The Making of SLO Panoramic

Artist Bill Russell shares his process creating an animated video homage to San Luis Obispo

Bill Russell
4 min readJun 15, 2015
Ah Louis and Old San Luis Obispo Town c. 1900 by Bill Russell

For every Wine Country Tales show Brian Gore and I performed, we merged our creative collaboration of art and music with savvy, new technologies. That’s just the experience we provided to our audience at at a show at Cal Poly’s Performing Arts Center in San Luis Obispo, California. Cal Poly Arts commissioned Brian to create an original song. I combined it with a new custom animated video.

San Luis Obispo Mission drawn live on stage
San Luis Obispo Mission drawn live on stage

I’ve grown fond of this town on the central coast. My son was a student in the Materials Engineering program at Cal Poly and the trips my wife and I took to SLO to see him have provided many opportunities to explore and be inspired by the area.

This area is special. This article and video in the New York Times described San Luis Obispo County as ‘a hidden gem.’ My video focused on it’s rich history, geography, architecture and wines. Research began at the History Center of San Luis Obispo County, where I found an impressive c. 1900 panoramic photograph of the town. As I drew out my storyboard for the video, it was clear that I needed to include wide panning shots to showcase the beautiful vistas to be appreciated here.

Rough storyboard sequence
Morro Rock rises from the Pacific

The video’s first sequence features the volcanically-formed morros, called The Nine Sisters that dot a path from the ocean to the Santa Ynez Mountains. San Luis Obispo’s combination of geography, geology and climate conditions (which the Edna Valley winemakers call terroir) that makes it (and the wines) special.

Father Junipero Serra

California’s early history is defined by the establishment of the Mission Trail by Father Junipero Serra, beginning in the late 1700’s. Spanish expansion is a necessary component to California’s narrative, yet is still controversial. (We received some hisses from some audience members when Serra’s image appeared.) We can at least appreciate the padres first plantings of grapes to make their sacramental wine.

Storyboard of final screenshots

I found the necessary photo reference to make my drawings, which I then scanned and colored in PhotoShop. I sent them to my video editor Brendan Kruse, who used Final Cut Pro to assemble the montage to Brian’s music. His original guitar composition set the perfect mood and synced perfectly with the pace of images in the video’s mise en scène.

On stage at the Cal Poly PAC, Brian Gore plays guitar as Bill Russell draws on his iPad.

Our show at Cal Poly was well-received. Brian played a dozen songs as I cued up projections of our animated videos or created live digital drawings on my iPad using the ProCreate drawing app. The audience loved the video with it’s unique take on their familiar and beloved settings.

Mission Bells to Wine

We promoted our project primarily on social media. Jonah Berger’s book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On has been a crucial primer for how we marketed what we did. Careful consideration was given to which ‘contagious’ components we posted. Static images from the video, as well as 30-second sequences were posted on Facebook and other sites.

Drop us a line about what you think of the video or our Wine Country Tales project.



Bill Russell

Bill is a web designer, illustrator, painter and visual journalist.