Live Performance Graphics: Jencarlos Canela

Besides Marc Anthony for Premios Juventud 2013, I did a song for Jencarlos Canela called “I Love It.” Our performance was tied to the music video which featured some paint effects. My general direction was just to feature bright, neon paint as many ways I could.

Paint is hard to simulate since it is a liquid that moves very organically. It’s also presents problems with loops, since once paint splatters, sprays, or drips it can’t really backup and drip back to the way it started. So I had to come up with some creative ways to make my content loops so it can be played constantly without jumping. Some of them were just stock clips that I had to hit with a few effects in After Effects. Usually it was just a Luma Key to put the paint off a black background and a effect like Hue/Saturation to colorize it a certain way.

But for the opening part of the song producers wanted the screens to have dripping paint and I couldn’t find any good stock for that. So I shot it myself, it looked like this:


It was far from an ideal setup, just me slinging black paint on a poster board in a dimly lit warehouse for a couple hours. But I pulled a matte with the contrast between the paint and the board, then cleaned up the matte with a few tools and added a little but of glow, turbulence for the curve of the drips, and obviously some color to the plain black drips. It was a lot of work for something that was only going to be on the screens for 30 seconds.

The loop I liked the most came during the instrumental bridge of the song. As is a theme with my performance content, I try to keep things simple but have them stand out. I was running out of paint video so I decided to make some movement…without any actual movement. My favorite textures site is CGTextures, I use them all the time and they have saved my butt many times. And they certainly came in handy here:


I grabbed a bunch of high resolution stills of paint splats, then I lined them up on my After Effects timeline and cropped them after 10 frames, then went to the top menu to Animation -> Keyframe Assistant -> Sequence Layers which lined up my layers one after another. Then I set an Adjustment Layer above the paint splats with Hue/Saturation to shift the color every 10 frames as well, using the Wiggler. If you set these keyframes to be hold keyframes, the color will randomly jump every 10 frames without any easing between keyframes. The result is a cycling animation of paint splats jumping at a pace, and it really fit with the rhythm of the song. I shifted the colors and sequence of the splats to get different patterns going across all the screens. This is an example of what kind of motion you can create…without any actual motion.

The goal of these shows is to create memorable acts that look unique and different from each other. It seems like I did the job if you compare my Marc Anthony content with my Jencarlos Canela content.


Live Performance Graphics: Marc Anthony

Here’s a sample for my graphics for a live performance of Marc Anthony’s Vivir Mi Vida at Premios Juventud 2012 in Miami, FL.

So when I ask what the theme for the act is and it’s just “umbrellas” that doesn’t sound terribly exciting. The producers tried to tie together the performance with umbrellas by handing them out to twirl for the fans and make it appear on the broadcast as if it was raining, there’s a line in the beginning of the song that talks about rain. Of course I would like to forgo any focus on the audience and instead focus on the projection screens I made graphics for.

I picked a set of colors to stick with ranging from like teal and blue paired with orange and yellow, those are Florida colors all the way. I designed a few elements in Cinema 4D like an umbrella, sunglasses, a beachball to kind build up a whole beach theme. Designing a 3D funtioning umbrella was actually pretty tough, so I took a few shortcuts since nobody is going to be very critical as to how the umbrella looks or opens up.

From there I threw the umbrellas in a few Radial Cloners in MoGraph and spun them around to create that sort of hypnotizing, spinning motion, or maybe something that reminds you of synchronized swimming. I supplemented the graphics with a still of beach sand and some water I made using Trapcode Form, which was key because you could make the water loop easily.


I always like to throw some simple patterns in there and I actually really liked how the ones I made for this loop turned out. I made these vertical stripes that were kind of twitching and fading in and out between teal, white and orange. I used a great setup in Cinema 4D and MoGraph for this to program that randomness. I had a Random Effector that would switch seeds every 10 frames, and the interpolation between keyframes was set to Step, so that would switch abruptly. And on top that I applied a Formula Effector with the Color mode active, and that applied a cascading grayscale color over my stripes. From there I took it into After Effects and layer a couple different instances of these renders on top of each other. Then I tinted the layers white, teal, and orange, and the blending between them creates a lot of motion with minimal effort. I really liked how this one simple loop turned out, I’ll probably recycle the project files down the road for a different act.


