Live Show Reel

Here’s a sampling of my animation and motion graphics work I’ve done for various live events. It’s different than some of my usual broadcast design stuff on my other reel.

It’s a process of design animation and motion that is mapped across a stage or an arena, so there’s different techniques used to make you graphics fit to something that size. Instead of preparing something to be viewed on a 50 inch TV, you are working on 30 foot screens and disjointed LED panels.

Last updated 5/1/2016

Music: Rataxes – Holding Hands – Creative Commons 3.0
soundcloud.com/rataxesuk/rataxes-holding-hands

Content © Univision Communications Inc

Getting Familiar with d3

My goal every year is to learn something new in terms of computer software, for two reasons:

  1. A popular application you use today may not be what everyone is using 5, 10, or 20 years later. If you don’t examine what other programs are capable of and be aware of complementary or replacement software, you might get left behind someday.
  2. Learning something new gives you more utility and makes you more versatile as a designer.

A couple years ago I learned X-Particles, last year I focused more on TurbulenceFD. This year I learned d3.

What is d3?
Great question!

According to the d3 Technologies website, d3 is:

The world’s first integrated video production suite, d3 is more than just a media server. Based around a real-time 3D stage simulator, it is the single solution needed to design, present, communicate, sequence and playback logoyour show. d3 lets you work with props, venues, LED screens, projection, lighting and moving stage elements, while being completely integrated into a single intuitive software solution that runs on your own laptop or dedicated d3 hardware.

To summarize their summary, basically d3 handles almost the entire process for designing and executing a live performance.


My experience with live performances mostly comes from doing the animation content for musical performances at award shows and some sales presentations. Prior to d3, I would create animations in Cinema 4D or After Effects and render it within a template that tells you what part of the image is sent to the different screens on a stage based on the X and Y position coordinates of pixels. Multiple screens get combined on to one template composition, which has gotten exceedingly high in resolution. Nothing slows you down more in After Effects than trying to do a RAM preview on a 14,000 x 4000 composition. The d3 blows that process out of the water and makes you never want to work that way again.

The advantages of d3:

1. It plays back in real time.

I pray to the animation gods that one day After Effects will be able to play a Quicktime movie without needing a RAM preview. Maybe it will happen before I die. Until then, d3 will pick up the slack. I can get 10 different Quicktime movies (HAP codec works well) looping back in real time without making a preview. It just… does it for you. It’s a huge timesaver to not have to wait for the computer to cook up a preview for you. It’s like the difference between developing film at a 1 hour photo versus looking at one instantly on a digital camera. Your hardware makes a difference, a good video card and a SSD drive are essential for reliable real time playback.

2. It maps your graphics to a stage where they belong.

The whole process can work like this: you can design stage layout in maybe a program like Vectorworks, bring it into a 3D application and build a model, and then export the screens in d3 and have their position and scale be accurate to the venue where you’ll be working in. Pixels aren’t a physical measurement. The same amount of pixels in your TV screen can be used to to fill a screen that’s 30 feet tall. Instead of seeing your images on a flat, one-size-fits all composition, you can see how they compliment each other inside an accurate model of the venue, telling you how well your graphics are fit the physical space of the screens.

 

3. No rendering!

Perhaps my favorite feature. Since it handles everything so well in real time, d3 is able to just play your timeline as it’s laid out without having to render a “final movie” like you would in After Effects. This prevents you from having to set your project up to maybe spend half a day rendering while you can’t work on your computer. It allows you to customize and adjust the individual clips on the fly, without ever committing to a final render. It is ultimately faster and more flexible, and that’s always a welcome combination.

4. Music becomes your timecode.

d3 uses an audio file for timing instead of more traditional, timecode based timelines. It times things out by bars, which can be color-coded and sectioned off to organize your edit. It was confusing to me at first; it helps to be more inclined and familiar with music because you can quantize audio to fit the timeline to the rhythm of the song. So every chorus, verse, bridge, intro, outro, etc. can be properly spaced out on your timeline, and the total length of your animations will sync up with the markers on your timeline. It makes total sense when you see it work within a song, where every 4 bars the music and lyrics change right on time. d3 makes changing and timing your graphics on to the beat approximately 100,000 times easier than in a program like After Effects.

5. The interface is RAW.

I love the raw, old school interface of d3 with absolutely zero bells and whistles. Keep it like that forever. I don’t care if it looks a GUI from the 1980s, it works very well and that’s what really matters. I choose functionality over gradients, bevels, customizable fonts and crap like that. The program itself is very light and doesn’t feel bloated from years of extra features trying to convince you to upgrade to the latest version. I hope it stays like that forever.

D3_interface


Here’s my most current example for Premios Juventud 2015 in July. I created this sort of Avatar Style/ Fern Gully forest in Cinema 4D and After Effects. Those programs (or their substitutes) will still be where you do the bulk of your designing. d3 has some capabilities for making adjustments, but it;s not a graphic design program.

I worked with regular sized HD comps in my design applications, and placed them on various screens of all different sizes in the arena via d3. Here’s a sample:

Here is a still render of the scene and the preview in Cinema 4D. I sculpted that stump and then worked it into a modified Landscape Primitive. I added Hair for the grass, gave it a little motion and ping-ponged it for looping purposes. The dandelions were also made in Cinema 4D, made with the Feather object. I took one little petal of it and used it as a particle for a Trapcode Particular emitter back inside After Effects.

