Three animation projects from our staff are headed to the national Addy Award competition after winning at the local and regional levels. And our congrats to Cannonball Agency for their Enterprise Rent-A-Car campaign, “Family Reunion,” also competing at the national level. Take a look…
SAINT LOUIS ART MUSEUM – “ST. LOUIS MODERN” – Art Direction and Cinema Advertising
We collaborated with Cannonball Agency to create this nostalgic look to promote an exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum. Credit goes to 90 motion designers Alex Deaton, Preston Gibson and Jim Roberson.
BETH BOMBARA – “IN THE WATER” – Music Video
90’s Preston Gibson teamed up with his brother, Parker, to create this elegantly flowing music video as a passion project for their friend Beth Bombara.
RUN THE JEWELS – “EARLY” – Music Video
Another music video from the 90 team has received world-wide acclaim, having been featured on Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, MTV, Time, and even a UK Music Video Award nomination, not to mention racking up more than 650,000 views on YouTube. Preston Gibson, Alex Deaton and Kurt Simpson put a ton of passion into this Addy winner.
In late 2015, our friends at Moosylvania came to us with an exciting challenge: take a handful of historical assets, combine it with a dash of stunning painterly textural goodness, and produce a 60-second animated spot illustrating the globe-trotting 19th-century journey of Sapporo’s founding brewmaster, Seibei Nakagawa.
From the start, Moose was clear—this piece needed an epic tone and a coolness factor that would play more like a legendary tale and less like a history lesson. We pulled this off utilizing a combination of 2d & 3d techniques honed while working on last year’s music videos and our spot for Busch Gardens’ Tempesto. Another killer original score and sound design by Mark Bartels took it to the next level.
Our behind-the-scenes breakdown reveals the layers of sound and visual detail that brought Seibei’s journey to life. A remixed version of the original soundtrack highlights this attention to detail. We projection mapped 2d brand elements like the Sapporo can, pint, & bottle to create 3d assets that could live in our cg world. With this technique, we were able to animate a still photo of beer in 2d, then project it into 3d (no fluid sim necessary!). We produced additional 3d elements from scratch—shading and lighting them realistically—then treated them in post with heavy color correction and a healthy serving of blur and grain to break the pristine digital renders, leaving them feeling like dimensional black-and-white objects. A ton of compositing love helped Moose’s historical assets and our original cg elements to live happily side-by-side.
Projection Mapping 2d Brand Assets
With the visuals chronicling the story of Seibei, and the voice-over defining what it truly takes to become a legend, the function of the audio score would be to pull these together to illustrate the emotional journey of such an endeavor, as well as create a vibe: in this case, boldness and grit. Collaborating with Moose from the beginning proved advantageous because a couple tracks were pursued initially, before finally honing in on this final direction.
Instinctively, working with just a VO scratch and style-frame animatic, we scored a more narrative, cinematic track. But once we began pulling renderings together along with the pace of the edit and transitions, the team decided the score needed more attitude – heavier and with a slightly aggressive bite to it, but keeping the emotional build to demonstrate the courage to take on risk and the honor of achieving one’s true passion. It became an emotional-vibe track, rather than a storytelling embellishment.
To set the mood, we started with an underscore with a strong backbeat rhythm accompanied by a thick distorted bass that would build throughout. This provided our attitude. Bringing in orchestral strings would be the core emotional essence of the piece, starting with tremolo strings to communicate the agitation of entering the unknown, then followed by the driving rhythmic string motif , alluding to the toil and determination of pursuing a passion. And finally the anthemic full legato string melody that builds to the end to signify the beating-the-odds victory. Adding to that, the musical and abstract sound design really enhanced the mood throughout. The score is both electronic and organic, and fully integrates music with sound design.
Ah… memories. It’s hard to pin-down the best moments over the course of an entire year. A lot of joy comes from the little victories; the problem solves no-one saw coming or seeing a storyboard come to life for the first time – it can be difficult to narrow it all down. So, we decided to put together a list of some of our favorite moments. If you want to know more: come by the studio, have a drink, play some ping-pong and listen to us yammer on as long as you’ll let it happen.
