Making health and safety cool turn off the lights.

Making health and safety cool

We’ve recently published a new case study on our website looking at the project we did on health and safety for Citation and the film noir theme we created. This is the one project I get the most questions about from people in the elearning industry and our clients, so I’ve tried to answer some of the more frequent questions in this blog.

Why did you choose film noir?

Health and safety can be a difficult subject to approach – frankly, it’s boring. The learners are usually required to view the content rather than choosing to, so it can be difficult to engage. The brief we’d had from Citation was for something a little more left-field which would engage and capture the attention of learners, so I knew it was going to be a challenge.

It had always struck me that traditional health and safety elearning approached the subject from the wrong way. The traditional course will talk about the relevant laws, roles and responsibilities and then, if you’re lucky, tell you the theoretical consequences of getting it wrong. This lends itself to learners thoughtlessly just clicking next.

I wanted to approach it by looking at a situation where something had already gone wrong and letting the learner find out why with the help of an investigator. Once we’d hit on the idea of an investigation, Humphrey Bogart’s great PIs of the 40s and 50s seemed like the best fit.

How did you create the look and feel?

The process started with a lot of research, reading up on the techniques used by the film directors of the 40s and finding a lot of the original artwork and imagery that was used. This process was led by the lead designer, Leonie Williamson, who started to pull together all the ideas we’d found, the many Pinterest boards we’d filled and some of her own creations into a rough mock-up of how the module could look.


Once we knew the type of images we were going to create, the overall look and feel and my ideas for the characters were starting to come together, we were able to organise a photoshoot.

Asset creation

We decided to split the module into three sections which developed into three slightly different styles that were brought together in the menu – designed to look like the detective’s desk. This decision was made so that we could really push the theme to its limits and explore more than one style. This also helped to ensure that all the content was covered effectively, whilst keeping the user engaged throughout. Leonie designed and put together the desk which was then developed into a 3D interactive menu by our senior designer, Laura Whitaker. Upon clicking either of the books or the polaroid image, an interaction occurs such as the pages turning and launches that section of the module.



The photoshoot

One of the key challenges on the photoshoot was the lighting. On just about every other photoshoot I’ve worked on, we’ve tried to achieve a balanced light on the subject. Nice and bright, so the camera can pick out all of the details, but hiding how many lights are involved and where they are positioned to try and make the light as even as possible. In this instance, we were going for the complete opposite – trying to give the impression of a single light source, with distinct shadows falling across the faces.

To give the impression of a single light source falling on one side of the subject’s face, we actually needed to use four different lights: one shining through a diffuser to give an even background which would allow the people to be cropped out neatly; a primary light shining on their face – this is the one you notice; a secondary, much dimmer light from the opposite side to soften the shadows; and a fourth light shining on the subject from behind to create a slight halo effect and make the subject stand out from the background.

The main problem we had was that all of our usual photography lights were far too bright, so these images were lit with a small hand torch mounted on a tripod, two iPhones and a hand-held flash, while thousands of pounds of professional lighting equipment sat unused in the corner.


Cheer up Shane!

Here, at Dynamic, we often get drafted in to appear in courses, and this one was no exception. One of our account managers, two project managers, three designers and four developers all had to dress up and play the part for this photoshoot.


Thankfully this is how Ben usually dresses.

Post production

Getting the right photos was a challenge, but this was only part of the work involved. As you can see from these three examples, the amount of work required in Photoshop after the event was significant.


Image as it came straight from the camera.


After Photoshop. He's really concentrating on that metal bar.


The diffuser lit from behind, small torch and iPhone torch can all be seen in the original image.


The final image has been cut out from the background, lighting effects applied, CGI background included and cropped to shape.



He wasn't actually looking out of that window. That isn't even his hand!

How did you create the distinctive voice for the detective?

I’ve spent more time than I’d care to admit watching old detective movies, listening to 1940s radio shows and reading novels by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. The dialog is intended as a tribute to few of those old shows, although toned down slightly for a more politically correct audience; you can’t refer to a female character as being: “A blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.” and then market the course to a church-based organisation.

The voice itself is the work of the very talented voice over artist Joseph Hodgson.

We’ve tried to keep the balance between the theme and backstory of the character, the specific learning objectives, knowing nods to classics of the genre and a touch of humour to keep the learners engaged.

Do the learners actually get more out of it?

This is the really key point in this project. Theming the module in this way was a lot of fun, but was it worth doing? Thankfully, the feedback from the learners has been overwhelmingly positive – making the learners feel like they are interested in a subject and they want to progress is half of the battle. Don’t take our word for it though – get in touch and we can set you up with access to a working version of the module to see how much you learn.

To find out more, select the link below to view the Citation Health and Safety case study.

Citation Health and Safety case study link

need a break?