Case Study — Pixel Show 2016
Pixel Show is the biggest creative festival in Latin America. It gathers professionals from different areas, such as design, illustration, music, advertising, comics, etc. for a fair with stands, lectures and workshops. The task was to create its visual identity and an animated opening sequence of about 1 minute and 30 seconds to present all the invitees who were to speak.
I was a consultant for the visual identity, the animation director, and an animator too. This was a very long project, that took almost six months to be developed, during which I participated in the brainstorming for the creation of the characters. I followed the designers as they worked and also gave my opinion considering the stages that were yet to come. After that I conceived the animated part, coming up with the main line, doing the editing, directing the other animators and also dragging keyframes myself.
We went through all the main ones in the Adobe suite. Illustrator for the sharp vectorial look, inevitable Photoshop, sketches and details on Flash/Animate, and finally a lot of work on After Effects. And of course, before, during and forever after, lots of paper and pencil.
Screens of different softwares used.
Folks from Zupi Mag contacted me in early March, 2016. I had worked with them the year before doing something similar, so I was happy that they got in touch again. As mentioned before, it was a long project with a very low budget. At that time I was busy with other things, so they came up with the duo of illustrators Carlos and Fabiana (a.k.a. Marmota vs. Milky) to produce the visual identity. We agreed that I would participate as a consultant, coming back later to make the animation during the summer.
Their basic briefing was to have something colourful involving different characters that would represent the variety of professionals the event would bring together. Marmota vs. Milky really did a great job and came up with a very sharp concept, also developing other elements besides the characters to enrich the visuals.
First sketches made by Carlos and Fabiana.
All the characters developed for the spot, representing different creative fields. From left to right: music, procrastination, design, tattoo, advertising, academic studies, street art, photography, fashion and animation.
One of the first posters designed for the event by Marmota vs. Milky. It was later translated into one of the scenes of the animated spot.
I gave my opinion here and there and by early June I started a rough of the animation. Since the looks evolved into a vectorial thing with an Anime/Cartoon Network feel, I decided to structure the film as a presentation of the characters, a little bit like a cartoon opening from the 80’s or the introduction screens of video games like Street Fighter. Basically, that meant that the figures would present their "professional features" with some movement, but just enough, and with a smart edition intercalating them and the names of the thirteen participants, we would get to fill the timeline properly. Considering our limited resources and the comfortable deadline, it turned out to be a good idea. It would be impossible for a small team to produce complex character animation, as we were all also working on other parallel projects at the same time to pay our bills.
After getting the approval from the client, I made the opening scene from start to end, so both them and my team could have a clear reference of how everything was going to look like when finished. I worked simultaneously on After Effects and Flash, doing the final clean up of the character using shape layers to preserve the vectorial look. I also defined how the type would appear and animated a lot of the other elements in a way we could reuse them quickly and customize their colours if needed. One problem we had was how we would animate this sort of liquid element that was present in all the layouts. Traditional animation would be too time consuming, so we did some tests and opted for using a particle system, leaving only some small details to be made frame by frame.
Wireframe from the After Effects composition of the first scene of the spot.
Next I divided the work, assigning who was going to do what. I had two animators available, Thiago Pinho and Leandro Franci, and we all agreed it would better to focus on the characters. We spoke a bit about their personalities and their possible behaviours. I left them free to use the process they felt the most comfortable with, as long as the final result was aligned with what we were going for. We got all the scenes structured, and while they refined their characters I had time to work on details that would tie everything together. All of that took us until early September to finish. I still did a short cut for television and some variations for the screens of the event.
More sketches and wireframes.
Obviously, like in any other project, the conditions were not perfect. Like I mentioned, the budget was very limited, which basically meant that some of the people involved had to agree to work for free.
The other thing I wish could have happened differently was me not participating in the sound creation. I had constant care during the production to keep the animation fluid and to build a nice timing, keeping things constantly in movement with ramps of speed. However, the person in charge of the music was hired by the client at a late stage of the process and because of that we couldn't work in a collaborative way. It can be very tricky to achieve a good result in animation without sound reference, and I was forced to make the whole film without any audio. It was all added in the last minute. In the end I guess we were lucky, I don’t think it’s something noticeable to someone from outside, but it’s far from what I expected, specially when it came to the synchronisation.
I can say both me and the organisers of the event were very satisfied with the final result. It’s not always that one has the opportunity to work in such a long project. It was a challenge to make it happen with the budget that we had and the extension it demanded, but it was rewarding because of the freedom and confidence that we received from the client. We managed to produce a relatively long piece without making it boring, giving the attention to detail and fluidity I wanted to. I think it turned out being very accurate to the printed material and it translates quite well the fun spirit of the characters.
Here’s the final spot, hope you enjoy it!