Project Analysis – Conversation Animation II

This project analysis is a critical analysis done on a previous animation project that I’ve worked on. While my primary focus is on the photography and film field, I find it is still useful to learn from projects in slightly different mediums. Owing to it’s length this post is split into two parts.

This is the second part. The first part can be found here.

Contextual Research

Introduction

This chapter outlines the contextual research for the project discussed in this paper. The final output that was required for the project was video. Due to the content that is being presented, it was decided to make the project an animation.

Animation and Motion Graphics

Animation is essentially the “the act of creating the illusion of movement through still images” (Zeke, 2015). In a way then, animation can be traced back to  cave paintings and various ancient art works, for example, pottery from Shahr-e Sukhteh, Iran, around 3000 B.C., which depict a goat leaping (Miller, 2015). More recently, tools such as the Magic Lantern (an image projector which used  sheets of glass), the Phenakitoscope (a spinning disk with images on it), and the Kineograph (more commonly known as a flip-book) are also considered as part of animation history (“History of animation,” 2015). Eventually in the 1900s animation evolved into the cartoons that people today are familiar with. However the project isn’t a traditional animation, rather it is classified as motion graphics. Motion graphics can be defined as the “art of creatively moving graphic elements or texts, usually for commercial or promotional purposes” (“5 types of animation – a beginner’s guide,” n.d.). They are usually flat images or 3D objects that have the effect of motion. Primarily they are used for title scenes, animated logos, promotional videos, and etc.

Motion graphics has an advantage over still images, such as posters. One of the advantages, being the ability to have more content. Where a poster would be one frame, a video has multiple. The conversation stack, discussed earlier in the report, is linear, there is a certain order to it – it has a specific starting point and ending point. This translates well into a video, which is able to show the step by step process better.

Design Style

Design-wise, the project went with a simple, minimal look and feel. This was chosen after various experiments because it was kept the video simple, moving  focus to the content instead. Minimalism started in the 20th century, and continues to be a popular trend today (Mokhov, 2011). It has influenced almost all arts and technologies from the late 20th century (Ivanoff, 2014). Everything from artworks to  architecture to automobiles to UI/UX design, games,  products, films, and more. Notable uses of the design can be found everywhere. For example, in products such as the iPhone and MacBook, operating systems such as Android and iOS, as well as most modern apps and websites. According to  Mokhov (2011), minimalistic design was influenced by the De Stijl art movement, architects like Van Der Rohe, and traditional Japanese design. All of these styles focused on fewer elements with simple lines and form. As Van Der Rohe famously said, “Less is more.”

Future Development

Introduction

This chapter will discuss the future development of the project, and outline any possible changes or improvements that could be made to further enhance it.

Improvements

While the overall idea and design of the project is good, there are a few key areas that could be modified to make it better. For example, the overall video is generally static. As the steps progress, there are no major changes happening to the layout or elements in the project, and as such it looses visual interest for the audience. Adding new, more complex animations and transitions could help keep the video interesting. The minimal design, while clean and pleasing, could have extra visually appealing elements added to it as well. The last major change, would be the color scheme – tweaking the colors to make them more brighter and eye catching.

All these changes would be to help make the video more memorable to the viewer, which is the point of the project – helping one to visualize the steps in a way that he or she can remember them and actually make use of them.

Conclusion

In summary, this report provides the development process of the project. The goal of the project was to help one to start conversations with strangers with the help of the conversation stack – a tool that uses visualization to help remember questions to start conversing. The design and development chapter gave a more detailed description of the stack. The contextual research chapter briefly talked about animation, its history, and motion graphics, in addition to the design style used. The final project was outputted as motion graphics with a very minimalistic design. Finally, the future development section talked about ways to better the project by making the animation more visually appealing and memorable.

References

The 5 types of animation – a beginner’s guide. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.bloopanimation.com/types-of-animation/

Carnegie, D., & MacMillan, A. (1998). How to win friends & influence people. New York, NY: Pocket Books.