1. Car Rental Comedy
Entertaining and comedic brand content was all the rage in 2015, deservingly so. Companies are finding new ways to connect with their audience, creating new media worth watching and sharing. We were fortunate enough to be a part of two major successes in this category.
The man with the golden voice. National Car Rental featured Mr. Warburton in the extraordinarily popular campaign, “Control Enthusiast.”
Families can be tricky, Enterprise is there to help.
2. 2015 – The Year of the Music Video
90 employees Preston Gibson, Alex Deaton and Kurt Simpson got to see their work featured on Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, MTV, Time, even a UK Music Video Award Nomination. We think that’s pretty sweet. Their video for the critically acclaimed group, Run the Jewels is a stellar example of passion and design. In addition to Run the Jewels, Preston and his brother released a visually stunning video for Beth Bombara’s “In the Water.” Check them out below!
3. 90 Gets cultured with Cannonball and the St. Louis Art Museum
We were excited to partner with SLAM to help showcase a few of this year’s exhibits. Contributing to our community feels good. Making great work feels good too. It’s a win-win for everyone. These spots were a fan favorite online, and a blast to work on.
You know us for post, and don’t get us wrong – we LOVE post. This year we decided to get serious about production. Through a strong network of talented directors and crew, we were able to facilitate dozens of shoots – each one custom made for the specific job. We learned a ton and we are really proud of the resulting projects.
5. 2D Still Images Come to Life Through 3D Projection Mapping
The assignment: Create an exciting viewer experience that captures the essence of the dare-devil, and showcases a new rollercoaster at Busch Gardens.
The catch: The ride won’t be finished for a few months, and we have to make the spot out of stock images and motion design.
We built 3D models of each historical image and projection mapped the image on the geometry, allowing us to incorporate motion, camera moves and depth. We also concepted and created a beautiful 3D coaster racing through the clouds. The end result was not your typical stock assets kind of spot. The coaster and images came to life, creating an effective and unique spot.
6. 90 adds a myriad of talented, new creatives on staff.
90 is stacking the deck with new people and we pride ourselves on an ever-evolving mindset to meet the market’s needs. We’ve added something for everyone.
Audio: Jon Miller joined 90 from CRC in Chicago, and has a background in commercial engineering, original music composition and killer guitar solos. He has worked closely with our very own Mark Bartels to get up to speed on the processes here, and offers a seamless and pleasant client experience.
Preston Gibson is our resident design stud, and master of the music video. Preston brings a knack for technical execution and a strong sense of design for motion. We especially love his ability for creative development of a project and rapid beard growth.
Jim Roberson joins 90 from New York/Alabama (ask him) as a veteran in the industry. He’s worked as a producer, cinematographer, and director. He offers serious motion skills paired with extensive knowledge about the process, and a great personality.
90 beefed up our editorial with beefcake Joel Anderson. He’s an incredibly versatile editor with motion graphic chops to boot. He’s a speedster and has a real passion about his work, and handmade lamps.
90 focuses on client services, we want the experience of working with us to be a seamless and pleasant one. So we added a talented Assistant Editor, Tommy Maitz. Tommy has an incredible attention to detail and motivation for TCB. He’s also full of good stories, most of which come from living in Hollywood.
“Good artists copy, great artists steal” – Steve Jobs.
Or was it Steve Jobs quoting Pablo Picasso? Or no, wait – It was Picasso quoting Igor Stravinsky adapting a William Faulkner quote that was adapted from a T.S. Elliot quote… Or something.
Ironic, isn’t it?
Most of the time, the concepts of borrowing and stealing are pretty cut and dry, right? Sugar from your neighbor? Borrowing. Those nice towels from your hotel? Stealing. This analogy is flimsy at best, but try to stay with me.
Inspiration is good. It’s what keeps us motivated and evolving. It’s what cultivates and perpetuates trends – until we get inspired to move on to the next thing. The cues we take from other people’s work help us push our own work further. We use that collective knowledge both consciously and subconsciously as a base for what we perceive as “good.” That is, of course, until we look at it years later with disgust.
