Friday, January 4, 2013

2013 Design Inspiration

Yeah, so it's the first of the year and guess what?  Time for new inspiration!
With Avid in my face and 3D-capable After Effects, it seems like there's NO stopping me, right?  Well, I've hit a few walls (which you can read about here) and I was feeling a little discouraged BUT - I didn't fret.  I just let my brain rest.  And in that resting time, I was going to start watching The Borgias on my iPad.

I didn't get very far.  Why?  Because the opening title sequence was totally wonderful!  It had elements from the True Blood opener that felt familiar but it also reminded me of the ink bleed from my ultimate favorite end title sequence EVER - Sherlock Holmes.  Granted, The Borgias sequence is unique on its own and I had to find out the design studio behind it.

I went to Digital Kitchen because, well, the True Blood elements and to my surprise, they hadn't done it!  Who designed it then?  I went to Google and it brought me to my most favorite website that I don't visit as much as I should: Art of the Title.

Art of the Title is wonderful because it features opening and end title sequences for TV shows and movies - which is great for me because I'm obsessed with the artistry behind those.  Which one grabbed me?  It's hard to say, there's so many great ones but I'll admit - I was extremely obsessed with the Fight Club opener in college - especially after I opened After Effects for the first time.  Hell, one of our first projects in AE was to reimagine our favorite title sequence.  Lucky me!

I remember taking that subtle smoke with a swirling fade out effect and trying to recreate it in the earliest version of AE.  I thought of nebulas, spiral galaxies, the smallest dust particles, fire and smoke and tried my damnedest to make AE do what I wanted to do, which meant taking the long way around.  Back then there were no real shortcuts and we didn't even touch on expressions (because they might not have existed back then) so I did the best I could doing what I do best: tweaking the hell out of key frames on layer after layer.  I made it work and it looked pretty damn good.  I don't remember what grade I got or even if I still have the final render on my old project zip disc but I remember that I got some props - nothing too major - but I got some good remarks.

Fast forward to now.  Here I was with the titles to The Borgias and I was loving it.  Reading the article on where the ideas started to how they ended up was thrilling!  And as with all things involving links, I started clicking around and ended up on a simple yet complicated opener: Boardwalk Empire.

Because I was already familiar with it, I didn't bother to watch the opening titles and skipped right on to the article.  Holy cow!  There was SO MUCH involved with the opener and there were so many different stages and concepts that I went back and watched it again and I had a new found appreciation for the opener!

After that, I HAD to read the article on Sherlock Holmes.  What a process!!  This is it!  This is the defining sequence for me.  It has so many great elements that come together so beautifully and I think I've been trying to recreate different parts of this sequence where I can - which is hard because I don't take on too many freelance gigs (that's my first mistake, unfortunately) and my job doesn't really need all that fancy animation.  Yeah, there's this tutorial (from my other favorite site) on how to recreate it and I've done it a few times (without the sketches - which really sucks because they're the best parts!) but my job doesn't need that.  But it also emphasizes something I keep forgetting, even though Double D reminds me of it when we talk about motion graphics: you need a TEAM.  Sure it can be a one-person show but it's better with a team that way each team member can focus on their strengths.  Who would be better sketching?  Who would be better key framing?  Who would be better with text?  Do you need to shoot extras for things like ink spills, backgrounds, textures?  There are so many little things that make up the beautiful big picture.

So.   I'm tackling this one step at a time.  Which elements that I like can I apply to my job and which elements can I apply for freelance gigs WITHOUT overextending myself and screwing up deadlines because I'm trying to be "fancy"?  Danny Yount, the mastermind behind the Sherlock Holmes end titles, sums this up in a great quote from the Sherlock article:

What are some of the lessons in title design that you’ve come across? Did you learn anything new on Sherlock Holmes?
It has to work perfectly with the film! I’m a guitarist, so I like to look at it like a solo break — I get my short time in the spotlight but I have to use it to make the song better. If I play sloppy, that makes it worse. If I play too fast and show off, it might get interesting but it is inappropriate.

Love this quote - especially about the "show off" part.  I've been looking at things like: "What can I do to show most of my abilities and skills - but only the awesome ones".  That's not the way to look at it at all and I discovered that on this freelance project I'm working on now.  The person I'm working with wants something very text-driven so I showed her a bunch of flashy text animations.  This was probably more for myself - as if I was proving to myself that I'm better than just a simple dissolve in/out but in the end, a simple dissolve was what she wanted.  Of course I didn't have to dress it up!  I almost ruined the whole process by showing off.  Silly me.

So now that I have my head on, I'm playing around with different elements and I found this great tutorial on Gray Machines for a "drifting title sequence".  The lens flare and background elements were a bit much for what I'm doing with it but it also reminded me of the subtle yet powerful signature look of any Bad Robot project: the horizontal flare - which you can sort of see here.
Yes.  I love that.  The first place I fell in love with it was in Moulin Rouge!  during the El Tango de Roxanne sequence at around 4:05 in this clip.  It doesn't look too intense here but I remember seeing it for the first time and being like, "WOW!!  Look at those lights cutting through Ewan McGregor like that!"  Baz Luhrmann is such a wonderful director and at that moment, he shot to the top of my "Favorite Directors" list (which is always changing btw).

Back to the lens flares.  JJ Abrams improved on that look and made it his "signature" and one day, I hope to animate that for something very special.  Until then, I just need to hone in on my craft and step outside of my comfort zone.  My biggest problem is creating projects to try these things on.  Hopefully I'll dream up something I can mess around with.  Until then, tweaking the company logo is all I can do...for now!

**This has also been posted at Hello Avid