All in all I like how it turned out. The song is very catchy and the loops blended well together and with the beach themed set design and broadcast.

Live Performance Graphics: Pitbull

Pitbull was the opening act for the Latin Grammys in 2012 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. When you have the opening act for the show, they tell you to take your graphics an double the energy for it. So I had to create something very exciting to start the show. His song “Don’t Stop the Party” is about a noble quest for one man to not stop the party, regardless of the circumstances.

The set for the act was all gold everything, so I made a lot of my graphics metal and shiny and also paired it with red colors as well, which tend to compliment gold. Usually this is the case, they set the parameters for your design through the set design and the props, and you kind of build your work off of that. Initially they wanted me to build a sort of structural design with like this golden palace, but eventually it shifted to a more graphical look with me doing my own thing.

This stage happened to be covered in zig-zagging LED screens, which are much brighter than the projection screens in the back. Usually the stages I’ve done are fairly balanced between LED screens and projection screens, but this time the stage design was leaning heavily on the use of LED screens. I designed my animations to work well in very long, skinny sections to better fit the LED stripes.


The first sample seems incredibly simple… because it is. It’s just a Linear Cloner of a tapered Cube in Cinema 4D, with some lights flashing on a shiny gold material. The cubes are spinning in a pattern that is not totally uniform, which is just a touch of randomness I always try to use in my designs. With this very wide aspect ratio I could position these all along the LED stripes and have this shiny gold texture moving spinning differently on various screens.


I also used the motion graphics lynchpin Trapcode Particular to do a series of defocused dancing particles. Particles are always good because they can be worked into just about anything and can be colorized or styled in a variety of ways. I could easily take these particles and change them to be like a dark blue or purple and slow them down and used them for a slower, more dramatic song. I probably will in another show and hope you don’t call me out on it.

After doing enough of these shows I figured out ways to get more motion out of your graphics, rather than strictly animating everything by hand. I like to use expressions in After Effects to block out certain screens with different timing patterns. I’ll divide up my composition with masks, in a way that corresponds to the layout of the LED screens fed into the media server at the venue. Then I will place black solids or adjustment layers on top of them, and use my trusty companion, the Wiggle expression. By placing the “Wiggle(F,A)” expression inside a layer’s Transparency setting, where F stands for the frequency and A stands for the amplitude, you’ll get a random fading in and out of the black solid, which will make the screens flicker on and off during the song. It’s incredibly easy to do just to get some random, simulated movement without using any keyframes.

I included an After Effects project here which is a simple setup showing some of the same expressions I’ve used before for shows. I use it to make screens, flicker, cascade, or kind of pulse with varying frequencies and rhythms. You can check it out and see how math can be your friend when you have to a deadline to meet for a live show happening in a couple hours.

Cascade_1 Cascade_1 Cascade_1 Cascade_1

The final result had a lot of energy and set the stage for a great show. I think this one turned out well and looked great on the wide shots.

This is the first thing I ever made in After Effects

Behold this greatness. I started using After Effects in summer of 2005. Prior to that I was mostly just a Final Cut Pro guy, editing short videos and home movies. I knew Photoshop to an extent, and eventually I got to the point where there were things I wanted to do with video that I could do with photos in Photoshop.

That led me to After Effects. The date on these files is marked as 6/8/2005, so they are almost 7 years old. I guess this could be considered my entire demo reel in 2005. I worked at an ad agency that made car commercials by the bushel, and they were fast and cheap designs. Well, maybe not designs as much as they were car salesman screaming this sketchy and misleading deal RIGHT NOW before it’s too late.

The footage of the Mustang is from Ford. They rotate the camera and car around and give you the clip and a matte to work with in case you want to composite. And composite I did!