Imitation, on the other hand, is bad. Imitation without adaptation leaves no room for advancement or any contribution to the artistic field, since it’s just a reproduction of something that’s already been done.
All forms of art are subject to this. Music is a big one. Websites like whosampled.com will tell you exactly where a piece of music originated. Whether subconscious or not, a surprising number of artists have used other musicians work. Sometimes acknowledging the fact, or sometimes just passing it off as their own. Inspiration or imitation?
How about this quote: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” A quote that the internet says dates back to the 19th century, which I know is definitely true – because, the internet. Not completely sold on the idea, though. Seems like you are telling the hotel they should be flattered that you stole their towels. Oscar Wilde took a better stab at this when he (apparently) said “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” OK, that makes more sense. Thanks, Oscar. Moving on.
Coincidentally,…or maybe not – this idea and the presentation of it is nothing new. Kirby Ferguson’s video series “Everything is a Remix” proves this point much better than I am doing here. You should go watch it. All four parts are equally interesting.
Hopefully, though, I’ve put enough of my own spin on this concept to qualify this post as inspiration. Borrowing ideas – like sugar from my neighbor – from those before me.
The bottom line is innovation and evolution in pretty much every facet of life – technology, healthcare, transportation – depends on building off of what we know, shifting the pieces around, adding something new and putting it back together in a way that is better than the way it was before. That’s how we got where we are now. That’s how we’ll get where we’ll be tomorrow. The important thing, though, is that we are improving and advancing our craft. We can separate inspiration and imitation, as long as we’re cognizant of where our ideas come from. Buy your own damn towels, and the creative world will be a better place.™
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Posted on: September 3rd, 2015 by 90 Degrees West 2 Comments
My daughter Samantha is a senior in high school this year. She is a creative person, with a passion for the arts. As we start our tour of colleges across the Midwest I can’t help thinking about where I was at when I was her age. Especially since one of our first stops is Kansas City to visit UMKC, which is right down the street from my alma mater, the Kansas City Art Institute.
When I was senior in high school I was hitting every rock show that came to St. Louis. Smuggling in my Olympus OM-1 and a Vivitar 70-210 zoom lens I married my love of music with my passion for photography.
After high school, I attended KCAI to major in Photography. They put all freshmen through a course called “Foundations” which was like a boot camp for artist. Every two weeks or so you practiced a different medium – painting, ceramics, sculpture, photography and so on.
The idea was to expose yourself to areas outside your comfort zone and introduce new ways of looking at the world. But I didn’t want to step out of my comfort zone, I had it all figured out, I knew photography was all there was for me, so why am I drawing nude models every Thursday for 2 hours when my drawings looked like glorified stick figures with a penis and boobs?
Then came the week for video. The instructor took us over to the “video lab, “ showed us the basic operation of a video camera, then said, “Think of an idea, go shoot it. When you’re done, we’ll explore the “editing suite.”
Two 3 quarter inch top loader tape decks, editing tape to tape with a little audio switcher. That was the state of the art set-up.
My idea was simple, take a tennis ball and give it a life of it’s own. The plan was to have the tennis ball go on a journey through the KCAI campus, cut to the Steely Dan version of “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo”.
It started with the tennis ball on my shelf in my dorm room. It rolls off the shelf, out the door, through the hall and down the steps and on through the campus. Each scene I’d set the camera up on a tripod, hit record, then roll the tennis ball off camera and into the scene – classrooms, past the instructor’s desk, cafeteria and so on, shooting a variety of locations around the campus in no particular order. Then it would eventually find its way back to my shelf, where it landed just in time for me to enter scene and notice everything in place.
It wasn’t until I entered that “Edit Suite” that I realized it was actually going to work. I threw myself into the process, experimenting like a mad scientist.
This editing thing was a hoot!
I was crafting a story, exploring every which way to cut it. Then came my final hero scene, getting the ball to jump back on the shelf and rest….which I tried to shoot by gently tossing the ball on to the shelf, but I couldn’t seem to get that shot right.
That’s when the light bulb went on: if I shuttled the ¾” deck just right, I could get the opening scene to look good playing backwards. My first editorial challenge, solved.
