GRAPHIC NARRATIVES 2
We launched the project and looked at different resources and references which guided us towards what kind of software we could use and what potential outcomes were asked. The launch was followed by a workshop on how to track elements in After Effects which already made me think of some potential things I wanted to explore.
After the small workshop on different tracking methods in After Effect, we learned about how to integrate C4D composition into After Effect, how to use a different camera, and how to track the imported C4D on footage in After Effects. All these workshops were very helpful. It was really nice because at this point I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I took the maximum out of these workshops to take all my chances.
During this first week alongside the workshops, I started to gather different references. Since the brief focused on a short movie piece, with VFX, I thought music clips were a great source of examples. I started to add clips I liked/struck my attention over the years as well as some interesting visuals I found the past few weeks/months.
All the references are on my padlet embedded below.
I also started to look at different resources that were available in the project overview and started to read John Berger's book - Ways of Seeing. I noted a few quotes that I've found very interesting.
From the project brief: "how to tell stories about something that doesn’t exist"
From John Berger's - Ways of Seeing: "The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe."
From Andrew Vande Moere's and Helen Purchase's piece 'On the role of design in information visualization' :
"Information visualization is traditionally viewed as a set of methods for supporting humans to understand and analyze large, complex data sets. Because of its historical roots in scientific reasoning, computer graphics, and algorithmic optimization, academic research in information visualization has typically focused on supporting expert users in executing complex data exploration and analysis tasks as efficiently and effectively as possible."
Everthing can be seen on my padlet
IDEAS / RESEARCH
Having this set of references I started to assemble different thoughts and ideas I had.
I had to think of what footage I wanted? then what kind of narratives I want to create? what sort of VFX I want to add? is it solely on AE or maybe some 3D? or something else.
Here are some of my thoughts written down
As one of the requirements of this project was to have personal footage I immediately thought of my trip to Seoul in 2019 where I shot without purpose loads of things I found interesting and visually compelling. Ranging from landscapes, people, objects, architecture, materials, textures etc etc.
So it was quite a quick call for me to choose this footage as my main source for the project. Then came the narrative. I think the idea to make some kind of tribute/ode to this trip and this city was almost logical for me. The whole situation forbids us to escape from our homes, so it was a very simple choice to go for a nostalgia trip to South Korea with this footage.
I also had this very idea of creating something with this collection of footage growing up in my head since March. But I had no idea what to do at the time. This was the perfect opportunity to finally focus on it and create something.
Continuing with this idea of Ode to the city. I wanted to create some sort of ode but from my perspective. From a westerner point of view discovering a whole new set of visuals. It will be a visual journey around the city, exploring different landscapes, moods, objects, and textures. So this concept was pretty set in my head although I still didn't know what kind of VFX i wanted to add. Because so far what I'm describing is only a movie edit.
At this point I had different paths to potentially explore:
- Adding a neo-futurist look to the footage as Seoul is a very modern city and could easily fit into a cyberpunk kind of vibes (not as strong and obvious though). I had this idea because I recently went to see Akira 4K remastered version at the GFT. And thought the aesthetic could really fit. So adding some kind of strong and colorful visuals almost like an anime.
Akira's futuristic look of Neo-Tokyo
I was also inspired by Alberto Mielgo a Spanish director who blends 2D graphics with 3D, live-action, or real footage. He has a very particular style and the blending of graphics with a photorealistic environment is amazing. He helped on Spider-Man Spiderverse movie, directed an episode of Love, Sex & Robot (a dystopian TV-show on Netflix), and a trailer for the Ubisoft game, Watchdogs Legion.
Some short film by Alberto Mielgo
- I could use some tracking and augment the movie edit with some fonts (as I'm focusing more and more on this graphic design field). I thought it could be interesting to add some meaning to this. Or maybe actually do a music clip and add the lyrics of a song I wanted to use for the edit.
Some really inspiring and interesting tracking work with fonts by DIA Studio
- And the last idea was to have a 3D element integrated into the footage. I liked the example of the workshop where the element is tracked on the footage and creates this new world to the viewer's view as it's not entirely real from now on. Kinda plays with half real and half not.
Poster for the 'Arrival' movie featuring a huge almost god-like alien object in the air
Some 3d space for a fashion shoot.
I let all these thoughts rest for the week and prepared my references for the tutorial ahead as I wasn't sure where to head.