In the first clip, I placed the car behind a stylish premade background from Digital Juice. Then I designed a speedometer in Photoshop and angled it in a 3D layer. I shrewdly separated the needle from the rest of the speedometer so I could do that sweet rotation move as the car’s speed revved up, despite it not driving anywhere. And somehow the whole speedometer starts getting all shaky and crazy but the needle stays perfectly still. You were supposed to feel the raw power of the car with all that shaking but now it just looks weird to me. I give myself an A for effort!

In the second clip, I merely took a dark sky stock footage and placed the car in front of it. I must have had the car filled with a black layer or used the matte to cut out the shape of the car from a solid, then I faded it out and brought the car to light.

MY work has gotten better since then (I hope), through nothing but absorbing tutorials and building project after project. You force yourself to get better by learning how to do things correctly or by creating projects that are based on an effect that people consider quality work. I think it’s important to remember what’s not on your reel and why, and it’s worthwhile to go back and look at work that really isn’t THAT old and see how far you’ve come.

Protagonistas Show Opening

Me and a couple other animators were given less than a week to prepare an entire graphics package for this new show called “Protagonistas.” The producers left the graphics on the backburner in the hands of some animators that weren’t cutting it for about 3 months. I would have loved to collect checks and produce subpar graphics for 3 months, but instead I was asked to make something nice in about 5 days.

Protagonistas follows the cookie cutter reality show format of: Auditioning contestants in front of 3 judges -> move selected contestants into house -> sit back and watch them fight/argue/have sex/argue about sex fights -> vote contests off until a star is born.

This show searches for the next big telenovela star. I was denied an opportunity to be on the show to which I am still outraged. Just because I’m white and don’t speak Spanish shouldn’t preclude me from becoming a telenovela star. I could totally be on Que Hora Es? and they know this. I will have to catch my big break at another time.

I highlighted the main part pf the show’s opening that I did in this clip, they added some sound effects and music for the broadcast addition. I had to make a tunnel full of screens showcasing clips of the contestants on the show. They wanted all this to feel like we are going into the camera lens, which is the main element of the show’s logo. The tunnel is a heavy render in Cinema 4D with the help of MoGraph. I modeled one flat screen TV and placed it in a radial cloner, then made a linear cloner of each radial cloner. The camera is set to have a very wide lens to make the tunnel appear a lot deeper than it actual is. I had to apply different clips to each TV so there was some variety among the monitors, so there were a lot of materials. I didn’t have Cinema 4D 13 at my disposal so I couldn’t use the new multishader setting where you can add entire folders to just one material.

The shutter is a transition I made with another radial cloner to the contestants on the show. They wanted a sort of “beam me up Scotty” effect to introduce the characters. Each contestant enters through a combination of effects like linear wipe, turbulent displace, and emitting some particles using Trapcode Particular. I used a lot of tech overlays from the Motion Designer’s Toolkit because having pre-rendered footage like that is the only way I could pull that off in a few days.

This intro marks the first time in Univison history that the female contestants are wearing more clothes than the males. Despite concerns from me and multiple other people with common sense that framing the male characters waist up without a shirt will make people think they are naked, this is exactly what the shows producers wanted to infer. There was plenty of room for me to include the tops of their pants, but I was told to scale them up so that viewers will obviously be so captivated by a bunch of naked hombres on the screen. This will clearly lead to incredible ratings, increased advertising revenue, and ensure that the visionaries that insist on shooting guys waist up without shirt get promoted.

Fix it in Post: Summer Campaign

If by any chance you’ve seen a commercial break on Univision in the past few months you’ve probably seen my promos for the network, suggesting you to enjoy the summer on Univision. Since it’s August already, I strongly recommend you tune in ASAP and absorb one of the many different promos I did for summer before it’s too late for you to disfruta el verano. They feature various on air personalities doing cheesy-fun summer stuff outside. Strangely I myself was not cast to be in any of the fun vignettes with beach balls, picnics, and tropical drinks with umbrellas in them. Weird. Maybe next time.

But you know you’ve hit it big when your work is featured across the web among articles wondering how Paulina Rubio looks in a bathing suit after having a baby.

