Posted In:Design | Greyscalegorilla

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Mixing C4D, Charcoal, and Cel Animation for Thom Yorke’s “Last I Heard”

February 4, 2020 - By 

Thom Yorke’s “Last I Heard” Music Video Director Saad Moosajee and Designer Zuheng Yin on using 3D and 2D to capture the Radiohead frontman’s dreams.

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke released his third solo album, ANIMA, last summer along with a short Netflix film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. He followed it up late last year with the release of a haunting video for the track “Last I Heard (…He Was Circling the Drain)”.

The dreamy black-and-white video was created at New York City-based experimental studio, Art Camp. It opens on a city in chaos and intermittently follows a spacesuit-wearing character through a dystopian landscape filled with faceless crowds, enormous fires and floating cars and debris.

Directed by Art Camp & Saad Moosajee, the video was inspired by Yorke and Radiohead artist Stanley Donwood’s imaginations and contains over 3,000 hand-illustrated and textured frames made using a combination of Cinema 4D, Houdini, charcoal, dust, paint primer and cel animation.

The approach is similar to the one Moosajee and Art Camp took when creating the video for Mitski’s, “A Pearl”. Only this time, an array of artists combined additional techniques and tools, including volumetric lighting, crowd simulation, powder texturing, charcoal washing and VDB. Yorke released the video with an immersive installation during a three-day event in Los Angeles hosted by ANIMA Technologies in October.

“In some ways, the direction for this was looser than what we got for “A Pearl”, Moosajee explains. “Thom told us about some images from his dreams and about how this would relate to the world of ANIMA, which is quite dark, and “Last I Heard” was written with London in mind.” So the brief was focused on creating a video with the look of an old black-and-white film that captured the feeling of anxiety and loneliness that often goes with big cities, like London or New York.

An Ever-Changing Process

Using some of Donwood’s Radiohead artwork, black-and-white photography and old NASA photos for reference, the team expanded on Yorke’s vision, giving each person an opportunity to contribute creatively across different mediums. Though they had only about two and a half months from start to finish, the team felt it was important to experiment and see what worked, so they switched up the process and remade the video over and over again before feeling like they got it right.

3D designer and animator Zuheng Yin worked closely with Moosajee to define the look of the video. “For a music video like this, we felt it was important to attract people from the beginning,” he explains, “Monochrome, film grain, and texture that felt human worked quite well in the context of showing Thom’s world. The visual language became more and more unique by layering our craft.”

To ensure a sense of realism and the look of an old film, the team opted to anchor much of their process in 3D. But, to make things “less perfect,” they used volumetrics and VDB in Cinema 4D, Octane and Houdini to create a layered atmosphere and light the world on fire. “I would often place lights behind animating pyro and fog containers so you would get natural flicker, diffusion and a sort of time-lapse sun effect,” Moosajee recalls. For a grainier look, the team made sure renders were never fully clean and contained noise in the images and volumes, while not being so grainy that they messed up the animation.

Though it looks like a film, nothing was practically shot for the video. Instead, the team designed and modeled the characters in C4D themselves, using motion capture to make characters’ movements look natural. Houdini based crowd simulations were populated with characters modeled in 3D by the team and outfitted using Marvelous Designer, so they would all be visually unique.

To build up the world further, the crowds were placed into custom-designed sets that were often interspersed with traffic simulations.

“Traffic is a big part of every city, and I imagined that the traffic structures inside of the ANIMA universe would follow real-world behavior, but would be just a little off,” Zuheng says. After creating a simulation with real-world behavior inside of Cinema 4D, he distorted it by pulling the road off the ground, deleting the traffic guides and silhouetting the moving cars to accentuate the negative space between vehicles and the city behind them.

Combining Mediums for Maximum Effect

To get the look they wanted for “Last I Heard (…He Was Circling the Drain)”, the team opted for a highly textural approach, using charcoal, paints, ink and powders. “We would print out 3D renders, sprinkle crushed powder over them, and brush on a mix of charcoal and water,” Moosajee explains. In certain scenes, for extra grittiness and texture, they first brushed on oil paint primer before using the charcoal wash. The effect added to the painted feel of the video, with the goal being to give every scene its own unique style based on what was happening in the shot.

From a directing and animating standpoint, Moosajee found the team’s constant reinvention of the pipeline an interesting challenge that worked because everyone was very dedicated and flexible. “One week we’d go, ‘Okay the video is going to be stylized 3D with detailed 2D’. Then the next week we’d say, ‘no the video’s going to be 3D and should feel like film photography with accents of 2D.’”

What they eventually settled on was developing specific media combinations and software pipelines on a shot-by-shot basis, so the balance was always changing in the video. “Our animators and designers enjoyed the back and forth because we were all exploring different ways to build the world together,” Moosajee recalls. “I really think you need to give your team agency to contribute to the style whenever you can because that’s when people do their best work.