Dale Carnegie Oregon. (2015, November 2). Dale Carnegie Oregon conversation stack [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zlb4joIZGn4

Google. (n.d.). Material design guidelines. Retrieved from https://material.io/guidelines/

History of animation. (2015, August 7). Retrieved from http://history-of-animation.webflow.io/

Ivanoff, A. (2014, June 6). Design minimalism: what, why & how. Retrieved from https://www.sitepoint.com/what-is-minimalism/

Lomax, T. (2012). Getting acquainted stack. Retrieved from https://mochagirlspitstop.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/gettingacqstack.jpg

Miller, M. (2015, January 19). Scholars rethink the beginnings of civilizations following discoveries in Burnt City of Iran. Retrieved from http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-evolution-human-origins/scholars-rethink-beginnings-civilizations-iran-020173

Mokhov, O. (2011, May 9). Minimalist design: a brief history and practical tips. Retrieved from http://spyrestudios.com/minimalist-design-a-brief-history-and-practical-tips/

Zeke. (2015, February 26). A quick history of animation. Retrieved from https://www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/quick-history-animation/

THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY CREATED AS AN EXERCISE AS PART OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT IN DIGITAL MEDIA.

Project Analysis – Conversation Animation I

This project analysis is a critical analysis done on a previous animation project that I’ve worked on. While my primary focus is on the photography and film field, I find it is still useful to learn from projects in slightly different mediums. Owing to it’s length this post is split into two parts.

The project in question has been linked below. It may be useful to watch it before proceeding to the analysis.

Introduction

Report Overview

The design piece for this report is a short animation that is meant to help people start a conversation. This report is separated into five sections, the first being the introduction. The second section is Design and Development – this will give more details about the subject and design for the project. The next section is Contextual Research – this chapter will discuss the medium of the project as well as the design style. Fourth is Future Development – this area will give details as to how the project could be improved upon. Finally, the conclusion will give a brief summary of the overall project.

Project Description

The idea for the animation was based on my own struggle to talk to new people. The tool that was chosen, helps a person by visualization. You imagine a certain picture, which helps you recall the steps. This method was chosen due to it’s familiarity to me, and turned into a short animation. The first picture is a large nameplate, which represents the person’s name. The second picture is a house sitting over the nameplate – this is where the person lives. Inside the house there are some people – who are the person’s family? Now sticking out of the house is a large clock. How does the person spend his or her time? Fifth is a plane – does the person travel much? Where to? The last image is a tennis racket – what are the person’s hobbies? The design is kept very minimal and basic, concentrating solely on the content – the text and images. The theme is “flat” with a limited color palette, compromising mostly of muted, darker colors. The illustrations and the text have various types of transitions and animations, that help add a little flair to the video. At the end of the video is an attached disclaimer, which is a joke, meant to keep the lighthearted nature of the video.

Design and Development

Introduction

This chapter details the development process of the project. The task was simply to create a short video, using Adobe After Effects. The first task was to do some research and come up with an idea or topic for the video. This was followed by trying out various designs to figure out the best way to actually animate the chosen idea. The last step was to finally create the video itself.

Subject

To start with the project, a topic was needed. It was decided to pick out a topic that could help  a person accomplish something. To further narrow the list, it was decided to choose a topic that could help me or has already helped me personally. After brainstorming, the topic that was decided was communication. In particular, starting conversations. This is one area where a lot of people have difficulties, and while there are many ways to help in this area, the tool that has been used for this project is called the conversation stack. This memory tool was invented by Dave Wright (Dale Carnegie Oregon, 2015) to help  one start a conversation with a total stranger. In his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie mentions, “Talk to someone about themselves and they’ll listen for hours.” (Carnegie & MacMillan, 1998) The conversation stack serves as a starting point for one to do just that. It uses visualization to help one ask questions about the other person, which in turn translates into conversations. For example, the first image is a name plate. This represents the first question – what is your name? The next one is a house – where do you live? After that there is an image of a family and so forth. The conversation stack was chosen for this project because it is a visual tool, and as such, could possibly work well as a short video. One of the requirements of the project was the use of Adobe After Effects, and due to that it was decided to make the video an animation.