Each promo ends with a shot of a nice summer scene where I placed an animation of the Univision logo splashing out of the water. The one shot that was deemed the most important of all the endings was a tilting shot from the hotel balcony overlooking beautiful Miami Beach. It was to make you want to jump through your TV on the spot and hopefully land in the Atlantic, except that it looked like this:
green beach

/sad trombone

Awwwww. Why is it all…green? Did we have to shoot directly into the sun? There’s no detail in the water and sky, you know, the stuff that will make it look kinda nice. Really, this is the shot I’m supposed to work with? OK BRING IT:

Basically I created a scene that wasn’t technically real at all, I replaced, enhanced, and added just about everything you see. This is what I feel like a beach is supposed to look like, whether you can actually find a beach that looks like a postcard is not TV’s problem. I could direct you to way better effects breakdowns from bigger studios to show you that the best composites actually go unnoticed, and you have toruble figuring out what parts of the the image are real and what’s been fixed in post production, or you probably don’t think about it at all.

I started by tracking the camera move so that I could position all my new layers properly in the animation. The originally clip needed a massive color correction, the white balance of the camera wasn’t even close, so I had to remove a lot of green to make the beach look somewhat normal. The sun had blown out the exposure and made the water and sky look awful, so I basically took the water detail from the right hand side of the screen and finessed it into the left side of the screen so there would actually be something there. I replaced the sky with a clear image, and color corrected both new pieces to look very saturated and rich, something to original image lacked entirely. From here it was adding the 3D logo I animated in Cinema 4D, as well as compositing the water into the composition. I wish I knew how to use Real Flow, but the water is from the Compositor’s Tool Kit from Digital Juice. I matched up some pieces and had to time remap the clips just so the splashes and condensation looked right with the logo. Then I added a fake sun to make the image a little hazier, I simply placed it in the same spot as the original sun.

The result is a scene that would be nearly impossible to capture in nature, but since you are accustomed to seeing picturesque beach scenes like this, you hardly give it a second thought as to if it’s real or not. And then you rewind your DVR to watch Chiquinquirá Delgado float by on the raft again.

Yea I really wish I could have gone on location for this shoot.

Musical Particle Streaks

Here’s a sample of some particle streaks that I made in After Effects using Trapcode Particular. They were for Univision’s Upfront presentation in 2011, where the network unveiled new programming and company statistics for the upcoming year. It was like a big interactive Powerpoint presentation, except Pitbull performed. I’ve never made a Powerpoint presentation with Pitbull.

This was the opening sequence of the event, almost like a countdown with musical instruments tuning up before the show was about to start. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to do this, less than I would have liked. Each shot with a musician was to be contained in one of 8 screens spread around the New Amsterdam Theater in New York. The trail was designed to lead the audience across the stage to the next screen, and have the trail die off in the next frame. I couldn’t really show that without the actual set up in the venue, so I just combined them into one video for the post.

Each streak is actually 4 different kinds of emitters: one for the puff of smoke in the beginning, the main fat streak, the other skinny streaks, and the floating dust particles. I probably set a personal record for most particles ever used, they were a bit heavy when rendering in HD.

Live Performance Loops – Premio Lo Nuestro

I did a some content for the show Premio Lo Nuestro this year. This is the second awards show I’ve done content for, also for the 2010 Latin Grammys. I designed the video content that goes on the screens behind the artists when they preform. It’s not just a giant TV behind them, but it’s little accent monitors and displays around the entire stage and venue. It’s definitely a different medium to showcase your work and requires different techniques than traditional motion design for television. In this case, the art is not the focus of the viewer, it’s supplemental to the live performance by the artist. It took me awhile to not think in terms of designing a music video, but something larger that lends itself to the style and artist of the the performance. And once I actually see the content on broadcast TV, it becomes apparent from various camera angles and perspectives that you rarely see your entire design, unless it’s a very wide camera shot. Therefore things can’t appear too big on the screen, and you also can’t focus too much on minute details because they become lost in a performance with singers, dancers, flashing lights, panning cameras, stage effects, etc.

