Thursday, December 12, 2013

So Long Motion Graphics, you might be missed...

My time as a motion graphic students has come to an end. The most important lesson I learned in this class is SAVE SAVE SAVE your project. Not only should you save your project you should also alway save multiple copies of it. This semester 2 out of my 3 projects that I have created for this class original files were deleted. The first time it happened I was devastated but I tried to take it as a learning experience, it allowed me to really understand what I was doing when it came to creating my name animation. The second time I did I just wanted to give up but I persevered and it came out even better than the original. All I can say is that other than understanding what you are doing the next most important this is save it! You can always go back to an original copy if you messed up but you cant go back if its not there.

Arturo is a wonderful teacher and is always willing to help you with whatever problem arrises. Maybe I am sucking up a little to get a better grade... but I truly do mean it. Some advise for the Spring Motion Graphics class is to never feel afraid or embarrassed to ask a question, if Arturo can't tell you how to fix it off the top of his head he will eventually figure it out, informational youtube videos really do help, download the free trial, it will definitely come in handy and finally try and use after effects every single day because if you don't you will forget how to use it!

Good Luck!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


                This movie might be the greatest piece of animation I have ever seen. With over 100,000 frames of painstakingly drawn art I don't think that's an outrageous statement to make. It took 7 years to make because of those 100,000+ drawings. I'm posting about it because of a few things. First the shear amount of work it took make this film. It's stunningly beautiful and unique, I have never seen anything like it. I can't imagine drawing all of those frame each one its piece of art by itself. Second, because this is a racing film there's a lot of warping going on, a lot of accelerating and an over all ebb and flow of distortion. Having made several stop motion movies I know how hard it is with still animation to get the timing of things accurate. That on it's own is an arduous task, but when paired with so much warping I really can't believe the animators pulled this off. I think everyone can look at this trailer and see how much motion is in this movie and be as amazed as I am by it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Opening Titles - The Kite Runner

This is a very simple but powerful opening-title sequence directed by Ben Radatz at MK12. It is really appealing to me because it is an example of a very economical approach to design that works very effectively. The title animation for Kite Runner presents the credits moving around space and being connected through moving brushstrokes that relate to the typography used throughout the piece. It is simple but nonetheless efficient and while being aesthetically pleasing it also clearly connects to the cultural theme of the film.

MK12 // The Kite Runner: Opening Title Sequence from MK12 on Vimeo.

I can see many of the things we learned in class being used in this piece; variations in opacity, camera movement and the general animation of the brush-strokes  and letters although extremely well crafted seems to be very straight-forward as to the way they could've been made, specially if using after effects. It is nice to see that as the semester went by and we kept exercising what we learned I can now look at some of these title-sequences and figure out how they were made and even try it by myself.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

2D Animation as told by Paperman

With technology growing and improving so rapidly, sometimes we forget about the beauty of a simple product.  There is always something so natural and easy about taking old techniques to create a modern piece or media.  In this case, I am talking about taking a few steps backwards from the new and accepted forms of animation and motion graphics that are done on computers.  When animation first became known, it was created through hand drawings.  You had to pick up a pencil and draw your animation line by line.

I came across this video on YouTube about the creation and production of Paperman.  If you have not seen Paperman, I definitely recommend you check it out.  It's a simple love story about two busy city-goers who experience that magical "love-at-first-sight" feeling, with a piece of paper being used to connect them.

What I found interesting is how the creators of Paperman combined old and modern techniques of animation.  It is said in the beginning of the video that there is nothing like hand drawn animation.  Hand drawn characters have a certain details that are hard to put into words.  The hand drawn story can tell such great emotion with such simplicity that director John Kahrs admires so much.  He wanted to get those drawings on top of the CG.  He wanted to keep the beautiful hand drawn sketches.  So, that's exactly what they did.  Paperman started as sketches of hand-drawn figures, just like some of the earliest classical Disney movies.

But what was so lovely and unique is how they took these hand-sketched characters and brought them to life with more modern day animating software and techniques.  They put these drawings into programs and played with the rigging, shading, modeling, vector renderings, and much more to really bring these animated characters to life.

I really recommend that you take a look at this video.  It goes through some of the really cool software and program effects that helped create the characters to look a certain way.  Who would have thought that even with all of the technology we have, Paperman started out on paper....