Credits:
Made At Art Camp
Directed by Art Camp and Saad Moosajee
Technical Director: James Bartolozzi
Design by Saad Moosajee and Zuheng Yin
Art Direction by Jenny Mascia
3D Animation by Saad Moosajee, Zuheng Yin, Chanyu Chen
Simulation and Effects by James Bartolozzi
Supporting Design: Chanyu Chen, Andrew Finley
Cel Animation by Jenny Mascia, Britton Korbel, Mac Ross, Jeremy Higgins, Danae Gosset

Production Manager: Matthew Kagen
Production Coordinator: John James Russo
Stop Motion Photographer: Jared Pershad
Storyboards by Mac Ross, Jenny Mascia
Cel Animation Consultant: Danae Gosset


Meleah Maynard is a writer and editor in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


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A Must Watch: Promoting Wolkov’s New Watches with a Colorful Spot

November 11, 2019 - By 

Paul Clements on how he used Cinema 4D, After Effects and Arnold to create a style-conscious watch promo.

Like many directors, Paul Clements runs his own business, London-based RocknRoller Studios. While he often handles projects on his own, he frequently builds teams of freelance artists and designers from all over the world, allowing him to keep work moving forward nearly 24 hours a day.

Known for his motion design and directorial work for Adidas, Cadillac, Sky and other brands, Clements was recently asked to design and animate a promo piece for Wolkov, a new watch company looking for a distinctive way to showcase their product’s fresh, youthful features.

Because they had already seen and liked some of his previous work, Wolkov trusted Clements with a very open brief. And he spent two intense weeks using Cinema 4D, After Effects, and Arnold to create a launch promo that dynamically highlights the watch’s versatility.

Here Clements explains his process explains his process, including why he chooses to work in an iterative way that can sometimes means redoing shots 20 or 30 times. Read More


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How MPC Combined C4D, Maya, Houdini and Unreal for this Music Video

October 28, 2019 - By 

The making of Ed Sheeran’s magical music video “Cross Me,” featuring Chance the Rapper and PnB Rock.

Ed Sheeran and Chance the Rapper weren’t able to actually be in the music video for their new single “Cross Me,” which also features PnB Rock. But Riff Raff Films director, Ryan Staake, and the Moving Picture Company came up with a mind-blowing way to combine motion capture, photogrammetry, 3D animation, and visual effects to allow all three of them to appear anyway.

The result is a video that offers a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to create a fully CG story. Read More


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Exclusive New Pro Training and Last Chance Savings | Greyscalegorilla Plus

October 18, 2019 - By 

Here is your Fall 2019 Greyscalegorilla Plus update, featuring all the new training and downloads that members can access now and in the coming months.

When Greyscalegorilla Plus was first conceived, the goal was to bring you all of Greyscalegorilla’s industry-leading professional training series in one place at one low price. Starting with the Guides to Cinema 4D, Redshift, X-Particles, and other pro training series, Greyscalegorilla Plus quickly became a platform where we could give members so much more.

Today, not only can you stream the training guides and exclusive new training series, members also get access to our popular drag-and-drop material collections. All of our material collections will be in Greyscalegorilla Plus before the end of the year, and even more assets and downloads are on the way.

Render via Zachary Corzine’s Procedural Systems.

Greyscalegorilla Plus is growing at a rapid pace, and things are not slowing down anytime soon. The team just introduced new Head of Plus, Todd Blankenship, who will oversee the release of new training series, downloads, and more.

He has already put together a new quick overview of Greyscalegorilla Plus so he can introduce himself and show you what’s already inside.

Take of tour of Greyscalegorilla Plus by clicking here to checkout the lesson previews

Join before October 31st, and you will get over $1500 in pro training and product downloads for only $348. That’s just $29 a month. The price goes up on November 1st, so don’t miss out. Head over to the Greyscalegorilla Plus page to join, and use discount code NEW2PLUS at checkout to save $120.

Curious to know what is coming to Greyscalegorilla Plus? Let’s dive into a few of the Fall 2019 releases Read More


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Beeple Reveals Everyday Secrets and Shows His Daily C4D Process

July 9, 2019 - By 
Beeple Reveals Everyday Secrets and Shows His Daily C4D Process - Featured

Mike Winkelmann, AKA Beeple, shares insight to his daily creative process and offers tips and tricks for 3D artists of all levels.

For the uninitiated, Beeple is a 3D artist and motion designer who has reached legendary status for his daily creations. He helped grow the “everyday” movement which inspires artists to create new pieces of work everyday so they can continue to grow their skills. To date, Beeple has created over 4400 daily renders.

His work has been featured in places like the Louis Vuitton runway and was recently admired on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.

Read More


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Listen to This: Best Creative Podcasts for Motion Designers and 3D Artists

April 2, 2019 - By 
Listen to This: Best Creative Podcasts for Motion Designers and 3D Artists - Featured

These are the podcasts that motion designers, 3D artists, and creatives should be listening to.

Listen to and subscribe to the great podcasts that will help you find inspiration, get advice, learn tips and tricks, and so much more.

The Collective Podcast

The Collective Podcast with Ash Thorp is a bi-weekly series that dives into all things creative. Now with over 200 episodes, the podcast features interviews with many of the best designers, illustrators, VFX artists, writers, painters, and programmers. They talk about the struggles of work/live balance, past projects, and their own experiences in the professional creative industry.