I talked through this concept of ode to the city of Seoul and focused more on the idea of the piece rather than the look. We had great discussions with Gillian. I've noticed that the only fact of pitching a concept out loud in a serious context is really helping as you immediately notice what's good and what's wrong.
We discussed this quote from the brief: "how to tell stories about something that doesn’t exist" which I find very intriguing and interesting. We also discussed my references and the footage I wanted to use. Everything made me more confident in my overall idea, which was really helpful.
It made me realize what could be interesting to pursue and what would be good to abandon so far.
After the call, I decided to start the movie edit and think about the different paths I've considered and choose one of them.
I started to put the entire collection of footage I had into Premiere and sort them out. I tried to put up all the most meaningful and interesting shots and started to edit it based on the song I've chosen. I edited it intuitively to express this tribute and emotional attachment to the city with all the best footage I had to my eyes.
I chose Yaeji's song called What We Drew. Yaeji is a South-Korean / American artist. The song is part of an album mixtape which was released during the lockdown and I listened to it quite a lot at that time. It reminded me a lot of my trip to Seoul. Addiotonnaly it has great and meaningful lyrics that enhances, even more, this "ode" theme.
FINAL CONCEPT IDEA
As I was editing the movie part realized more and more what could be possible to do with it and what I had to abandon. Out of the 3 paths I thought about (neo-future look/fonts / 3D) the 3D element was probably the best given the actual type of footage and time I had. The footage was very amateur - like which gives a great mood for this personal perspective idea, but it is hard to do some tracking with it. Also, the rhythm of the song was maybe too quick to actually have some tracked fonts.
I could have potentially gone for the neo-futurist look like Akira and have some illustration and little element to enhance the movie, but it would have taken a lot more time for me to create an identity, draw stuff etc.
Although being a known lengthy process, 3D was my best option here. I had to renounce the idea of using tracking given the nature of my footage and dynamic editing. So I thought I could just add the 3D element on top of the footage, as an almost god-like artifact, something ethereal and dominant.
Having all these known issues I thought I could enhance this idea of being my perspective and my point of view of the city by creating some sort of reflective glass element. It would guide the viewer to a new perspective and therefore a new world that is fake.
I really wanted to play with these two quotes :
From the project brief: "how to tell stories about something that doesn’t exist"
From John Berger's - Ways of Seeing: "The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe."
I think they gave me this idea of creating a shape that enhances the footage. It creates a new fake world and as the viewer doesn't know what it is, he/she can't understand it. It's almost as if this 3d shape was a secret key to decode the footage.
I know what it is so it has meaning for me, a real meaning. I'd assume most of the viewers don't know what it is so they are imagining something probably not real. I found the idea of destabilizing the viewer's vision quite interesting with this bubble. It also is quite soothing and peaceful in a way, so the viewer is really attracted by it rather than the actual meaning of all this. It's a distraction.
So having this Ode to Seoul augmented by a shape is a small narrative that doesn't exist as people can't decode some of the footage. I'm telling a story of my feelings for this city, but in reality, it doesn't exist because the shape distorts it. It's a small bubble which is my vision because I can only understand it. The reflection on the shape is actually from the movie itself as the background but also as a skydome. So you could also say that the shape is a mirror to the real ode and real perspective. I wanted to be playful with multiple visuals processes leading to similar interpretations.
It might be seen as a selfish concept I guess, and I totally understand that it could be the feeling, but I just wanted to explore this concept of telling a story about something that doesn't exist.
I will upload and release the actual movie without the shape as the real ode later next week.
I started to experiment a little bit with a glass shape. I used Blender as it was easier for me to use. I started by taking my hello world poster and trying some reflective materials on it. Then I started to sculpt a small bubble-like glass shape and modify the lighting to have something working.
Here's some screenschot of the scene in Blender
Here's a render from the scene above.
In the middle of the week, I had some personal issues to deal with so I kinda paused the project for 2-3 days. I took advantage of the studio support on Friday to set up my final idea and continue the project despite the issues. I've talked through my final concept idea with Gillian and she really really helped me to be confident with the path I took as I was quite shaken up by all the recent events. I showed some exports of work in progress with this 3D shape being reflective and asked some questions about the involvement of After Effects in this project and understood that I should find a way to use it relatively importantly as it is the main software to use for this project.