I’m not sure how long these videos will last before the Univison lawyers go off on them, but I’ll try and keep them up as long as I can.

The first one I did was for Ricky Martin. It was not my favorite piece by far. I was given very little time to produce this because of various hold ups with his management. I spent only a couple days designing and executing a iece that was over 3 minutes long, while my other loops were tested and fleshed out over the course of a several weeks. It was too generic for my taste, basing it on a Trapcode Form style animation was not my idea or personal cup of tea.

The next artist I did content for was Tony Dize. The performance was supposed to have a Japanese theme in terms of art direction, so I styled my loops accordingly. I didn’t feel like the set and stage props really tied it together, and I felt like my loops were a little out of place. The opening was a Japanese style room with sliding paper doors revealing a peace bridge scene outside. I also made a koi pond with rippling water and some koi fish I was pretty proud of. I took a still photo and manipulated it to move using some bend effects in After Effects, so it appeared to swim as a real fish. I also made some falling cherry blossom petals and falling red maple leaves for separate scenes. I originally had them paint on over the duration of the loop, but the creatives above me didn’t feel like the effect translated well to the big screens, so I left it on the paper canvas and added the final paint texture to the entire duration of the loop.

I’d like to thank Nick Campbell, the Greyscale Gorilla for publishing a tutorial awhile back based on an effect he saw using reflective glass. It was pretty much exactly what my creative director described that he wanted here for Prince Royce, and I had previously viewed the tutorial so I knew what to do. I added a twist to part of it by launching the reflective glass pieces into the air and having them fall back down with gravity out of the bottom of the frame.

The last artist I did was for Fuego, and it was the act thgat closed the show so that was kind of cool. Obviously being named Fuego, we tied in a fire theme. I presonally love working with fire footage, and I used this 3K FIre Footage from Rampant Media Design Tools for some of my content. I made some nightclub lasers, a full concert stage, dancing girls among fire, as well as various generic fire loops to tie in to his 2 song medley.

All in all it’s a cool gig to design for, it definitely breaks up the monotony that can come from designing the same things for TV all the time.

Snow Globe Animation – Lower Third Countdown

I forgot to post this after the start of the New Year, but it’s a little snow globe countdown animation I did for the show Despierta America. It popped up in the corner every hour or so on the TV broadcast to remind you how soon Christmas was coming. I made 2 versions, one counting down the days until Christmas and one counting down until New year’s Day. I had to come up with something holiday themed, so I designed this snow globe and made it happen. The globe was modeled in Cinema 4D with some reflections and glass materials. I added the numbers inside the globe and made them kind of flow back and forth with a Formula Effector in Mograph, then I randomized it for each number so that they would be slightly different each day.

I brought it into After Effects and first positioned and animated it in the bottom left corner of the screen. Once it was in place I created a little snow storm inside it with Trapcode Particular. I have only seen snow once in my life, so I had to do hours and hours of research to study how exactly now moves to get the best looking effect I possibly could (no I didn’t). The rest of it was adding little glows, flares, snowflakes, and sparkles to make it fun and festive to go with the holiday. I drew a simple zig-zag Christmas tree and traced it on underneath the effects. It’s a simple but effective animation.

The New Year’s one was very similar, but instead of the tree I created a confetti particle system that launched colored confetti all over the corner of the screen.

Univision Promo: James Bond Watch

I guess I play the role of Q in this promo for Unvision features Raul de Molina of El Gordo y La Flaca. He is supposed to be James Bond and I was in charge of creating this gadget watch for him to use. Instead of having it turn into an Aston Martin, a gun, or an Aston Martin made of guns, I made it turn into the Univsion logo. I suppose I should just stick with C4D instead of MI6.

The original clip contains none of the moving parts, it’s just a plain close-up on the watch. The gold watch itself is probably worth more than every car I’ve ever had. I can’t imagine spending that much money on a watch (not that I actually have to worry about it) that only tells me what time it is and looks like clunky and ugly. I am an authority on men’s fashion so I should know.
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