So what is this?
I just finished working on an animation with Chris Smith (Sugar Film Production) for the southwest regional sponsors of AICP. The conference is supported by the donations of local businesses, and in exchange for their $$ they get their logo/identity showcased in the intro of the show. Thatís what we made.
￼Movie Link (36mb)
So why are you telling me?
Youíve likely seen a few of these rolling around from previous years. The other AICP title sequences Iíve seen have ranged from brilliant to endurable. I would say the result of this project hovers very nicely in the middle of that spectrum. Aesthetically, I have quite a few things I would like to improve/change, however I was very happy with the planning and production of this project. Since so few tutorials cover the production aspects of the work I thought this would be an ideal job to share with the community.
Great, so whatĎs the breakdown?
This was a remote job. The event was in Dallas. We had a little more than two weeks to complete it.
Length -- Roughly 2-3 mins. As long as it took to feature all the logos.
Format -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Assets -- Apx 6 mins. of experimental HD footage provided by Sugar. / Apx 30->40 Logos provided by sponsors
Audio -- Listeningchair, a Dallas based sound studio, would be creating original music for the animation.
Animation would primarily need to be completed by myself on my 8-Core.
Chris had another 8-Core in Dallas dedicated to rendering scene files.
What are my general concerns?
1) I want it to be pretty.
2) I want it to have discernible parts.
3) I want it to have fluid motion.
4) I want it to fulfill itís purpose of showcasing the sponsors logos.
5) I donít want it to be boring.
6) I donít want to miss the deadline.
Those 6 concerns are probably in reverse order. Every decision I made ultimately came down to making sure these 6 things happened.
We didnít have any boards for this job. Chris and I had originally had set out to use the piece as an opportunity to experiment. Other projects and circumstances gave us less time to experiment than we would have liked so at a certain point it became more about creating something clean, simple, and attractive.
We had both upgraded to C4D r11 and were very interested in trying out the new GI. We had both been inspired by Kai Perersenís tutorial about polygon lights and portals over at Cineversity (GI: Sampling Modes). As a C4D user I have kept my distance from GI in the past because of the insane render times and unpredictable results. After seeing Kaiís walkthrough of the new GI we both decided that was a look we wanted to pursue.
Timing on this job was VERY important. Getting 30+ companies to deliver their logos to you in a timely manner is monumental task. Plus the deliverables were for an event. Events have unmovable deadlines. If youíve never worked remotely before, itís more time consuming than you think. If youíve never worked remotely on HD before, itís WAY more time consuming than you think. Compressing and uploading previews can easily occupy a third of your day. Just getting scenes *ready* to render can be a chore.
For this reason I HAD to create a standard that would allow me to measure my progress. Also, collaboration with the audio studio would require SOME sort of pre-planning even if we didnít have storyboards.
When you have an integrated audio/video project one of the two of you is always wanting the ďother guy to start firstĒ. I would need the full two weeks to finish the animation/renders so I didnít have enough time to let listeningchair score the piece after the fact, BUT it wasnít really fair to ask them to just wing it with no input.
My favorite way to approach this task is to create a dummy track from a song that I think would be a good model for the final. If I have the time, I like to just wander around the city with my iPod until something ďfeelsĒ right. I did just that and I found a great song that had plenty of energy and very different parts. It was a very long (6+ minute) track by Anders Trentemoller called Always Something Better. I managed and cut the piece down to 2.5 minute remix in Ableton Live and sent the following back to Sugar and Listeningchair.
Shortly after I sent this off to Dallas I received a first draft back from listeningchair. I was a little worried because Iíd never worked with them before. The downside to AudioBoards are when youíre working with a studio who either A) tries to copy the *sound* rather than the feeling/energy/timing... or even worse B) just misses completely. I was very pleased with what we got back from Listeningchair. Brian made it his own piece while retaining the spirit and timing of the original track.
Talking to Audio Guys
I was a breakbeat DJ for most of my 20ís. Working with audio is where I developed my first love for waveforms. I found the transition from audio to 3d animation very easy because it was simply an extension of describing the world in waveforms. If you can speak waveform... you can speak to an audio guy (well engineers at least).
I gave him a few notes about what I would like to see changed. I wrote it down in words and erased it for almost 2 hours until I final decided to just send him a waveform. The gray waveform (below) was what I was shooting for and the blue represented what he gave back to me. They may look identical at first sight, but to someone who speaks ďwaveformĒ you can tell the differences immediately. Brain mentioned to me later at the event that he total ďgotĒ what I was asking and said the waveforms were helpful.
About halfway into the first week I received the ďfinalĒ sponsor list and the number of bronze sponsors had doubled from last year. It threw my timing off a little bit, but it was pretty easy to get back on track by simply doubling the bronze section.
I decided to get the logo work out of the way first. The first few days was a lot of Illustrator work (ever get an AI file that simply contained an embedded JPEG?). Several hours of pixel-pushing later... I finally had them all vectorized. After seeing them all together it became clear these separate identities lacked unification. The simplest and fastest solution I could think of was to reduce them to b/w.
Loosing the Color
I hate working in b/w. I learned about color from stage lighting and one of the better rules is that you never just throw white light on an actor or the stage. Rather you should blend complementary colors to create white light. It creates more interesting highlights and deeper shadows. This is the first time I have ever used completely desaturated values. I did so in the end because it was one less thing to keep track of, but ultimately I wish I hadnít.
I didnít really know where to start so I figured I better make something pretty flexible just in case. I knew I wanted each section to feel like it was in a larger space than the previous one. I would start each area with a simple 100sq box and then extrude it in 100 unit increments until I had a rough shell of what I wanted the space to look like. I would then attach different tiles and illuminated panels to that base mesh via a Cloner Object. I changed my mind quite a bit about depth and proportions so building with Cloners afforded me the ultimate in (re)configurability.
Additionally it allowed me to break my rooms apart in a variety of different ways. I never ended up actually doing it, but it was something that I kept in my back pocket in case we had some extra time and discovered the background required more action.
￼￼Movielink 1 (3mb), Movielink 2 (2.4mb)
I really wanted to add some SoundKeys to the piece, but I wasnít sure if there was going to be time. I made some soundmaps over the weekend using a method I have described before on mograph.net. The short version is that I like to do my sync work in AE with Trapcodeís SoundKeys.
After youíve got your keys in AE, select them, copy-paste them into a txt file, and then open that file in C4Dís Timeline via the Functions>ASCII Animation Import option. From there you can use the data however you like. I like assign the values to a P.y track of a Null object and then use an Xpresso tag to redistribute the values to other elements as needed (i.e. the P.y values are controlling the alphas to the bass and snare Materials in the Platinum section).
The next thing you need is some good markers. If youíve ever tried to build more than a dozen markers in C4D it can make you want to stab your eyes out. For that reason I make a txt file of key data outside of C4D for beats and bars and then import that into the C4D Timeline in the same manner mentioned above. I then use those keys as Markers.
Too many keys starts to get confusing after a while so I divide my timeline into two parts (shown below). The Bottom timeline is static just for beats, bars, and special sections. The Upper timeline is in Automatic Mode and is used for editing waveforms and moving keys.
[because mograph.net won't let you post more than 10 images in a single post I have to split this into two]
Edited by the_Monkey, 05 December 2008 - 04:20 PM.