniatures and live footage. This particular segment highlights the 3D animation programme from Moviestorm UK in the format of a ‘music video’. The Christmas theme was chosen to be a ‘Holiday Spectacular’ like those we see at this time each year on TV. In Australia the Carols by Candlelight (Melbourne) and Carols in the Domain (Sydney) have become season traditions. Each attracts thousands who pour into the park for hours to hold aloft their candles while local celebrities and musicians perform with full orchestra and choir.

This segment sought to re-create the atmosphere of these large scale events from a desktop computer using only software and public domain archival footage. The running theme idea was ‘Elvis does Carols in the Park’, hence the Nashville musical arrangement and vocal style. The original idea had been a ‘Bing Crosby and Enya meet the Fugees’ arrangement of Silent Night but it wasn’t quite sounding right so I changed to the more conventional O Holy Night.

The crowd shots were actually daylight still images. They were blue-filtered to turn them into night shots then animated and overlaid with candle images. The idea here is to suspend disbelief with familiar image techniques portrayed quickly enough that the rough details don’t spoil the illusion.

Even though this was quite time-consuming it would have been impossible with most alternative methods. The live footage was essential as a 3 minute presentation of animated figures alone can quickly become boring. The intention here was typical of musical videos since the MTV era to make the visuals a bit of a surreal blur so  that the sound track stands out.

Below are links to the video and discussion notes for any teachers who might like to use the video as a resource.

Merry Christmas 

alternate link

O Holy Night performed by Tom Benjamin Christmas 2011 

Discussion Notes

Issues –

Project Management: what is required to create a simulated ‘big event’ video?  Software is mentioned in the credits of the film. Techniques are overviewed in examples on and

Religious sensitivities – Gospel has been long-accepted as a format for hymns and songs of praise. What alternative styles might breed controversy? For example a hip hop or rap version? Is any disrespect shown by using non-traditional forms?

Big Events – what other educational/community topics might benefit from ‘big event’ simulations? Sporting events, period dramas

Messages – what messages might be suitable for ‘big event’ simulation? political statements, causes, rallies, local news

Avatars v live – do digital announcers with their text-to-speech voices give the production a studio look or detract with a ‘zombie’ quality? Would live-action (blue screen etc) be better or worse?

Self-promotion – does the ‘big event’ seem pretentious, humorous, serious, …?

Period dramas – could the technique recreate historical scenes like the Roman Coliseum? What software blending would be required?

Copyright – suitable archival movie footage, royalty-free sound clips, original or public domain music


Northern Hemisphere – how could O Holy Night be modified to give a Northern Hemisphere Winter look? .. snow?  clothing? Editing out people wearing shorts, trees without leaves, colours of landscape …

Sound libraries – commercial royalty-free, digital archive ( , free sound effects

Text-to-speech voices – these can do adult voices, robotics, etc but may need editing and permissions

Additional scenes – realism could be enhanced with supplementary scenes such as a video production room with the sound stage appearing on the ‘studio screens’ some free sets are available for this

Crowd scenes – what effects are needed such as perspective, reverb, sound clips, visual effects?

Miniatures – Could realistic crowd scenes be done with avatars, puppets or miniatures ($2 bags of toy soldiers, paper cut-outs … for example)


Modern alternatives – This song used a Nashville (Elvis) style. What other styles would suit O Holy Night?

Traditional styles – what traditional styles and instruments would be suitable (choir, violins, guitar etc)

Vocals – would harmonies or multi-tracked harmonies be preferable to a solo voice?

Alternate songs –  other ‘big’ Christmas songs from public domain such as The Holy City (1892) Angels We Have Heard on High (Eng 1862)  Could digital choir samples do ‘The Hallelujah Chorus”?

Tempos – which public domain Christmas songs might lend themselves to modern tempos? Jingle Bells …


Integrated media – combining live footage such as crowds and old movies with cartoons, avatars and special effects using common denominators such as putting them on a TV screen and ‘switching channels’

Animation tools – 3D animation to create avatars, voice-synch (Moviestorm, CrazyTalk, Poser …) animated .gifs with transparencies used in PowerPoint scenes. Animating still shots.

Illusions – suspending disbelief with realism touches such as announcers, sound clips

Perspective – candles getting smaller in the distance), colours, use of sound effects, reverb

PDF version of above notes for printing: O Holy Night Tom Benjamin notes


~ by tomdotcom on November 25, 2011.

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