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Design in Mind - Concept artist Feng Zhu interview

The concept artist that I hold in highest regards, Feng Zhu talks a little about his design influences and where he draws inspiration from when producing his own work. What most people don't realize is that it is easy to make drawings look unbelievable and fantastical. It's much more difficult to make the audience believe what they're seeing could be real. In order to achieve this believability, you have to refer to resource materials with images meant to inform. Using these visual libraries, one can pick and choose elements from these direct sources to manipulate and combine in ways that are creative, innovative, and yet, familiar to the eye.

What fascinates me the most is his ending statements about becoming a better artist. The more you do something, the better you'll get at that something. In an age of convenience and speed, people look for shortcuts or tricks to become better as an artist. Yet, a fundamental element remains the same: time and practice are the only means to getting to a high level of expertise. Feng Zhu states this bluntly, yet beautifully.

Thought Cafe and Political Animaition

So for this week i wanted to point to one of my favorite animation studios, Thought Cafe. I like them not because they have the most amazing, cutting edge 3D animation but because they work excessively on politically motivated pieces for non profits. They say that they want to promote critical awareness using info graphic driven animations, and it shows in their work. They have a certainly distinctive style, with a focus on simple moving figures on larger 2D canvases. I really like the art style not only because I think it's ascetically very nice, but I can also clearly identify with my limited knowledge of animation some basic stuff like wiggle expressions.

In addition, in the interview with Wired, co-founder of the studio Suzanna Brusikiewicz said, ”We were also excited to be different, go against the grain, and show designers and communicators that there are many messages outside of advertising that designers desperately need to cater to.” I think that's a really powerful idea, to be able to use the ideas and concepts of advertisement and mass market design to do something good. Now clearly that idea has been had before, but I think Thought Bubble is doing this in its own way to a new audience of internet users.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hobbit Post Production and green screening techniques

I have been following this series of production videos for some time but have not yet posted one to this blog. The video below is part 12 of a mini series that goes behind the scenes of the Hobbit shooting. This provides a glimpse of what it is like on a major motion picture set, a set that contains a lot of green screening. When watching this video I was shocked as to how much green screen work there actually was. Not only were backgrounds green screened but entire environments, theres a scene where Gandalf and Radagast were talking to each other in an entire green screen environment. So everything from the lighting, the background, foreground and other various elements would all be added later. There are several video segments where you get to see the original shot before the post production and then after, and so much of this movie is touched up in post production its unbelievable. While clearly post production CGI effects have their place, movies such as the Hobbit take this to a whole new level. There are minimal actual scene objects and environments, even peoples weapons and faces are covered in green to be added later. Theres a scene where the actors are supposed to be fighting spiders but the original shot shows nothing but them swinging swords around, this means the CGI battle must be matched to their movements in the original shot which In my opinion is rather impressive. Anyway, enough of my analysis and enjoy the video that I have posted below.

An Educational Video on Faking It

As many of us know, Hollywood's latest technique for visual effects has been to green screen as much as possible. It makes it much cheaper and easier to get the exact look the director is going for. In today's world it's a generally accepted technique that is used across the board.

But how did we get here? Someone did not all of a sudden realize we can replace a green curtain with pretty much anything we want. This advanced technology has only been prominently used in the last 40 or so years, and many other techniques were used before the green screen. So how did they do in old-fashioned classics like Mary Poppins?

Watching this film today we may just assume they used a green screen to film this scene. But it was actually something much more complex. Before green screen was so popular, there was a technique called the "sodium vapor process". Basically, the background was lit with a very specific shade a yellow that a special camera could pick up and then turn into a black matte. It's best explained with this picture:

The only tragic part about this was that there was only one camera in the world that was able to pick up this shade of yellow and it was owned by Disney. How did I come to learn about all of this? A few days ago I came across an awesome video that actually taught me a lot about the history of visual effects. It was made for a program called "Filmmaker IQ" which seems like yet another online resource to learn the ins and outs of filmmaking. I highly recommend watching this video all the way through (it's only 17 min). Take some time out of your day and learn about something interesting!