Design

Once the main subject of the video was decided upon, it was time to try out some design experiments. The first design idea was to make the project realistic, using actual photos of objects. However after a few attempts, this design turned out  to be overly complicated. The various objects didn’t quite gel together as a single image, as they might do in one’s imagination. Another problem was animating them. At the time, Google’s Material Design was the big design revolution, at least in the mobile space. One of the requirements of Material Design is the way animations worked (Google, n.d.). The  transitions were smooth and fluid. While not copying the exact style, the animations that were chosen, are inspired by Material Design. However, because the objects themselves are actual photos, the flowing animations didn’t turn out very well. These animations were more suited to a “flat” design language. This led the next design to shift from realistic objects to simple, basic shapes. The idea was to adopt a minimalist look and feel to the final project. The shapes were easy to create in Adobe Photoshop  with minimal effort, and they worked well with the intended animations. After the shapes were created, a color scheme had to be picked out. After several trials, the pallet that was eventually chosen  compromised mostly of darker muted colors. The background was kept a subtle, dark blue, while the shapes kept to the opposite end of the color wheel with mostly pink and orange shades. They needed to be vivd enough to stand out, while at the same time keep with the subdued tones of the overall design.

Summary

In summary, the conversation stack was chosen as the main subject of the project, to help people to start talking, primarily to strangers. Design-wise, while the video started out very realistic, it eventually took on a flat design, in keeping with current trends in the industry. The overall look and feel was kept minimalistic, with darker, more muted colors.

References

The 5 types of animation – a beginner’s guide. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.bloopanimation.com/types-of-animation/

Carnegie, D., & MacMillan, A. (1998). How to win friends & influence people. New York, NY: Pocket Books.

Dale Carnegie Oregon. (2015, November 2). Dale Carnegie Oregon conversation stack [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zlb4joIZGn4

Google. (n.d.). Material design guidelines. Retrieved from https://material.io/guidelines/

History of animation. (2015, August 7). Retrieved from http://history-of-animation.webflow.io/

Ivanoff, A. (2014, June 6). Design minimalism: what, why & how. Retrieved from https://www.sitepoint.com/what-is-minimalism/

Lomax, T. (2012). Getting acquainted stack. Retrieved from https://mochagirlspitstop.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/gettingacqstack.jpg

Miller, M. (2015, January 19). Scholars rethink the beginnings of civilizations following discoveries in Burnt City of Iran. Retrieved from http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-evolution-human-origins/scholars-rethink-beginnings-civilizations-iran-020173

Mokhov, O. (2011, May 9). Minimalist design: a brief history and practical tips. Retrieved from http://spyrestudios.com/minimalist-design-a-brief-history-and-practical-tips/

Zeke. (2015, February 26). A quick history of animation. Retrieved from https://www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/quick-history-animation/

THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY CREATED AS AN EXERCISE AS PART OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT IN DIGITAL MEDIA.

Project Analysis – 360 Video

Introduction

This is a short analysis on the selected digital media project. This was originally written as an exercise in analysis before creating a project of my own.

Project Outline

The chosen project is an experimental 360 degree video (Devinsupertramp, 2017). It was created by Youtuber Devin Graham and his team, as a challenge to test out the capabilities of the new GoPro Odyssey, a 360 degree video capable camera.

Project Rationale

Several GoPro Odysseys were given to various companies as a “limited access” pilot program. This project was one of a few experimental videos done by devinsupertramp to test out the technical and creative capabilities of 360 degree storytelling. Most 360 degree videos, while immersive and fascinating to explore, don’t tell a story. Which is why this one is different. This video was conceived with a narrative in mind, where the viewer (the camera) isn’t just a fly on the wall, but rather participates – in a way at least – in the story. The story takes place in a large room, where there is an ongoing party. Gradually though strange things begin to happen and the party turns into a terrifying murder scene when a mysterious figure appears.

