One of my absolute favorite parts of a movie now is seeing how studios and production houses depict the opening and ending credits of a film. A far cry from the stoic, black and white lists of yesteryear, credits and their visual effects today have become just as much an essential piece of the moviegoing experience as the rest of the action, and can serve as an expectation setter of what's to come, or a lovely closure to what just was. Its purpose is to fully engage the audience and give them a further glimpse of a character, environment, or overall tone of the story.
One recent example that sticks out in my mind is the main title sequence of Iron Man 3, which was directed by designer Danny Yount and produced by Prologue Films. I loved how they incorporated bits from the entire trilogy and unified them into a final farewell to tie everything together. The faded panes of imagery alongside black divider lines are a throwback to Marvel's opening sequence for all of its films. Its quirkiness and fun is a tribute to the playboy Tony Stark and his ability to make light of any situation. And let's not forget the music, which is reminiscent of a '70s cop show and again calls out related features of the movie - self-righteous heroes, nasty villans (no matter how loveable Trevor Slattery turned out to be), and always an awesome car.
Chances are that if you saw credits that you really enjoyed, it was made by Danny and/or Prologue. Their resumes are an impressive array of film, television, and gaming. I've provided videos for a few that I have particularly admired, and their websites are a film buff's dreamland for the rest.
The intersection between design and technology is one that is ever evolving and transforming as we try to reconcile both in a world that sometimes isn't as welcoming. Often times, we think that a harmonious bond between the two is hard to come by, because it seems that no matter how hard we try, we eventually end up sacrificing one more over the other. This happens because we're so focused on what must be that we forget to think about what could be. This can go both ways.
But illustrator and artist Ron Miller manages to find a workaround in his combination of art and science. As the former art director of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., Ron had a question one day of what the skies might look like if all of the solar system's planets were the same distance from Earth as the moon was. Nevermind any mass effects or gravitational disparities that would arise due to the different sizes, backgrounds, and atmospheres that each planet comprises of. If this was in any shape or form feasible, what would we see when we looked up every night?
The images that were manipulated are nothing short of stunning, even humbling. At only 240,000 miles away, the moon over Death Valley, California is the first picture in this post and an actual photograph that Ron used to calculate and juxtapose the rest of the planets in stride. If the moon covers 1/2 a degree of the night sky, then Venus would take over 2, which would equate it to be four times the size of the moon to our eyes. With Jupiter and Saturn being 318 and 95 times the mass of Earth respectively, seeing them illuminated during a highway drive would feel as if we were speeding headfirst into another plane.
I talked earlier about how we sometimes get so caught up in the logistics of things that we get stuck. Don't get me wrong - we need to have one foot deeply rooted in reality because that is what will ultimately guide us to the finish line. But one thing Ron is especially proud of is how his ideas and fantasies have served as inspiration to others about what is out there and hasn't been discovered yet. As a space artist, he feels a responsibility to keep us thinking, guessing, and pushing to explore, because the second we stop is when learning dies. And the other shoe should never drop in that direction.
Rob has been obsessed with the idea of having greenery in our apartment as of late, and I slowly find our place turning into a mini jungle of sorts. We have a small tree in the hallway, various botanicals along the windowsills, and two different kinds of watering cans under the sink. He claims that it has improved the air quality of our space. I'm convinced this is why we have fruit flies.
I've never been too much of a flower person, since my secondary thoughts after the initial "How sweet!" reaction tend to turn towards the realization that the survival of this bouquet's species is now my responsibility. I used to be gung-ho about it and even went so far as to buy a vase, which is a huge step forward considering I have a picture somewhere of a previous arrangement that made its home in an old wine bottle. Then one day, a cactus died under my watch, and that was the end of my career as a homemade gardener.
In spite of my previous disposition with members of the Green Kingdom, I recently came across these intricate x-rays of the everyday variety by photographer Brendan Fitzpatrick, and found my interest piqued once more. Brendan used an x-ray machine at a radiology lab to achieve these skeletal shots, and then processed each photo using color editing to give it the wispiness and radiance that is usually only seen when viewing underwater creatures in the darkest depths of the ocean. Only here can we really appreciate the delicacy of such plants, for their transparency makes them vulnerable and exposed. Brendan gives us the ability to see down to their core and study the parts that are normally tucked away, and we find that it could potentially be more beautiful than what's on the surface. So we take a closer look, immerse ourselves fully into the experience, and are changed because of it.
This willingness to explore deeper, no matter what failures may have occurred previously, is what loving someone feels like.
I seem to be on a roll lately of finding designs that deal with striking the balance between what could be perceived and what is actually there. Spanish motion designer Ion Lucin is no exception with his project Spherikal which explores multiple ways to illustrate a sphere without losing context of the main framework that it is built from. Using Cinema 4D and After Effects, Ion created a Christopher Nolan-esque flm which reaches the core of Gestalt psychology by commanding the audience to keep the circle in tact while viewing multiple iterations - from a spiral to a mesh wire grid to what appears to be the dark side of the moon.
Despite whatever form the sphere was at that moment in the video, it amazed me how much I still saw the outline of the shape manifest itself throughout. It's like when you read a sentence where the letters of each word are scrambled except the first and the last, and you are still able to ingest the information as quickly as you would if they were written normally. The way our brain organizes itself to compartmentalize and self-correct the flow of data we receive is incredible, like we are genetically programmed to consciously and subconsciously not miss every part of every second of every day.
