Motion Design Insights: NAB 2014

with Jeremy Cox and Brandon Parvini
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Motion Design Insights: NAB 2014
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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.


Motion design insights with Jeremy Cox and Brandon Parvini: NAB 2014

(smooth music) - [Voiceover] 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 that I think the term "motion graphics" is, to me it's always felt like a cheap term, and I always 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 80s and there's something cheap and chintzy 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 just this amalgam of all these elements put together, but it's a medium that combines graphic design, in motion, with all of these different elements put together. - I have always found that the notion of motion graphics or motion design is something that kind of exists all unto itself. It exists for itself.

In many ways, I'd say it's the most inclusive of the different subsets, because you talk about color, you talk about DI, you talk about visual effects. There's so many different kinds, like specific windows, and I think motion graphics is this area where they all cross over. You know, you can have all these different pieces that look wildly different if you're looking at your standard broadcast spot, or an identity piece, or n Tag, or a set of opening titles.

They all exist in this kind of crossover that is motion graphics to that degree, and so it ends up coming down more to the artists, of what are they bringing to that approach, because you're making it for the sake of making it to a certain degree, versus with visual effects, like okay the robot has to bash through the wall here as a story point. There's a reason why you're doing that, whereas the graphics, it's like you're trying to induce a sense of emotion, I think, but you don't have to do it.

It's a decision to do that piece of motion graphics. You could do a simple 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 if you're trying to communicate just basic 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. 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 going to choose one company, and that one company may have done five different directions. That's just a huge amount of work that's never going to 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. You really just need to make something, which sometimes is the hardest thing. You just need that push to do it. A 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, the agency, for them to really get a sense of who's going to 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 it's been a single bid, and we've just been given the job, and it turned out that it was a nightmare, because neither of us really knew what we were getting into, and it just wasn't a great fit.

You never know with pitching. 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 then other motion design things that have been done. If your references are Psyop and Brand New School and that, you're going to do the same stuff that they're doing, which all these places do amazing work, but if you're just copying what other places do and being inspired by them, you're not going to get anywhere new.

For me it's always fun to look outside, specifically the motion world and often even the art world, going into like... We've done projects where they required lots of data visualization and things and going into the tech world and much more of the scientific world and really trying to go into, rather then 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, really just get out of motion design industry.

- For me, it's a matter of being constantly researching, and it's not a matter of... The same way you don't cram just before a 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, and it's important to be ingesting as much media as you plan on producing, if not at a widely disproportionate ratio. Every day before I start my day, I'm researching and I'm taking in feeds that I'm trying to understand 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...

Every one of the pitches down to a 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 that the job 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 that has to come up 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 tactile aspect of things getting simpler. There's a roots aspect I'm starting to see, where you have applications like Zbrush, Moire, Body Paint inside of Cinema 4D, these items start becoming tactile where there was a time, and there will always be this subset where you're going to have the heavy coders, the Python scripters, the mail scripters who are going to be basically building how your app should be working, but there has been this recent bloom of more tactile and direct approaches to creating high quality pieces of material that don't require you to be a great modeler.

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 a faster turnaround. That ease of use and that almost more obvious workflow, I'm seeing more and more picking up in these different kind of areas where you don't necessarily need to be too overly neck-beardy to get in it like it has something that works.

- A little bit unrelated, but in the area of computer animation and more CG features and things like that, I feel like there's been this aesthetic that has been 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 taking a much more artistic approaches to doing these very heavy 3D character animation pieces, but 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 artists or directors are starting to understand that you can take CG in directions that doesn't just look like what you think of as CG. There are all ... It's like wide open in terms of aesthetic with what you can do with it, so really it's just imagining where else you can push that aesthetic. - I think a lot of this always comes down to the artist himself. As we were saying before, you bring your own aesthetic to it, so if you're completely dependent upon just the tools, then you're probably...

you're probably taking maybe too technical of an 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 in small studio shops at this point, because right now, that's where you're getting the benefit of the added firepower, the idea of switching, of now having GPUs that are rendering things in a fraction of the time that things used to, or being able to have a simpler render farm that doesn't require a person who's 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 we'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 really be designing on the computer or to the tools. - [Voiceover] It should be transparent to 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 After Effects 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 need to do 3D. Now it's you're kind of expected, everyone is expected to know some Cinema 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 a rarity these days, which I think is both great.

We've actually had a surprisingly hard time finding great 2D animators sometimes, so I think there's actually almost a... We've lost a little bit of that area, where now when we see someone who's really good at doing great 2D animation with a lot of nice, just nice motion and weight to it, and bounce, and they really understand 2D animation, that's like, "Wow, we need to hold onto this guy. "It's so rare that we run across someone like you." This is going off a little bit from your question, but I'm consistently amazed at how good the students are these days, at least thinking back on what I was like when I left school.

It's like, "Wow, these guys know so much more than I do." It is a little bit humbling to 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 studying typography and how to do print books. It is a very different education. I think that there are benefits and downsides to both of those ways of doing it, but it certainly is different.

- You know, I also think that with, you know, we all now have access to the same teachers. We all go online, and we all can watch the same tutorials. We all can gain that access when we need to learn this stuff, and that inundation of information has led to, at times, for a lot of the artists that I'm seeing, has led to a little bit of a loss of identity. When a lot of people have come into this industry from their different backgrounds, that they were sketching when they were a kid, if they were painting, if they like to do graphic design beforehand they were 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 when you start getting this glazed 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 going to go back to the way that things were. The numbers that were there, the time that was there, that's not coming back. - [Voiceover] Right. - Where we are now is the new lay of the land. This is our 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 that our world's going to be, and while technology is pushing along and there is this kind of wonderful futurist 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. - [Voiceover] More variety. - More variety, and personally I know what I'm excited by in the coming years is the advent of physical computing, the new kinds of media that are being asked of. There has been a new reemergence of the idea of the new media, and while that used to be Flash and things like that, that frankly were a dirty word, the idea now of doing LED installations, gallery, like installation-style pieces, massive concourse set-ups and live interactive media that's being done for major clients, now all of a sudden, you're being able to bring all the tools and the weapons that have been developed on the visual effects side, and it's now being able to cross into these more direct and interactive spaces, things that maybe you kind of got when you did live concert work or you kind of got if you did this one off piece, but now all of a sudden you're really getting this kind of 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 talk to the guys over at Framestore who are breaking new ground on daily basis with a lot of this kind of stuff, and the opportunity now to start making graphics and doing motion design for content and context that is different from what we've been allowed to work on before, is for me the most exciting, because the rules are less. There is 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, and I just want that to continue to happen.

It's like, there are constantly new technologies coming out. There's new software constantly, and I'm in this because I was studying graphic design and I saw, "Oh, what's motion design? "That sounds interesting. "I'll learn something new," and it's just sort of my entire career has been this ongoing, "Oh that looks interesting. "Why don't I learn that? "It sounds entertaining for me to... "Why not? "Let's just grab on that and try that. "No, I didn't really like that. "Let's 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 continue to enjoy it.

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