Brent Barson, a professor at Brigham Young University and fellow alumnus of Typophile’s Joseph Pemberton, did the first three Typophile Film Fest opening credits. Last year though, he proposed that the project be created by the students of his Visual Arts 441 / BYU senior class and that he work in more of a supervisor/director role. I asked Brent in what regards the video for the fourth edition is different from the three previous ones.
B R E N T “It is different in that there were a lot of talented people working on it! We were able to handle a much greater concept and the heavy production because of the students, who were directed on the story, writing, and storyboards by Eric Gillett and Linda Sullivan. It was Eric’s idea to have the students work on the piece. I thought that was a great idea, to not do it by myself, and it went on from there”
“I did the first three virtually by myself; the first year I was assisted solely by the Prelinger archives on Archive.org. The other years I had help from Mike Saltsman (cinematography & 3D motion tracking), Chad Smith (3D models), and Wynn Burton (closing credits), who was a BYU student at the time. But yes, the fourth edition is the first one created by a class of students and faculty members.”
The students, all undergraduates, were Senior-class designers – the second of two years in the BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) Graphic Design program. The class' age range was 22–33, with most students being around 25 years old. C O L E “The Graphic Design program at BYU is very selective in who it accepts (only about 15 per year), and very demanding once in the program. In some places – most notably around New York City – it is recognized as one of the top 3 or 4 design schools in America, competing with art schools like Art Center and SVA. Several members of our class interned in New York during the summer between Junior and Senior year. Some of the locations include Martha Stewart Living, Aveda, The Moderns, Design MW, Pentagram, McGary Bowen, and so on. A couple others were placed in San Francisco and Salt Lake City.”
What’s remarkable is that none of them would have considered themselves motion designers before the project. B R E N T “The eight animating students were in my class (for the second half of the project) where they were learning motion design and After Effects, some of them for the first time. As most of our program is a traditional print-based program, very typography-centric, their work previous to this project was in posters, packaging, editorial design, and letterpress, with limited interactive work. Yet we are becoming more media-based, and animation and motion graphics are a growing part of our program. These titles were a great opportunity for all of them to stretch their nascent skills and apply their typographic talents on a dream motion project.”
C O L E “There are classes offered that give the students basic introductions to Flash design/programming and After Effects. Some of the students that worked on the animation of the Typophile piece had taken the After Effects class, while it was the first time working in motion design for others.”
The opening credits to the three previous festivals can be viewed on YouTube ( 1 | 2 | 3 ) and each one is very different. So where does the original idea for the ‘life in type’ storyline come from? Did Punchcut give any directions? E R I C “The brief was wide open, but given that it was to premiere at TypeCon, we began our brainstorm in class with the limitation that it be very type centric – in the words of one student ‘… it has to be all about the type.’ Students brought back thirty or forty initial concepts that were narrowed down to the three strongest. As often happens in a collaboration, the initial idea was strengthened so much by the group effort that now no one remembers where the initial spark came from.”
“We took into account that the animation would impose certain technical restraints and that guided us quite a bit (we had no budget and basically had to create everything on screen). The three final ideas were presented to Punchcut via conference call and PDF animatics. We had one clear favourite from the beginning – the idea of showing a life, from birth to death, through only typography. We stacked the presentation heavily towards it and luckily Joe and Jared agreed with our choice. Several times during the process, the weight of the technical demands and the time commitment almost overwhelmed us. Luckily there were always a handful of people who had the energy to keep it going.”
C O L E “After establishing the direction that both parties agreed on, we spent the next several months gathering assets, designing, animating, and writing the music (written and preformed by Micah Anderson). By time we got into the final designs and the animating, our group of 15 had shrunk to Jeremy Ames, Sam Gray, Chris Crosby, Joshua Kessie, Ashley Mackay, Archie Sessions, Adam Johnson, and myself who created the video under Brent Barson’s direction.”
Did the project evolve quite organically, or was it a structured process? C O L E “I think the original hope was that the process would be a bit more organic in its evolution – with writing, storyboading, and designing all kind of happening in barely staggered stages – but with it being most people’s first group project as creatives, it quickly became necessary to take a more structured approach. So, there were some design explorations going on at the beginning, but mostly all that had to wait until the story was written to be able to explore how to apply the artistic concept and ideals to individual scenes. And then we broke off into art directors and designers, and the designers were given a few scenes each to work on.”