It was like I split the atom, my aha moment, I couldn’t wait to telephone my family.
The magic of editing was in full bloom. When I showed my piece to the small audience of my class, to my amazement they laughed and applauded.
I knew right there that the magic of editing was something special. I got the bug that day/night in the edit suite and it has never left me.
I’d give anything for a copy of that video today, unfortunately that work of art is lost and nowhere to be found. I remember it being, or at least I think, the best thing ever made. Maybe it’s better to just keep that dazzling memory than to find the original video with it’s inevitable flaws.
I graduated from the KACI with a Bachelor’s Degree in Video/Photography in 1986.
Thanks to foundations and an open mind, I’ve been editing ever since. Today, I still get those giddy moments in my edit suite; those moments are key to longevity.
After our tour of UMKC, Sammi and I plan on stopping by the Art Institute, and retracing the journey of that tennis ball. I can only hope that through her journey into the college life, as she seeks a creative, artistic vocation, that she gets bitten by the passion bug, like the one that got me, and that it sets her world in motion.
Between Spring of 2014 and Spring of 2015, I helped design and direct two fully-animated music videos: Beth Bombara – In the Water, and Run the Jewels – Early. I was lucky to work with some crazy talented dudes, who also happen to be some of my best friends: Parker Gibson (www.helloparkergibson.com), Kurt Simpson (90DW), and Alex Deaton (90DW). Over the course of a year I garnered a ton of knowledge about making music videos, but I find that it really applies to most design/creative pursuits so I thought I’d lay some of it out for y’all.
1. Telling a story is great…
Creative folks generally want to make beautiful things, and to leave their own personal mark on them. I subscribe to the theory that, often, art is a way of leaving bread crumbs for the world– a way of saying “I was here”, but in a way that many others can appreciate. For that reason, I approached both videos by trying to tell a story, to craft a narrative even when there wasn’t one explicitly in the song. For In the Water, I forced myself to listen to the lyrics in a more vague, symbolic sense and then extrapolate philosophical, mythical themes. My exploration of water and stars imagery from the lyrics led me to some really interesting stories, like that of the Greek goddess of stars, Asteria who, in order to escape the advances of Zeus, flung herself into the Aegean Sea in the form of a quail which then became a desert island. Weird, right? Also super interesting (visually, and narratively!), and totally removed from the inherent imagery of the song. Notions of rebirth, escape, and doom– as well as animal transformation– were born out of these explorations.
2. But don’t let it get in the way of the song…
It’s easy to let these explorations and abstractions run wild until your narrative no longer even remotely resembles what the song is about. Directing music videos requires you to know when to pull back and keep your narrative relevant to the song. In many cases, visuals can simply promote the vibe of the song, rather than trying to tell some kind of explicit story. In my opinion, that often turns out to look like animated wallpaper. However, I kept that in mind, because I didn’t want the music videos to take viewers out of the musical experience, or distract from what the artists had initially created. Lucky for us, the Run the Jewels song already had an almost step-by-step story in it, so we already had a rough narrative guide.
3. Bite off more than you can chew…
…when you can get away with it. A huge aspect of both videos was character rigging. Before In the Water, I’d never even modeled, let alone rigged, an entire character from scratch. It was a fascinating challenge for me, something I’d really wanted to dip my toes into. Often when I take on personal/passion projects, I try to steer them in a direction that will force me to learn new techniques. In this case, it paid off immediately. After struggling for several months (and in many ways, failing) to master the character design/rigging process on In the Water, I had to get it right for Run the Jewels, and for roughly a dozen characters! Luckily, my experience had already grown exponentially, and I felt 1000% more confident. I still had a TON of trouble-shooting along the way, but this time I knew most of the answers when the problems occurred. It was really rewarding to watch Alex animate the hell out of some characters I designed and rigged.
4. If you don’t have any deadlines, make some…
This one actually applies to any creative endeavor, and really most areas of life. In the Water really didn’t have any specific deadlines, so it was easy for me to take my precious time with all my conceptual explorations, trying to learn new, complicated techniques, and even just talking about it. Some people are detail-oriented. I am detail obsessed. If left to my own devices, I can focus in on very specific aspects of the creative process, and the next thing I know I’ve grown a full beard and a substantial aroma. For that reason, I mapped out milestones along the way to make sure I was going to finish at some point in our lifetimes.
