Animation, Projections and Monsters
Freelancing will throw you into the unexpected. It’s worth it.
The beauty and horror of being a freelancer is that you are usually called upon only when everything is on fire. This is exactly why I love freelancing. I get thrown onto surprising projects with impossible deadlines, where it’s up to me to figure out how to solve the puzzle.
I am excited to share one of the coolest projects I have worked on so far in 2018. In theme with October’s spookiness, I was hired by Uproxx to work on an animated horror short promoting Intel’s Optane Technology. The project was a massive collaboration between animators, a musician, projection mappers, an actor, editors, a film crew and more.
The Script: James, walks alongside a wall covered in graffiti. His shadow takes on a life of it’s own, eventually transforming into a monster and dragging the boy into the wall. Thus, turning James into part of the wall’s graffiti.
The caveat: We have two weeks to make this happen.
Erik Campbell, the original animator, had to step out for family reasons so, I was brought on board as the lead animator. Erik and I had a one week overlap during which he was able to set the animation style for the monster, as I worked on putting together the animatic. While building, we were in contact with the projection mapping team at Optical Animal, who were testing our assets on their end.
Week One was crucial. I had to dive into a project I knew little to nothing about, familiarize myself with the animation style and art, as well as create title cards for all of the “Making of” videos which you can now see on the Uproxx YouTube channel.
That first week gave Art Center College of Design alumnus Jimi Martinez, time to finish up the illustration work. We worked side by side as he passed on elements to me for rig testing.
Week Two was when things started to move... FAST. The animatic was approved, illustrations were done, and the projection specs were finalized. It was time to animate.
I brought on my good friend and colleague, Adam Singer to help me bring this monster of a project to life, (pun totally intended). We divided the piece in two parts. Adam worked on the Shadow Monster character animation, while I built and placed all of the elements in the scene. I used a combination of Maxon’s Cinema 4D and Adobe’s After Effects to create a 3D textured wall with windows, graffiti, and lighting. On top of the environment elements, I also animated lights, flickers, and created a shadow entity that bounced a ball on beat for the actor to interact with in real-time on set. The amount of detail this project needed seemed impossible to accomplish in a week but, when the clock struck 10pm on a Friday night, we composited the Shadow monster into the scene. The animation was ready to go live.
The entire crew met on set at the LA artwork to test the animation for the first time. I worked closely with the projection mappers as we repositioned, enhanced, and perfected the animation on location. This included everything from brightening lights, moving shadows, and touching up the graffiti.
It was really something to see what had been on a regular sized monitor, now blown up to the size of a building. Literally.
The entire set looked like a party. Electronic musician Sweater Beats, was performing live on set, as Actor, Israel Arellanes, used the music rhythm as queues to interact with the projection.
Once the film was shot, it went through an edit and then back through another animation touch-up phase. The horror short went live on October 23rd, 2018.
Freelancing can be terrifying. You are often brought in to collaborate with a group you don’t know, using a system you’re not familiar with, on a subject you know nothing about. Nevertheless, the energy that develops during a new collaboration can achieve fantastic and unexpected results which, makes all of the challenges worth it.
The longer I work in motion graphics, the more I am awed by the limitless possibility of collaboration. Society’s current love for fast-paced real-time interaction is inspiring projects that not so long ago, would have never been considered being part of the motion graphics realm.
I am thankful to have been a part of this project and look forward to putting out the next fire coming my way.
Please enjoy the The Shadow.
Director: Bridger Nielson
Art Director: El Ogorodova, Erik Campbell
Animation Lead: El Ogorodova
Characer Animation: Adam Singer
Animation: Kevin Neldon
Editor: Elliot Michel Diviney
Illustration: Jimi Martinez
Projection Team: Optical Animal
Music: Sweater Beats
Actor: Israel Arellanes
Producer: Bobby Marsden
Post Production Manager: Andre Evans
Post Production Coordinator: Phil Sebal