For rendering I used the Physical Renderer in Cinema 4D. I wanted a shallow depth of field to make it feel like the forest was really large and the performance was just a tiny part inside the scene. It made render times skyrocket but it was worth it because I needed that lens effect. For compositing I really just layered some foreground grass and a main hero dandelion to emit my particles, some little dust, some light leaks, and gave it a sort of fantasy-style color treatment to make it not feel like a forest designed without so much realism.

tree_stump_scene

I still want to learn the ins and outs of the whole process of d3. I am just one part of the assembly line, I design the content and fit it to the song and the stage. But it contains more power that simply just designing, it actually runs the show behind the scenes involving other people who are smarter than me.

It’s a very young program, so young that I tried searching for help for a tech issue on it and all the results were from a video game forum. The name “d3” is too widely used, getting more information on it from a Google search can be tricky. Hell I was presenting at a conference called D3 that had nothing to do with it, they just called the organization D3 as well.

d3 was used during Katy Perry’s halftime show for the Super Bowl this year and I expected the program to blow up. But d3 is quietly going about their business behind the scenes, hovering with just 850ish Twitter followers as of today (Maxon has about 38K, Adobe has like 415K) and I’m totally good with that. I look forward to learning more about this great program, I hope I can become a near expert before everyone else figures out how awesome it is. I want to be a d3 hipster one day.

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:

paint_drips_camera_web

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:

paint_splats

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.

jencarlos1_web

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.

sidebyside1

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.

marc_anthony1_web

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: Upfront 2013

I had to create graphics for a segment of Univison’s 2013 Upfront presentation in New York City at the New Amsterdam Theater. An Upfront is basically a fancy powerpoint presentation touting a networks past accomplishments for the year while demonstrating what else is coming on the horizon, and it gets exceedingly more elaborate each year. My animation was supposed to be a weather alert that interrupts the show because it’s snowing outside, which was a themed segue to the debut of a new show.

IMG_3288

Basically received the direction to try to make it look like a news broadcast, just a quick bump that wipes to an exterior snow shot of Central Park. They were also going to pump fake wind and snow into the theater to sell the the effect some more.

We are currently redesigning the graphics for one of our news shows, and my producers referred me towards that. The graphics involve a lot of rings so I started adding all sorts of Tube primitives, Torus primitives, Sweep NURBS, and Radial Cloners just to create this elaborate looking ring design. I moved the camera and the object, trying to make this a complex looking shape. When all else fails and you have like 2 or 3 days to model, light, texture, and animate something that needs to look like it could belong on broadcast TV, you don’t get too picky or philosophical with questions like WHAT DOES THIS SHAPE MEAN MAN?

weatheralert

In After Effects I brought in the camera from Cinema 4D, so I could composite in some wind and snow that looks like it belongs with the ring. These weren’t 3D particles, just 2D clips I put in there pretty quickly, but they work well in the scene. I added some camera shake too which I tend to like, it makes the camera feel like it’s being affected by the motion design.

So that was the piece for the main screen, but I also had to create complimentary graphics that go along with the rest of the stage. There were secondary screens throughout the theater that needed to be tied together with the big screen on stage. I composed a bunch of tech overlays and scanline objects together, with some text that read “Weather Alert” all in red to contrast sharply with the cool blue look in the center. The final result was kind of cool and kind of cheesy in the delivery, but I still like how it came out.

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.

gold_bars_c4d

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.

particle_precomp

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.

2012 Reel Intro Design

I figured out awhile back that making something cool that introduces your reel is a free and easy way to create something completely unique on your own, without any clients being involved. You have the first and the final say in however it looks. It’s important to have something cool at the start of the reel to set the tone for the rest of your work; you want anybody checking out your stuff to have a positive first impression of what you are capable of designing.

So clearly the only correct answer in this situation is to create some sort of cylindrical, rejected, mechanical prop from Tron 2 and place a flat screen TV inside it with some glitchy video.

I started out just trying to create some sort of video revealer, and I watched and loved a lot of graphics on NFL Network this year so I think this sort of procedural-building-mechanical animation style was on my mind. If only all my work could look like Big Machine’s instead…

I made the basic a shape and cranked up the details, making some sort of sliding space tube. I imagined the TV inside presenting my reel, so I attached it to the inside with these robot claws and pieced the whole thing together. I experimented with different materials, and toyed with a sort of all white, clean room kind of look, but I love the super reflective black look, it probably makes people think I’m super-dangerous and slick. Maybe.

It was a heavy render out of Cinema 4D, I applied Ambient Occlusion to get some shadow detail inside the crevices. I used an External Compositing tag to replace the edit I did to introduce my reel with the footage inside the screen. It’s a more interesting way to introduce myself and tease the contents of my reel.

Finally, I updated my reel with some new stuff and final;ly scrubbed it of all those nasty car commercials. BIg day for me. I also added some new music from the Vimeo Music store, it’s a track by Human Factor called “Step on Back.” Well worth a $1.99, I love this track.

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.

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