Functionality

According to team member and director, Zane O’Gwin (2017), the video was a challenge to produce, due to it’s experimental nature. Before creating the storyline, Zane came up with a list of criteria that the video should meet, to help streamline the video creation process.

The camera shouldn’t cut and change positions.

While this is common and necessary in typical movies, due to the 360 degree nature, cuts and changing positions would look unnatural and jarring.

The actors shouldn’t have to memorize and perform the entire video in a single take.

This is due to technical constraints. Shooting the entire video consumes considerable power and memory, if someone messed up once, it would require re-shooting the entire video, so instead the video was created in different cuts.

There should be an actor who is entertaining enough to carry the viewer through the entire story.

This is partially due to the story, where a primary character was needed. Christian Busath was cast as the main actor.

The viewer should be engaged the entire time.

This is vital to the video, and proposed one of the largest challenges. Zane decided to set the camera up as a character. This lets the viewer be engrossed into the video, while according to Zane, “makes you feel vulnerable and threatened as opposed to just watching it happen to other people.”

Technology

The entire video is a showcase for the GoPro Odyssey, which is an array of sixteen GoPro Hero4 Black cameras. It’s a limited experimental concept created by GoPro to enable 360 degree video capture.

It costs $15,000 and is capable of capturing 8K spherical video at 30 frames per second.  However unlike traditional 360 degree cameras, the footage from the Odyssey has to be uploaded to Google’s servers and using Google’s Jump video assembler, it stitches the sixteen different angles into a single video. This video is later downloaded and edited as needed.

Analysis

The video is an interesting concept, created using fairly new technology. It explores the creative aspects of 360 degree video, with a fairly compelling and engrossing  narrative. Due to the nature of 360 degree videos, it is difficult if not impossible, to shoot it as a standard movie. Firstly, camera (in this particular case) is stationary. This  means there are no cuts or transitions to different scenes. This poses an interesting creative challenge as it makes it problematic to direct the viewers eye to anyone particular scene. The way the team gets around this problem is by making it as realistic as possible by having “multiple scenes”. There are different characters all interacting in different ways at the same time – just like it would be if you were standing in the middle of a real party happening in real life.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 11.04.07
Behind the scenes. (Graham, 2017)

An interesting idea used by the team to engage the viewer is the position and set up of the camera. The camera is configured to be a female character. This gives the audience a sense of being in the action. This is further helped by the having the main character fall in love with the camera’s character and constantly interacting with it – adding a fun element of humor into an otherwise creepy and slightly horrifying storyline. According to Zane it, “makes you feel nervous when you are left a lone in the room with the killer”.

One of the technical challenges involved in the video are lighting – unlike a standard movie, it isn’t possible to place lights anywhere you need it. The entire scene has to look natural and realistic – in this particular case, that meant that the light could only come from the ceiling. To help reflect some light onto the characters face, the camera’s tripod was covered in a white sheet. While this still isn’t an ideal solution it does aid in creating some fill light.

Another technically challenging situation is the way the Odyssey works. It captures sixteen different video streams from sixteen different cameras, which have to be sent onto Google’s servers to be transcoded and stitched into a single video file. This is a time, network , and storage consuming task. However as this is fairly new technology this could potentially become more streamline and easier in future.

Relevance

While it may not be reasonable to use the Odyssey to film in my project, the idea to use 360 degree videos to be able to convey a story is an interesting one, and might be possible. And not just 360 degree video, it would be possible to try different methods and technologies in a way that they’re not being currently utilized. Maybe to use drones to film an entire movie? Or possibly to shoot and record the entire movie using an iPhone? The focus shouldn’t be on the technologies, although they are important, rather it should be on the creativity and the ideas. Like Devin’s motto goes “to get the shot that no one else will.”

References

Devinsupertramp. (2017, February). Terrifying masquerade party in 3D 360!! [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/mb_J_bMor1g

Graham, D. (2017, February). 16 GoPro cameras strapped together – murder mystery! [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/-l6bsWl5xnc