At this point, I only noted a couple of things I could do in After Effect as I was only working with Blender and Premiere. I could maybe create an intro and outro to the piece, make/animate a title. Add filters/color grading. But I waited to have my 3D element ready first.
Over the weekend I worked to finish my edit on Premiere as it will be the backbone of my 3D shape composition. I was quite happy with the final result, I think all the shots worked well and the whole dynamic with the song is quite nice. It felt right, at least for me. There a small crescendo towards the end where I put myself and my mom in the movie, as well as my mom alone. The whole edit is emotional and meaningful for me.
On Monday I had to have my edit and my 3D scene finished so I could start the render.
My edit exported, I imported it in Blender set it as a plane behind the shape so it could have the reflections and also as a skydome so the lighting and reflections evolve accordingly.
This was my final set-up in my 3D scene.
I started to do little series of render to see how it looked like and tweaked some settings to have what I wanted. I adjusted the skydome brightness, materials/textures settings, the reflectiveness, the light angle I had for the scene, and its intensity. Additionally, some export settings to have my glass shape solo without the background as it will be faster to render and easier to mask in After Effects later.
ROUGH CUT REVIEW
For the rough cut review, I only managed to render a couple hundreds of frames (approximately 10sec). This was the only glimpse of the final form I could show, but I still had my entire edit ready. Which I think was helpful enough to convey my concept during the mid-review.
The movie edit rough cut
The tiny sequence I managed to render
I loved the review, it was a very new format for all of us, but it was very nice to talk a bit more deeply as a small group. The feedback from everyone was really helpful and made me realize/gave me some ideas for tiny improvements. I liked also watching and giving some feedback to the others as they did really helped me with their feedback. I think this smaller group of review helps as people are less shy to give out thoughts etc. An overall great thing to have in the middle/end of a project!
After the review, I quickly fixed some details in my 3D scene and prepare it for the final render. It started on Monday. I used my mac and friend to lend me a remote computer that has better performance. I had 5000 frames to render in total thankfully the 1440x1080 resolution wasn't too long to render (35sec per frame on my friend's computer and 4min on my mac), but it still took me almost 3 days non-stop of render.
The remote computer service is called Shadow, it gives you the opportunity to have a very powerful PC for a monthly fee. It basically saved me on this project!
EXPERIMENTING IN AE
After launching the render, I took my small sequence from the review and started to try different things. The rough cut review made me realize I should probably create a slight distortion of the shape as it could add a lot to the sequence. Doing it in Blender could be possible but I didn't want to lose too much time, so I decided to create the distortion on my small sequence have it set perfectly, and then copy the settings to the final sequence when the render would be done.
Here's the shape with the background masked.
and a frame with the shape on top of the edit.
The shape moving on top of the footage worked really well. I also wanted to make it slightly dependent on the footage itself. So I key-framed the distortion so it's less active on moving footage and more active on still footage. I think having too much distortion on top of a moving shot was a bit dis-orientating.
After keyframing my entire edit, I adjusted the shape brightness and its size.
As I discovered the png sequence footage in After Effect I didn't realize in some shot where people were the 3D shape would distort their face, a bit funnily, so I had to correct that as well. Here's a kind of funny example :
So I added a liquify filter for certain sequences. I think the liquify was probably the less noticeable and natural correction effect I could use. This part is corrected and the liquify is slightly noticeable in the final submission
I think the project went pretty well technically, I was lucky to have my friend lending me his computer to do the render, otherwise, that would have been tricky. I managed to troubleshoot some issues on Blender, I didn't know how to disable the background on the render, I did found a solution after some research on a community forum. Otherwise, I had no technical issues, thankfully.
When the render was done, I put the entire png sequence (43GB for 5000 frames) into After Effects. I added the distortion effect I've experimented with before in the small sequence. Added the brightness sequence and the liquify effect for the scene that needed it.
Here's the final footage needed for the movie and the effects used.
The final piece is a 4min video in 1440x1080. I wanted to use this format as it was a popular format several years ago, and adds up a slight nostalgia feeling. Also, the shape is blending more efficiently rather than a 1920x1080 format. The shape slightly moves during the entire edit. It slows downs very subtly when the shots are moving a lot. I added the title '서울' which is 'Seoul' in Hangul writing. At the end of the edit, I added all the credits.
