Friday, July 31, 2009

July 11-Second Club Entry

It's been a while since I've entered the monthly animation competition at 11-Second Club, but I whipped this up at the last minute (2 days work before the deadline). For those unfamiliar with the rules, everyone uses the same 11-second sound clip and you are free to interpret it any way you choose using any animation medium.
I've been meaning to test out the Sergio rig (available at for a while now, and the 3 Stooges soundfile lent itself to his portly presence. Since I needed the "Laurel" counterpoint to Sergio's "Hardy," I headed over to Highend3d to look for tall, skinny-guy puppet rigs. I decided to give Blake a shot. Each of these two free character rigs have their pluses and minuses, but both were perfectly usable for this short routine. I also used the opportunity to build a cartoon scaffold rig using Maya Hair. Aside from the ropes, all other dynamics in the scene are keyframe animation (I determined it would take longer to coax a sim into doing what I wanted than to just keyframe it).
Fun little two-day project.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Thought Process Behind Brain Wave

Third in a series of music videos I created for Polyphasic for their upcoming DVD release on Magnanimous Records. I like being asked to interpret instrumental music because it is a purely musical interpretation; no lyrics to guide me.

Certain sound effects just before the turnaround in the song sound like spaceship thrusters. This and other bot-like noises throughout made me think of robots. So I set about sketching some robots (as seen in this previous post) with the idea that if I drew enough of them, these robots would start to tell me their story.

My first instinct was that the robots were invaders. I was in the 50's sci-fi thriller mode of thinking. But as I continued to work on these robots, they started to embody a sadness, an emptiness. Robots are, after all, hollow shells of men, and it's debated whether their "thoughts" will ever be legitimate, even once they cross the Turing threshold. These robots became, to me, a stand-in for the human condition; and because of their "everyman" appeal, became somehow more human than humans. Like meta-humans, trying to understand ... humans. My robot invaders had become robot archaeologists. Without giving too much away (as I like all of my pieces to be subject to endless interpretation) I will say that the final result contains a meditation on the nature of consciousness, albeit robot consciousness. It didn't occur to me until I was done that the title of the song - Brain Wave - fits perfectly in this respect, even though I hadn't considered it as a factor in my visual interpretation. Needless to say War is another primary theme, and a metaphysical aspect is presented at the end (after the homage to Powers of 10).

The song is very repetitive, almost trance-like, so I maintained a slow pacing (by today's standards) in the overall edit. Hopefully this reinforces the "meditative" quality of the piece, and doesn't just make it boring.

It was done in Photoshop and After Effects. The style is deceptively simplistic: it's actually quite the complex project from a technical standpoint, with nested compositions reaching almost twenty levels deep in places (the Motion Graphics geeks among you know what I'm talking about). I tried to keep everything feeling flat, even in the 3D shots, as a stylistic tie-in to the War Propaganda posters seen throughout.

Searchbot (seen here) is one of many digital "puppets" created for the project. I considered using Flash, but I rose to the challenge of figuring out puppets in After Effects. Having figured it out, next time I'll use Flash ;}

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Song Heard in a Dream

The second video in the Polyphasic series. This one was done primarily in Corel Painter. Partly inspired by the sand painting films of
Caroline Leaf, and partly by my own days as a performance painter. As part of an artist's collective we would experiment with painting-as-performance art, and I still find it fascinating to watch a canvas build and grow into its various manifestations.

Painter has the ability to record scripts, which acts like a time lapse screen capture: every few seconds a snapshot of the screen is taken while you paint. However, there's no good way to get these recorded script files out of Painter and into a useful movie format. There's a very limited and buggy export function that can export a frame stack as a movie, but nothing near the size or frame rate
demanded by this project.

So I settled on the following workflow: in Painter, record the session with the scripts window. Afterward, open a new file and play back the script (essentially watching the whole painting session in fast forward) while recording the screen with screen capture software (I used Snagit). From Snagit, a .mov or .avi can be output to take into After Effects. Piece it together with some slight time manipulation to match the soundtrack, and done. Once I figured out how to do it (lots of false starts) I managed to create the entire film in a day - basically one painting session. Whenever I needed to take a break, I just paused recording and then picked up on the same painting where I left off. There is great potential for this type of painting with the YouTube explosion going on, and I hope others decide to use these tools to further the art form.

In terms of content, I let the music lead the way. I listened to the track over and over, making notes, at first by way of words and then thumbnail drawings, until I had sketched out a loose narrative. Then it was a matter of acting it out as a performance.

Though I utilized a variety of brushes, the workhorse for this project was a little-known brush in the Tinting category (of all places), Oily Round, mainly for its propensity to "push" pixels much as Caroline Leaf would push grease paint around on glass.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


This is the first of 3 music videos I made for my friends in Polyphasic. It will be released on a DVD compilation with various other visual artist's interpretations of their experimental music, by Magnanimous Records. I'll keep you posted as the release date nears.

The video is a transcription of my internal hallucinations when I closed my eyes and listened to the track. I found it hypnotic and unsettling, with a paranoid undertone. I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down the different visions it produced in me:
meatpacking plant
plants dying in time-lapse
strippers and dancers in slow motion
lab experiments

Then I set about scouring my libraries of clips for footage that matched these descriptions. I put it all together in After Effects utilizing strobe effects, time echo effects, colorama and blend modes. From concept to completion this one was completed relatively quickly - a couple days of preplanning and a couple days of actual production. I wanted it to flow organically so I pieced it together from beginning to end, each visual suggesting what the next transition would be.

Directions: Watch it full screen at maximum volume in a darkened room for disorienting effects. Don't watch if you are prone to seizures.
Music by Polyphasic:
Visuals Mixed by The Lord North:

My YouTube Channel:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I'm Seeing Robots

Today I was haunted by some robot images, so I had to sketch them. I'm creating a motion graphics piece with these guys.

By the way, "I'm Seeing Robots" is the most badass Kool Keith composition. Ever. Do yourself a favor: