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Every year at NAB, MAXON brings motion graphics and VFX artists together for the C4D Live presentation. In this Motion Design Insights course, we get them in the same room. Hear about industry trends and the new creative techniques mograph artists are using to create today's innovative music videos, commercials, and films. Jeremy Cox, art director at Imaginary Forces, and Brandon Parvini, founder of Ghost Town Media, address the big questions, like what motion graphics means now and where the industry is headed, and the day-to-day issues that come up in motion design, like pitching to clients, dealing with media overload, and finding new sources of inspiration.
Every year at NAB MAXON brings to the show some of the best motion graphics and VFX artists in the business as part of their C4D Live presentations. In this short video we'll get to hear from Brandon Parvini and Jeremy Cox about motion graphics and how the industry is changing with the influence of new creative techniques, technologies and education. Brandon is part of Ghost Town Media. A collective motion graphics, VFX and post house in Los Angeles working on high end music video and commercial projects. Jeremy works for Imaginary Forces in New York.
A creative agency that produces commercials, film, broadcast and interactive projects for some of the biggest brands in the world. I would start I think the term motions graphics is to me it's always felt like a cheap term and I would use motion design instead just because it has a little more panache to it. There's something about the word graphics that sounds very retro and 80's or those having cheap [agency] about the idea of graphics.
I always like motion design as the term but in terms of defining what it is I think it does encompass so many different things. It is like you say it's very hard to define and it can include visual effects and graphic design and footage. It's this amalgam of all these different elements put together. It's a medium that combines graphic design in motion with all of these different elements put together.
I've always found that the notion of motion graphics or motion design is something that kind of exist on all to itself. It exists for itself. In many ways I would say it's the most inclusive of the different subsets. You talk about color, you talk about DI, you talk about visual effects. There's so many different kinds like specific windows. I think motion graphics is this area where it's where they all crossover. You can have all these different pieces that look wildly different.
If you're looking at you're staying at broadcast spot or an identity piece or end tag or set of opening titles. They all exist in this kind of crossover that is motion graphics to that degree. It is coming down more to I think the artist of what are they bringing to that approach because you're making it for the sake of making it to a certain degree. Versus like with visual effects. Like okay, the robot has to bash through the wall here as the story point.
There's a reason why you're doing that. Whereas the graphics is like you're trying to kind of induce a sense of emotion I think. You don't have to do it. It's a decision to do the piece of motion graphics. You could do a simple just text layover on raw footage and that's fine, but a lot of times you decide to do the motion graphics because you want to have this more flowery or more complex piece that speaks to a set of emotion or you're trying to communicate space like information or if you're trying to communicate a piece of emotion or an idea that may not actually come through throughout the rest of the piece.
You can set a context with the graphics there. It's a challenge I think. I mean the whole pitching process has its problems. It is a lot of people putting a lot of work into something and most of that work will never be seen because you're having five companies pitch on one job and you're gonna choose one company and that one company may have done five different directions. That's just a huge amount of work that's just never gonna be seen by anyone ever. It can feel very wasteful.
Personally as an artist I actually sometimes quite enjoy the pitching process. It's a very quick way to be very creative and because the deadlines are often very quick although sometimes a little stressful it really just forces you to be immediately creative and come up with something and you're not spending a month second guessing yourself, and you really just need to make something which sometimes is the hardest thing. You just need that push to do it. The pitch gives you that opportunity to do it. I'd also say that sometimes pitching.
There's an advantage to the client or the director whoever you're doing this for an agency. For them to really get a sense of who's gonna be best for the project because even if we have a lot of ideas that we really want to do and we think are perfect for this, they ultimately know the brand. They know better. If they don't think we're right for it they might be right and they might sometimes having that filter isn't necessarily a bad thing, and there have been jobs when we ... It's been a single bid and we're just been given the job and it's turned out that it was a nightmare because they ...
Neither of us really knew what we were getting into and it just wasn't a great fit. You never know with pitching but it's certainly not a perfect system I would say. I would reiterate that whenever I start a job it's always nice to look at things other than other motion design things that have been done. I mean if your references are like [sign] up and brand new school and that you're gonna do the same stuff they're doing which they've ... All these places do amazing work but if you're just copying what other places do and being inspired by them, you're not gonna get anywhere new.
For me it's always fun to look outside specifically the motion world and even the art world like going into like ... We've done projects that required lots of data visualization, things going into the tech world and much more of the scientific world and sort of really trying to go into rather than letting other companies that have done similar things, filter things for you really get as deep as you can into that subject and just be inspired whether it's by architecture or sculpture or photography or really just get out of the motion design industry.
For me it's a matter of being constantly researching and it's not a matter of what ... The same way that you don't cram just before test. You can and it's probably a good idea to do it but if that's the only studying you're doing then you're not doing enough. It's important to be ingesting as much media as you plan on producing, if not add a widely disproportionate ratio. Everyday before I start my day I'm researching. I'm taking in feeds that I'm trying to understand like what's out there to understand where do I fit.
Every day but that's part of it. Because our job is to distill a lot of information down to a single frame. Down to if we're going to the pitches, down to the single mood board. You have to be able to communicate the wills and desires of a client who generally doesn't know exactly what they want. You're having to pick up on micro expression, on little things here and there that they're saying and you're hoping that you can, the job that you're doing to filter out that media overload, that information overload.
It's your job to refine that down and to turn that into a succinct piece regardless. Because you're the one who has to come with the answers. It's your job to compose the image, to time it out, to have it make sure that it emotes. There is a tactual aspect of things kind of getting simpler. There's a root aspect, I'm starting to see where you have applications like ZBrush, Mari, BodyPaint and [unintelligible] 4D.
These items start becoming tactile where there was a time and there will always be this subset where you're gonna have the heavy coders. The Python scriptors, the mail scriptors who are gonna be basically building how your app should be working. There has been this recent kind of bloom of more tactile and direct approaches to creating high quality pieces of material that don't require you to be a great modeller.
There are certain simplifications and certain speed ramps that have been happening now that allow for someone who maybe doesn't have a deep 3D background to get in there and get something knocked out in kind of a faster turnaround, and that ease of use in that almost more obvious workflow. I'm seeing more and more picking up in these kind of different areas where you don't necessarily need to be too overly neckbeardy to kind of get in. Like it has something that works.
A little bit unrelated but in the area of computer animation and more like CG features and things like that I feel like there's been this aesthetic that has been kind of trying to go for realism but in a cartoony way and I feel like ... I'm starting to see a lot of films that are actually taking much more artistic approaches to doing these very heavy 3D character animation pieces like the new Peanuts movie if you've seen the trailer for that. It's a very unique aesthetic that doesn't look like a normal CG movie.
I feel like there's a ... They're artist or directors are starting to understand that you can take CG in directions that doesn't just look like what you think of a CG. It's like wide open in terms of aesthetic the way you can do with it. Really it's just imagining what else you can, where else you can push that aesthetic. I think a lot of this always come down to the artist himself. As we were saying before, you bring your own aesthetic to it and so if you're completely dependent upon just the tools then you're probably taking maybe too technical approach into it but at the same time the technology, the advancement of technology and software is a big thing especially for freelance and individuals and small studio shops at this point because right now that's where getting the benefit of the added firepower.
The idea of switching to, of not having GPUs that are rendering things in the fraction of the time that the thing's used to or it being able to have a simpler render form that doesn't require a person who is just dealing with the data wrangling. That's where all of a sudden technology starts becoming a benefit because good software and good hardware gets out of your way. Because it shouldn't be about the software you're using, it shouldn't be about the hardware you're using. It should be about that those things are so solid that they allow you to do things that you just wanted to do.
You shouldn't be designing on the computer to the tools you should be the- [unintelligible] experience with the process. Exactly. You should be bringing your ideas and your concepts to the tools and they're just a vehicle to get you to where you want to be. One big thing I've noticed in the past few years is really just how democratized 3D has become. Where when I started in this industry it was like it was aftereffects and if you knew some 3D that really set you apart. You were special when you knew some 3D and you had entire 3D teams to do the 3D stuff when you needed to do 3D. Now you're kind of expect ...
