Happy Friends Day, from Facebook

How we created personalized friendship films for over 1B people.

February 4th is Friends Day — a day to celebrate our friendships and a time to connect with our friends. At Facebook, Friends Day is a particularly meaningful day because it is also the date the company was founded, 13 years ago.

This year our internal creative studio, The Factory was tasked to create a new, personalized Friends Day film to celebrate friendship and remind everyone just how important our friends are. We usually ship these films without much public facing insight into our process. This post is intended to illuminate our internal creative approach to making personalized films for the global Facebook audience. 

Over the past year, we have built a dynamic film platform to create unique, personalized films at scale for everyone on Facebook. This means that each Friends Day film is different, pulling in personalized content that you and your friends have shared and serving it up in a creative and meaningful way.

The opening of the film which is customized for every recipient on Facebook.

With over 1.8 billion people on Facebook, our team had to craft a storyline that would be inclusive of everyone on the platform. We also recognized that we are creating content for a global audience with many different kinds of friends. So, we needed a creative solution that would celebrate all types of friendships and appeal to everyone, no matter where they live or what language they speak. 

The goal of this film was to celebrate everyone’s unique friendships and show how your friends and your shared experiences help shape you, and make you who you are today. Using this as our insight we wanted to create something that felt playful and celebratory. Conceptually, we decided on a story that didn’t need many words to express how important your friendships are. Visually, we wanted to make your photos the hero, so we conceived of a simple, but expressive visual style. To do this, we set out to bring photos of you and your friends to life magically through music and dance.

A moment from the film where photos of you and your friends come together.

We wanted our execution to be like nothing anyone had ever seen before. So, we partnered with director’s Jon Noorlander and Rupert Burton of Method Studios to help us make this idea a reality. We worked with Method’s team of VFX artists to design a way to make your photos come together and dance. After many iterations, we decided on a collection of minimal, white frames that move together in an organic way to form a unique aura of friendship. A colorful palette of Facebook Reactions serve as connective tissue that flock in and out among your photos weaving everything together.

A moment from the film where photos of you and your friends come together and dance to the music.

To bring photos of you and your friends to life through dance, we shot motion capture footage of dancers of all ages, ethnicities and skill levels. This motion capture data allowed us to create an edit by mapping personalized photos to different pieces of dance footage. We worked with renowned dance choreographer Tricia Miranda to help choreograph and oversee our motion capture shoot.

A closer look at how we: (1) shot real dancers , (2) modeled their data with 3D motion capture, (3) mapped frames to each dance sequence to bring photos of you and your friends to life.

We knew from the beginning that the music for this piece was really important. It needed to be bright and fun, upbeat and celebratory while having a global sound. After listening to hundreds of tracks we decided on the instrumental to “I Can’t Get Enough Of Myself” by award winning, singer-songwriter Santigold.

Another celebratory moment from the film where all of your photos dance together.

After rounds of edits, post production and VFX revisions we landed on a finalized edit. Each personalized Friends Day film brings together 36 profile photos of your closest friends and 5 group photos with friends.

A close up shot from the film showing a group photo with friends.

The film ends with the line: “Your friends make you, you.” along with a simple sign off from Facebook. On and leading up to February 4th we will deliver personalized Friends Day films to over 1 billion people on Facebook, making this the largest audience we’ve ever created a personalized film for yet.

At a time when it can be easy to take our friends for granted, we hope that this year’s Friends Day film reminds us all how important our friendships are and inspires everyone to reach out and connect with their friends. 
Happy Friends Day!

The full Friends Day film.

Factory Creative Team
Nate Salciccioli, Josh W. Higgins, Jan Jaworski, Mandi Holdorf, Nicholas Blair, Viki Ruchkan, Whitney Smith, Bianca Talia, Krista Shealy, Samantha Halle, Andrew Stirk, Rebecca Van Dyck, Kofi Amoo-Gottfried, Scott Trattner

Facebook Engineering Team
Echo Zhao, Megan Hansley, Bryan Lin, Ben Jaffe, Robert Fleischmann, Chris Alexander, Aaron Morais, Peter Lai, Gen Williams, Sakshi Singh, Jessica Kane, Tomas Brennessl, Shari Husain, Artie Konrad, Johanna Lichtman

Production Partners
 Method Studios (Direction/Production/Post Production/Color), One Union (Sound Design), Exile (Editorial), The Teenage Diplomat (Music), Tricia Miranda (Choreography)