“At that point it was mostly still conceptual art and due to an unfortunate and accidental deletion on the server, we lost almost all of that work. Later on, after about half the class had decided they no longer were interested in working on the piece (that had extended months beyond its original schedule and the students' obligation, so to speak), the sections were divided out again. But this time each individual would both design and animate their parts. I had several parts myself, but it also fell on me to try to maintain a unity between different people’s work, as well as make sure their parts were the correct number of frames or seconds and that transitions were happening in an effective and seamless way. This obviously happened with varying degrees of success throughout the piece.”
“The timing was crucial because at the same time I was working with Micah Anderson on the music; sometimes the music could be flexible, but other times transitions had to happen exactly on a certain beat in order for the two to be truly connected. This was one of the most difficult parts because it was asking both mediums – design and music – to try to accomplish way more in a small amount of time than what is normally comfortable. A lot was cut and a few parts were extended in the design to make that happen. I think the music turned out incredible and all of the struggles to reach perfection paid off. I don’t think the listener feels rushed when listening to the piece at all – a feat that I don’t feel the design replicated with quite as much success – and really I think the emotional connection that the music offers is what engages a lot of people in the piece. Sure, the design is interesting and cool, the story is stereotypical and funny, but the music is one of my proudest parts of the piece. And most of that credit goes to Micah.”
Is the piece truly as hand made as it looks, or is it more digital than one would suspect? B R E N T “It’s definitely more digital than one would suspect. But it’s got an analogue soul. I will say that several scenes were shot frame-by-frame, and a lot of the art was scanned paper.”
C O L E “The hand-made look is partially a result of our limited abilities when it comes to using After Effects, though that aesthetic was originally part of the art direction. I think almost all the parts that look really hand-done look that way because they were hand-done (retirement cake, desk/book doodles, TUMS and menu board, crayon drawings and so on) while some parts were digitally created to look hand-done. For the most part though, the ideal behind the piece was to find and create as much of the work as possible by hand before bringing it into the computer.”
As mentioned above, last year’s Typophile Film Fest credits recount a lifetime in type, or more accurately in typographic details. Bits and pieces flutter in and out of view on a backdrop of glitchy shoegazer music, suggesting all the stages in the life of an undefined person. The motion piece is very intelligently built-up, with witty metaphors and clever transitions. Although the piece is type-centered, the type references and in-jokes are sparse and carefully inserted in the storyline, which is for the better.
It is remarkable that a group of relative newcomers to motion design succeeded in producing such a strong piece. I think the most important asset of the project is its authenticity and the fact that it resonates emotionally. Seeing a human life lovingly dissected into all these endearing details is genuinely moving. You can’t help but being engrossed by the almost naïve beauty of the images and music, and many viewers will be choked up by the end. And although much of its imagery is very American-centric, Hollywood has thought us Europeans enough for us to be touched by it. Once again this proves that the most important part in creating truly moving art is not one’s proficiency with tools, but the heart one pours into it. A truly gorgeous piece and a well-deserved win.
The titles opened the Typophile Film Fest 4 to a filled-to-capacity audience of 300+ attendees at TypeCon 2007 in Seattle and was shown again to a standing-room-only crowd at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco. And now it won both a silver cube at the Art Director’s Club and that coveted One Show Pencil (see all the One Show winners here). How did the news about the award hit? “We were all very excited to hear (via e-mail) of the One Show win. The students and the department were talking about it for a good while. Cole, Jeremy Ames, and Micah all went to the show. The pencil is an exciting award, but the exposure this will give to our school and program is the biggest benefit in my eyes. It will show the world that great graphic and motion design can and does come out of BYU!”
Is Brent happy with the end result? B R E N T “It is clearly the best story of the four; it makes people cry. The only person that cried over any of the first three was me, because I had already stayed up four days in a row, and still wasn’t finished.”
Creative Direction | Brent Barson · Eric Gillett · Linda Sullivan Writers | Jeremy Ames · Matthew Chrislip · Eric Gillett · Archie Sessions Art Directors | Jeremy Ames · Bardhi Haliti · Ashley Mackay · Cole Nielsen Designers | Jeremy Ames · Andrew Bontorno · Matthew Chrislip · Chris Crosby · Mike Davis · Sam Gray · Brian Jackson · Joshua Kessie · Cole Nielsen · Curtis Soderborg Supervising Animator | Brent Barson Animators | Jeremy Ames · Chris Crosby · Sam Gray · Adam Johnson · Joshua Kessie · Ashley Mackay · Cole Nielsen · Archie Sessions · Curtis Soderborg Original Music | Micah Dahl Anderson · Cole Nielsen
11.05.2008 - 00.36.49
Posted by Unzipper
Share on Facebook/Twitter
This website uses comment moderation to help combat spam.
Possibly your comment won't appear on the entry until it is reviewed.
Thanks for your understanding.