Everyone is expected to know some similar 4D or some [IO] or something. If you're a freelancer and you're coming in, you're doing animation and you don't know any 3D application you're actually the barbarity these days which I think is both great. I mean we've actually had a surprisingly hard time finding great 2D animators sometimes. I think there's actually almost ... We've lost a little bit of that area where now when we see someone who is really good at doing great 2D animation with a lot of nice, just nice motion and weight to it and bounce and just like they really understand 2D animation, that's wow, we need to hold on to this guy.
It's so rare that we run across someone like you. This is going off a little bit of your question but I'm consistently amazed at how good the students are these days. Just like at least thinking back on what I was like when I would have school, it's like wow, these guys know so much more than I do. It is a little bit humbling to sort of see them but at the same time I think you're right that it has changed and I think that curriculums have become much more focused into the idea of motion design as its own field whereas when I was doing it it was graphic design so you were typography and how to do print and books.
It is a very different education. I think that there are benefits and down sides to both of those ways of doing it but it certainly is different. I also think that with ... We all now have access to the same teachers. We all go online and we all come watch the same tutorials. We all can kind of gain that access when we need to learn this stuff. That innovation and I think all the information has led to at times for a lot of the artists that I'm seeing has led to a bit of a loss of identity.
A lot of people have come in to this industry from their different backgrounds if they were sketching when they were a kid, if they were painting, if they like to do graphic design beforehand they're doing branding identity. You bring you into it and it's that ... It's your eye that generally speaking helps separate you from everyone else. When everyone else is getting trained by the exact same teachers and everyone's work starts looking the same. That's where you start getting this glazed kind of look where it's like yeah, it's good. It just looks like everything else.
I think we've finally come to terms with the fact that we're not gonna go back to the way the things were. Like the numbers that were there the time that it was there that's not coming back. Where we are now is the new lay of the land. This is like out new world order to a certain degree. To that end I think we've all come to grips with that that this is the way our world is going to be, and while technology is pushing along and there is this wonderful futurous moment that happens inside of that we won't be going back to I think the lushness and the excess at the same levels that we had previously and I think that that's good.
I think it actually makes better artists, I think it makes better content. I think it makes better people who are working inside of there. More variety. More variety. Personally what I'm excited by in the coming years is the advent of a physical computing, the new kinds of media that are being asked of. There has been a new kind of reemergence of the idea of the new media. While that used to flash and things like that that frankly our dirty word, the idea now of doing LED installations, gallery installations to help pieces massive concourse setups and live interactive media that's being done for major clients.
Now all of a sudden you're being able to bring all of the tools and the weapons that have been developed in the visual effects side and it's now being able to kind of cross into these more direct and interactive spaces. Things that maybe you kind of got when you do like little concert work or you kind of got if you do this one off piece but all of a sudden you're getting this really immaculate and really engaging pieces in the data vis world and it's now affecting us in our aesthetics. But in turn we're also now starting to creep into those worlds. You talked to the guys over at Framestore who are breaking new ground on a daily basis with a lot of this kind of stuff.
The opportunity now to start making graphics and doing motion design for content and context is different than what we've been allowed to work on before is for me the most exciting because the rules are less. There's a bit of a wild west aspect. I'm in this industry because I love to learn new things and I love to be surprised by new things that happen. I just want that it can either happen and it's like there are constantly new technologies coming out, there's a new software constantly.
I'm in this because I was studying graphic design and I saw what's motion design? That sounds interesting, I'll learn something new and it's just sort of my entire career has been this sort of ongoing that looks interesting, why don't I learn that? It sounds entertaining for me to I don't know, why not? Let's grab on that and try that. I don't really like this. Try this other thing. It's just sort of trying things and playing around. It's actually just trying to have a good time doing these things. For me that is learning new things so as long as new things continue to happen which I'm sure they will.
I think personally I will, I'll continue to enjoy it.
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