5. Working with great artists has its pitfalls…
Collaborating with artists from different media can be incredibly rewarding. I’m a huge music lover, so music videos meld my two major hobbies/interests. Helping out a local artist I really enjoy and respect was a great experience. Working with your favorite hip hop group (and one of the hottest acts on Planet Earth!) is one of those times you think to yourself “holy shit, have I made it?”. It’s also a really enlightening experience. I feel like I now understand how songwriters feel when they write and record an album, only to have their record label say “ok, we’ll let you know when we’re putting it out.” That was my experience with both videos. Hurry up and wait. And that can be incredibly frustrating when you’ve dumped your heart, soul, and a nauseating amount of free time into a project. In this situation, you have to remind yourself that these music videos aren’t so much yours, as they are the artists’. And that the artists often deal with this sort of frustration themselves. Yada yada, waah waah. I got to make two killer videos, and they’re both out. No more complaining.
6. Throw yourself a party…
Trust me, you deserve it. Also, make sure your mom knows that Rolling Stone talked about your video.
I’m always looking for new ways to grow my sound design repertoire. To that end, Loring and I here at 90 have started building a tool that many sound designers have in their toolbox for extracting something a little more obscure from the natural world we hear: a contact microphone.
When people think of a microphone, they probably imagine the common air microphone: an instrument which converts sound traveling through the air – air-borne noise – into the electrical realm. And that’s how we hear most sound, right? Through the air. But sound waves also travel and resonate through solid material objects – structure-borne noise. There are many sounds that can be picked up through structural transmission that can’t necessarily be picked up through the air. A contact microphone is a very cool device that does just that – picks up vibrational frequencies in solid materials.
I remember watching a National Geographic doc on insects and was amazed by how remarkably clear the sounds were of the tiny creatures they had filmed. The crunches of a spider chewing on its prey, the pitter patter of the tiny legs of a millipede as it crawls across earth, the crackle and pops of a butterfly breaking out of a cocoon. Capturing these practically inaudible sounds with such clarity is made possible by utilizing the contact mic. Check out how they captured the sound of a centipede walking (skip down to 3:40).
A contact microphone consists of simply a small ceramic disc (about 1.5 inches in diameter) glued to a brass disc, connected to audio wire that leads to… well, the electrical realm. The ceramic material has the inherent quality of being piezoelectric: meaning that any pressure applied to it will produce a small electrical current. Thus, any vibrational fluctuations the ceramic disc picks up can be transduced into electrical current, amplified and then recorded. This can lead to some very unique sounds, as recording audio through different materials can produce varied, sometimes surprising effects. Master Sound Designer Ben Burtt created his famous Star Wars laser gun sound (among many other sounds) utilizing a contact microphone, attaching it to an old radio tower guy-wire and striking the wire with a hammer. Here’s a quick demonstration:
Digging a little deeper into the use of this tool, I’ve discovered the contact mic can inspire all sorts of sonic creativity. Some of my favorite sound design artists employ this instrument quite frequently. So, of course, I decided to build one for myself! Loring and I ordered the parts and soon enough we’ll have a brand new contact mic to start making all sorts of unique sounds – like this!
It’s a done deal. 90 is proud to announce the newest member of our motion graphics team, Jim Roberson. Jim has fantastic chops and more experience than you can shake a stick at. He has worked as a producer, director, cinematographer, and most importantly – a top notch motion graphic artist. He understands all facets of commercial production which translates to a seamless, professional and easy process for you.
Jim’s client list is almost as impressive as the work itself, and includes names like: ESPN, Samsung, Cartoon Network, Discover, MTV, Comcast, Toyota, Motorola, Visa and a bunch more. (He even worked on Archer!)
Jim joins us full-time from a freelance career where he worked primarily with clients in the Atlanta and New York City markets. Check out his reel. And if you see him out and about, say hi! He’s originally from Alabama and happens to be really, really nice. (You know, southern hospitality.)