Here's the link to the entire lesson the video was made for:


 This is a video created for the song "Do ya' Thing" by the Gorillaz. I think this is a really neat video, and the way they made it is very interesting. From what I saw in the "Making of video", They used an actor as a sort of reference, I'm assuming for the lighting and such, and then placed the 3D character into the scene. This gives the video a very unique look. When I first watched this video I actually thought they were using puppets. I still since watching this video for the first time a year ago haven't seen another video that feels quite like this one. Also important to note is the limited use of some 2D characters within this 3D environment. I like that part of this video as well, I think it adds a few really sort of jarring moments to the video. I'm also a real sucker for the art styles the Gorillaz have used over the years so that's definitely a big part of that too.

This video is the "Making of" video which shows, kind of poorly, how the video was made. It's some pretty interesting stuff but its not all explained as well as it could be. It does show you the process they went through to prepare the space and to set up the shots. All in all this a really unique video that a lot of work went into and I think it really payed off.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Malaria by Edson Oda

Malaria is a new short film by Brazilian filmmaker Edson Oda. The story consists of a dialogue between Death and a mercenary named Fabiano, who announces he's been hired to kill the grim reaper. It is an interesting story in itself but the best thing about it in my opinion is the technique/design; mixing time-lapse with origami, kirigami (which i didn't know about before watching this), and nankin illustration, presented in a comic-book-like style. The different shots and camera angles are changed manually by the "animator" during the film (he changes from shot to shot by placing a new drawing on top of the last one), which gives an interesting aspect of performance to the film.

I am posting this here because I find this to be a very interesting/unusual way of telling a story. Also because I've been working on my computer a lot and it's just very nice to see how creative people can get on the more analog side of things.

Here's the link;

Malaria from Edson Oda on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Newsroom Title Sequence(s)

     The Newsroom is one of may favorite television series right now so I thought I would post about both seasons title sequences. The season one opening credits are my favorite due to the old school rather nostalgic look it conveys. The opening score also grabs my attention as it is much more interactive and fits the shots of the early beginnings of television news and its production. The title sequence does a fantastic job at intriguing the audience and ultimately peaks their interest in watching the show. Additionally the sequence starts out in the early days of television news and subtly transitions to a more modern feel of television news production in a seamless manner. Greg Wolf mentioned Aaron Sorkin's obsession with incorporating government and politics in his other political drama West Wing. His decision to include the title sequence in this manner does justice to that obsession while also revealing the other side of the political process which is how the news portrays issues and the internal struggles that accompany delivering those stories. Maybe I am biased because I am a television radio major but it is much more appealing and almost has a magical sense about it as opposed to the second season title sequence. Here is a look at the season one title sequence...

      The season two of The Newsroom was created by Huge Designs a design company founded in 1993. Hugo Moss was the director for The Newsroom opening credits for the second season. Although I really like the overall product of the second season it doesn't rise to the occasion of the first seasons title sequence. Even though they tried to make it interesting it just doesn't have the same feel and ultimately lacks the sense of spirit that is conveyed in the previous season. Unlike the season one title sequence the synergy between music and the the footage is just not as good, overall it is less inspiring. From start to end I just feel as if the production team figured it was a safe bet for the sequence yet there is little to set it apart as it is pretty general in the beginning and additionally while it does get better as the sequence gradually progresses the audiences attention span is lost before it hits the climax. Lastly if you look at the majority of comments about the season two title sequence it is repeatedly called out for not being up to par. Hopefully as season three premieres in Spring 2014 the series will incorporate fan criticism in their next title sequence as a large number of individuals weren't satisfied with the season two sequence and would also like to keep the theme music by Thomas Newman in the first season title sequence. Here is the second season title sequence...

Monsters, Inc. Title Sequence

Created by Pixar Animation Studios and published by Walt Disney Pictures in 2001, Monsters, Inc. is a hit comedy film by director Pete Docter. Showcasing a fully-animated, monster-populated world in 3D, Monsters, Inc. takes place in a world where electricity is generated by the screams of children. The title sequence at the start of the film reflects the colorful, yet "scary" state of the monster world, including the doors to the human world which are ever-prominent throughout the movie. 

The whole title sequence is showcased in 2D, with simple colors and what looks like paper cut-outs of the doors and creatures littering the screen. The background is pitch black, but it adds to the childlike views on screen, as everything appears to have been deliberately animated in that manner.

For 2001, especially, this is adorable. The music reflects the state of mind that the audience probably had when viewing this title sequence for the first time, and it definitely draws on Pixar's "cute but serious" style of storytelling and animation.