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BirdLife International

Helmeted Hornbill Video


BirdLife International’s mission is to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people toward sustainability in the use of natural resources. BirdLife is a global family of over 115 national partners covering all continents, landscapes and seascapes.


The critically endangered Helmeted Hornbill Rhinoplax vigil is one of the most unusual hornbills, the only one with a solid casque. However, this is precisely the cause of its downfall. The Helmeted Hornbills have been hunted for their casques in Borneo and traded with China for over a thousand years but in the last nine years, the species has come under new and unprecedented pressure from an exploding demand for casques which are in great demand as a material for carved jewellery and ornaments.


The objective of the campaign video was twofold: raise awareness on the plight of the Helmeted hornbill facing extinction as a result of the illegal bird trade and raise funds to support the conservation efforts of BirdLife’s national partners that are working to save the hornbill. The central message is that Helmeted Hornbills are facing extinction due to a surge in demand for their casques from Mainland China and Hong Kong.

The creative brief was to follow the BirdLife tone of voice and brand guidelines. The messaging needed to be direct on the issue, but not fear-mongering. The video had to look visually arresting and instil a sense of optimism based on BirdLife’s expertise and interventions.

The video was screened at fundraising galas in Asia. This was followed by an international campaign on social media and other digital channels to raise awareness about the Helmeted Hornbill extinction crisis and BirdLife’s conservation efforts to address the threat posed by the illegal wildlife trade. The video was used to promote the Helmeted Hornbill Birdfair Project 2020. Raw footage provided for additional use in videos for BirdLife’s centenary celebration in 2022.


We worked together with BirdLife to flesh out their concept and fuse the need to conserve Helmeted hornbills with a compelling story and visuals.

We collaborated on a storyline that didn’t shy away from the problems nor dwell on them too. In fact, we dedicated the bulk of the story to the solutions and the communities involved in conservation work in Southeast Asia.

We eventually casted, produced, edited, and delivered the “Helmeted Hornbill” video.



Creative Development

Concept, strategy, scriptwriting, and storyboard.



Shot list and logistics. Shoot schedule, location plan, and production schedule.



Produce, direct, shoot on location. Digital workflow captures high quality video and audio.



Voiceover casting and recording. Video editing and sound mixing. Motion graphics. Colour grading and final assembly.

Helmeted Hornbill (captive), Penang Bird Park
Helmeted Hornbill (captive), Penang Bird Park

We hired Tim to develop a documentary on the Helmeted Hornbills in late 2018 which he delivered on time and on a small budget despite it being a challenging project with tight deadlines, travels and changing expectations. His videography of the world’s only captive Helmeted Hornbill was impeccable.

My favourite part about working with Tim is his passion for wildlife conservation and collaborative spirit. He is a perfectionist so you can be at total peace about product delivery and quality.


Creative Concept

This was a really fast-paced, collaborative process between Tim Plowden and BirdLife International. We developed a concept and then worked with BirdLife to identify the most suitable approach. Following that, Tim Plowden presented a draft script to BirdLife and both sides worked on the final version. We then storyboarded the script and moved into other pre-production activities.


We took the lead in casting a voice artist (Ian Russell in the United States) and finding a motion graphics team (Olena Trushina and team at VideoNova in Ukraine). We secured the shooting location for the captive hornbills and other logistics. We developed deliverables including shot list, shoot schedule, location plan, and production schedule.

Video Shoot

This was a 4-day shoot spread out across Malaysia and Singapore. After each day, we logged the footage and started sorting to keep the post-production turnaround as minimal as possible.


BirdLife helped us to coordinate with partner conservation organisations from the IUCN SSC Helmeted Hornbill Working Group to provide stills and footage of Helmeted Hornbill in its environment, stills of illegal trade depicting arrested poachers, confiscated weapons and casques and stills of deforestation. The wide range of contributors including Wildlife Conservation Society, Malaysian Nature Society, Nature Society (Singapore), Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association Myanmar, and TRAFFIC, is testimony to the collaborative nature of the conservation work and the video project.


BirdLife needed a quick turnaround to make sure they could screen the video at their first fundraising gala at National Gallery Singapore on 28 November 2018. This whole project came together very quickly; we were able to craft a bid, assemble a team, collaborate with client on a plan for production, and capture and deliver the footage in time for the gala. 

The entire process took about 6 weeks – 2 weeks for creative development, 2 weeks for pre-production and production, and another 2 weeks for post-production of 2 videos.

We also worked with a small and nimble crew, which helped us be as efficient as possible with our client’s budget.

Production Specs

Cameras: 2
Shot in: HD
Shot on: Canon EOS
Lenses: Canon EF
Shoot Days: 4
Location: Penang, Malaysia, and Singapore

Final Cut

Check out the final piece:

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