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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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.

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