Listen to the Collective Podcast: thecollectivepodcast.com


School of Motion Podcast

The School of Motion podcast is hosted by founder Joey Korenman. On this show, you’ll hear about all things related to motion graphics. Joey interviews tons of amazing artists, School of Motion alumni, and industry professionals. Read More


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‘Vaportecture’ is the Often Hilarious Insanity of Arch Viz Renders

March 27, 2019 - By 
'Vaportecture' is the Often Hilarious Insanity of Arch Viz Renders - Featured

The long tradition of building stadium marketing buzz at the expense of physics and reality, vaportecture is the craziest form of Arch Viz.

Writer and editor Neil deMause has coined the term “vaportecture” to describe the incredibly unrealistic and cheesy arch viz renders most often associated with new sports stadiums and arenas.

In his Deadspin article, The 7 Laws Of Vaportecture, Stadium Art’s Fever Dream, Neil deMause talks about the insane physics-defying things you often see in stadium renders. Things like fireworks lighting up a daytime sky, lens flares galore, and semi-transparent fans never over-crowding a food line.

Fireworks will never see the light of day in San Diego from this abandoned project. Render via MANICA Architecture.

Now, it should be said that they whole point of these renders are to excite fan bases and cities into buying new stadiums, even though the practice itself has often come at the expense of taxpayers to benefit team owners.

These 3D renders are not supposed to be photoreal, but are really more akin to propaganda in the fact that the point is to solicit a response from the general public. It’s a process I’m all to familiar with, living in a city that is constantly building lavish new stadiums and home of one of the largest architectural design firms. Read More


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Allegorithmic’s Substance is Coming to the Adobe Creative Cloud

January 23, 2019 - By 

Adobe Acquires Allegorithmic, the makers of Substance. This brings one of the industry’s best tools in creating 3D textures and materials to the Creative Cloud.

Adobe is taking a huge step into 3D with this acquisition. While Adobe’s 3D offering Dimension bridges a gap for 2D artists, it has not been largely adopted by the professional 3D market. However, Allegorithmic’s Substance has become a standard tool among many 3D artists and studios in a variety of industries, so the move is a big play to bring those users into the Adobe Creative Cloud. Read More


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The Legendary 12 Principles of Animation

October 9, 2018 - By 

A wonderful look into Disney’s Twelve Principles of Animation, and how to apply these techniques to your motion design work.

Ollie and Frank via Neville Marriner / Daily Mail / Shutterstock.

When it comes to deep dives into what makes animation great, I am a sucker for books, video essays, and breakdowns. I’ve devoured countless hours on the history of animation, as well as VFX and filmmaking in general.

While I may enjoy a read through Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. or deep studies of The VES Handbook of Visual Effects (both on the shelf next to me), I just absolutely love watching a well paced and extensive video essay. One of the best at the video essay genre is the great kaptainkristian.

Disney’s 12 Principles of Animation

Though often credited to Walt Disney himself, the 12 principles are actually the brain child of Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. They were two of Disney’s Nine Old Men.

Read More


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Cineversity Tutorial: Commercial Production Workflows for Freelancers

June 29, 2018 - By 
Cineversity Tutorial: Commercial Production Workflows for Freelancers - Featured

Master your Cinema 4D workflow with these great tips and tools that designer Zachary Corzine uses on his projects for Audi, Odwalla, and Del Taco.

After talking about tips and tricks for freelancers working remotely with the The Freelancer’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving When Working At Home, let’s hop into this great presentation on the commercial production workflow for freelancers from Zach Corzine.

You may recall Corzine’s fantastic presentation Learning Cinema 4D Through Experimentation. (If you haven’t seen it, it’s really a must-watch.) In this follow-up presentation, he talks about creating an efficient workflow for production, including some of the tools he uses with Cinema 4D.

Corzine with show you how he approached four different projects, and the techniques he used to get the job done. For his Odwalla campaign, you’ll see him use the MoGraph toolset and Cloner object extensively, then using Signal to fill in the scene.

Read More


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Interview: Behind the Stunning Ad for VELCRO® Brand

June 25, 2018 - By 

See how this surprising piece for VELCRO® Brand had the entire design community enthralled with its beauty and technical wizardry.

Designers Lukas Vojir and Alexa Sirbu recently released their latest collaboration, a stunning piece created on hook and loop technology.

The video was quickly shared among design circles, not only for the video’s beautiful renders, but also its technical achievements. How did they get that shot? It was a question I kept asking myself, so I reached out to Lukas and Alexa to learn more.

Here’s what I learned in our conversation.  Read More


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The Best New Features in the Redshift Renderer Update

June 6, 2018 - By 

Discover the new lighting and animation features that make us excited about the latest version of Redshift.

Redshift has just released version 2.6.10, which you can download on their site. Rob Slater dropped a bunch of great news over in the Redshift forums, and Panos Zompolas followed up with more.

Here are the biggest new features we are excited about.

1. Specular Light Ray Bending through Refraction

Auto reflection in 2.6.10 via Rob Slater / Redshift.

Read More