For the first post of 2012, I wanted to start us off head on with a novel concept for the art that is known as the music video. Growing up in my generation, this meant that you saw the starlette of the day prancing around in her knickers while unsuccessfully trying to evade a man so toxic yet alluring that she had no choice but to eventually succumb to him. Thankfully we've all moved past that somewhat, and due to artists such as OK Go, Lady Gaga, and Kanye West, the music video is now a method of either humoring our inner nerd, providing shock value, or spreading undercover societal messages - all of the above, actually. What started out as a way for record labels to impart visual language to a song in order to promote the artist's image and boost sales has turned into fully realized and conceived theatricals that can only be called a short film.
With this precedent set ahead of us, graphic artists everywhere have taken the cue to create their own mini dramas in increasingly imaginative ways, and this is where today's post comes into play. Polish producing pair Katarzyna Kijek and Przemysław Adamski (also known as Kijek/Adamski) have finetuned their skills to combine illustration and animation together in their music video for We Cut Corner's "A Pirate Life". The video is a product of every frame being hand-drawn and spliced together to create each rippling effect of water and each movement of the lead singer, and is an endeavor that took two months and 1,850 marker drawings to complete.
Seeing this makes me excited for what other inventive recipes can be thought up in the world of moving art, and what else we can do to ensure that this kind of passion, research, and creativity is never lost.
Back in June, I saw a tweet from David Cairns that beseeched project managers everywhere to "please stop referring to what I do as 'magic'. It’s WORK." I quickly replied to him, "But it's magical work", and then wondered if my reaction was more naive than anything. However, after viewing Robert Hodgin's compilation of the programmed creations he has built over the last four years, I can truly say that my faith in the abilities of developers to make genesis with lines of code has been galvanized.
Seeing Robert's work is almost like stepping onto another plane of existence where anything is possible. But before I get ahead of myself, I will say that he does a very smart thing by interspersing bits of his coding language throughout the reel. By seeing glimpses of the Cinder and Processing techniques that are his methodology, we are brought back down to earth with the realization that the grids of light and flying particles aren't summoned from thin air, but are actual representations of the commands he has written. It is with Robert's commitment, skill, and imagination that these texts transcend into images, and these images into fantasy.
I completely understand that when you possess the power to make interactions like this happen, the magnitude of the work accomplished may fall flat after awhile. But for those of us who sit on the sidelines, this is nothing short of amazing.
Working in an industry where trends come and go in the blink of an eye, and our motto may very well be, "I came, I saw, I moved on", it is refreshing to find innovative individuals who discover ways to bring the traditional into the now. This introspective begins with James Huse, a digital artist from London, who created the Drawing Machine, an application built using Quark Composer on Max OS X which James coordinated with a webcam to allow users to dynamically draw on the connected computer screen. This project was influenced by existing technologies from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, who themselves have successfully forged such paths in their gaming systems, and brought to a personal level where anyone with the proper equipment could do the same.
Something I enjoyed about this was the fact that James chose to renew the age-old concept of pen to paper and spark new ways of iterating through this same interaction using modern tactics. We are always so eager to move further along in the design abyss of creative exploration due to the need to perpetually stay on top, that sometimes we forget about the techniques that nurtured us from the beginning and brought us to the point where we can utilize said skills in a myriad of platforms today. Designers who take the time to revisit history should feel proud knowing that they've only added to the wealth of our former accomplishments.
My last post got me really thinking about my love for typographic animation, so I searched online to bring you two of my favorite examples. The first is a fun take on the end credits for the video game Portal (not to mention the very cute song that comes with it), and the second is masterfully done by French graphic designer Pierre-Emmanuel Lyet. I am so glad that I found Pierre-Emmanuel's Le Droit de Suite animation because it led me to more of his work, and I will definitely be featuring his other projects on Sketch in the near future.
Our industry can sometimes be filled with people who take themselves too seriously, or humor that is in fact, humorless. Sometimes it's nice to just relax, have fun, and remember why we entered this field in the first place: to create and share the wonderful art that we make. I hope you enjoyed these films as much as I did.
I thought I would end this week with a book-adapted intro reel that would make any author proud, especially Jules Verne. Graphic designer Ivan Maximov has taken the classic 1954 film version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, based on the iconic novel of the same name, and given it a modern twist by incorporating cleverly thought out nautical-themed typography, imagery, and animation into his opening titles. Ivan recorded the water background himself and was able to assimilate it seamlessly into his work. By making it a realistic transcription, it allows the viewer to experience quite literally the journey that Captain Nemo made on the Nautilus.
I've stated before on Sketch that I have a background in classical music, and that its usage in videos is one that I take to heart. The accoustics used in this piece work very well with the connotation of the film's plot, and you are left feeling that there is a great adventure waiting to be had in this expedition. There is also a physical trait that resonates, as the music sings upwards with the waves and comes down with it as well.
Perhaps the most illustrious component of this title series is the aquatic movements that come with each name presentation. Ivan has taken the time to include oceanic entities in every aspect of the film, whether it be via tiny bubbles that appear from the ship or arrows shooting. It's these tiny details that give the viewer the affordance to feel completely enraptured by what they are seeing.
If you are looking for the next great abstractionist painter, Sam Songailo is it. His art, which extends to light installations that invoke the players of Tron, incorporates bold, florescent lines into various geometric sequences throughout the canvas. These strokes are so sharp and systematic that they bring to mind other similar scientific artifices, such as the synapses in one's brain or the tracks in an underground railroad. Sam's usage of neon pink and aqua amongst a sea of primary colors hint towards a futuristic atmosphere that is both unsettling yet highly anticipated.
At first glance, I was hit with a cacophony of visual noise with dissonant color schematics clashing so deeply that I didn't know where to begin my appraisal. But once I began to stop focusing and started letting myself go, I saw a myriad of possibilities as to what these paintings could truly be. By allowing us to make up our own minds about the end result of his work, Sam has given us the greatest gift of all - transporting the design possibilities of tomorrow and bringing them into the now.