Archive for the ‘VFX’ Category

Sapporo: Discovering a Legend

Posted on: April 5th, 2016 by Preston Gibson

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

PintCan_02 Pint_02 Bottle_03

Audio Workflow

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.

Original Storyboards

What I Learned From Making Two Animated Music Videos in Less Than a Year

Posted on: August 14th, 2015 by 90 Degrees West

Preston Gibson

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 (, 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.