The movie is assembled with still shots that are more contemplating and other 'rough / amateur' shots that are moving quite fast. The shots are also alternating between zoomed scenes and wide scenes. It explores different neighborhoods of Seoul, clashing architecture styles, different textures, and fun things I could observe during my trip there.
I wanted to create a sort of ode to the city as it's a place I really miss and loved to discover. Through this amateur montage, I'm expressing the point of view I have for this city. Thinking about this I thought it could be interesting to make this in a way less about me and more like a free-interpretation movie. The movie edit without the shape is quite un-personal but the 3D glass texture really adds this free-interpretation concept and lost the viewer in a different possible take on the concept. Is it water, is it a bubble, is this maybe a weird mirror, then is this a parallel point of view or maybe a bubble where my point of view is hidden inside. There are multiple interpretations of it, although they express relatively the same thing which is interesting. Knowing and believing something the viewer is free to see this as a calm journey through Seoul and interpret it as she/he wants.
I exported the final piece on Thursday and uploaded it to Youtube for the review the next day!
Here's the final version I submitted.
I really liked to reflect on this project. I thought I was going to approach it with a very technical eye and do something without any meaning and more visual, but the 3 weeks gave it more importance and opened a door to create something meaningful and visually ambitious!
I feel the whole covid situation is altering our sensitivity to particular stuff and make us miss a lot of things. I really miss traveling and this project was a nice opportunity for me to remember my trips and do a tribute to that. Although it started as very personal work, over the time I realized I wanted it to be less about me and more like a visual journey. I didn't want it to feel like a holiday vlog or something, so I really cared about curating the shots and editing so it would look and feel less about me but more from me.
I think the visual style of the project is very similar to what I do usually (neon light, glass reflection, textures exploration, clean and geometrical compositions of shots). The personal issues I had during the project made me pause it and as I started to work on it again it allowed me to take a few days of reflection, which was really helpful. The mid-review did help as well.
I approached the project quite calmly the first two weeks which allowed me to questions my concept a lot, whether I wanted it to be personal or not, what kind of aesthetics I should adopt, and why? does that aesthetics actually sticks to the concept/idea I want to convey? etc etc
It definitely helped me make important decisions during the project and stress less as I was more confident with them. In the end I quite happy with the final outcome, I think it works well. A bit frustrated because I wanted to change some stuff with the 3D shape but the render process makes everything more complicated as it was a one-shot.
I had very interesting and different feedback during the rough-cut review and presentation which I guess was a good sign.
Now that the project is done I think I want to improve some points. I feel I could maybe improve the edit itself, but don't really know why.
I certainly want to improve the 3D shape and its quality. The full HD is nice but not perfect, I will definitely try to render it at a 4K format as well as the edit to make the whole piece better.
Additionally, I will spend more time sculpting the shape and improve its distortion in After Effects. These are very time-killing processes so that's why I had to make quick decisions and go to the next step during the project. I don't regret them, but there's definitely room for improvement. and maybe on other aspects, I haven't figured out yet!
Overall, this was a fun project. Everyone seemed to have engaged well with it which was super nice to see. I liked the different software we could use for this project and the very interesting brief. It was quite vague but in some way powerful. I liked that we could go for very different approaches, explore different concepts and aesthetics.
Sadly I didn't get to use the After Effects tracking but I would love to use it in a future project! I liked this new mid-project review, it was a nice discussion session that almost replaced a tutorial.
Although the post-production and VFX words are quite scary for a project as the learning curve is quite steep this was a very nice project!
IMPROVEMENTS APRIL - NEW SUBMISSION
I re-submitted my graphic narrative project as part of the Open Share project. I Improved my final video, with more movement of the 3D element and letting more space the footage at the beginning. This way we can explore a bit more the city. The more we advance into the movie the bigger the shape grows. I wanted the viewer to get used to the shape first and then catch the viewer into this new world/universe.
Additionally, I created another movie made with the main Seoul edit. I took this as a sky in blender and modelled a 3D hangul word (서울시 - meaning Seoul). Then I rendered it. It has the same track, same footage as a source, it's just reflected onto the 3D font. I though it could be interested to invert the concept by having just a reflection of the footage on a 3D element. I used it as an experiment/proposal in my open share. It adds up to the graphical elements I created alongside to create the little Seoul graphical ecosystem.
Here's the final movie
and here, the final typographical movie