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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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Beeple’s Short Film is a Wake-up Call for Everybody, Including Himself

December 2, 2019 - By 

Four years in the making, Beeple never thought he’d finally release ‘Manifest Destiny.’ Now you can watch it and download all the scene files he made for free.

Mike Winkelmann, a.k.a. Beeple, wrote the treatment for his latest film, Manifest Destiny, a little over four years ago, never dreaming that it would actually take so long to get the film finished.

Derailed by procrastination, he finally got back on track after making a deal with an artist he met at SIGGRAPH, him agreeing that he would finish his film in 100 days, and she would create an Everyday for 100 days. “I don’t know why I agreed to that, but it forced me to f—ing do it,” he says, admitting that “I still didn’t do anything until the last two weeks, and I seriously finished it on the 100th day.”

Reached in Denver last week where he was one of the featured speakers on Maxon’s 26-city 3D Design + Motion Tour, Winkelmann talked with me about the making of Manifest Destiny, using Cinema 4D, Octane and Houdini; losing interest in making longer films; and how his Everydays have turned darker and more political in the last year, but he remains optimistic about the future.

Meleah Maynard: Your other films, Transparent Machines and Zero Day, were social commentaries too, but Manifest Destiny feels stronger and more pointed. Would you agree?

Mike Winkelmann: Yeah, this one is not vague at all. The things I’m pointing out are literally happening now. But there is a bit of sensationalizing, like I did with the other films. There is so much inequality in the world, and it is improving in some areas, like statistics show that the number of people living in extreme poverty is slowly declining.

But things are getting worse in a lot of ways too. I tried to choose statistics that people may not have been aware of, like how Jeff Bezos made over $100 million dollars every single day in 2018, and the average Chinese worker assembling iPhones makes $1.85 per hour. I wanted to hit on a lot of different points about money.

MM: You’ve been saying this film would be done for a long time. What happened?

MW: I don’t know. I think, to be honest, I’m not actually that interested in making things that are this long anymore. I’m more interested in doing short 10- to 30-second videos. I think that you can be more experimental when you have less time, like, ‘I’ve got two days invested in this, who cares? I can do whatever.’ But when you spend four years, you’re like, ‘OMG, should I do this, or that, or this?’ It becomes paralyzing. I don’t even watch short films much anymore. If I do another video, I’m giving myself a deadline, like a month or something.

MM: Were you redoing it over and over? What was left to finish?

MW: No, the only thing left to do was edit it to the Run the Jewels track. I had everything done and rendered. But then I just didn’t touch it for a year and, honestly, it wasn’t even bugging me that I wasn’t getting it done. I was always planning on using that Run the Jewels song, “Legend Has It.” I liked the overall vibe of the song, but I hadn’t talked to them about it yet. And then one of the guys got in touch with me to say they’d seen some of my Everydays and wanted to talk about making a video. So it all worked out.

MM: Talk a little bit about your process for making this.

MW: The workflow was pretty simple, really. I mainly used Cinema 4D and Octane. Octane gave it a great look that really felt super realistic. I could just set up a couple of lights and throw some volumetrics on it to get a lot of depth and atmosphere.

The buildings were modeled in C4D, and all of the fire and destructions was simulated in Turbulence FD and rendered in Octane. There was no compositing: I just went straight out of C4D and Octane and did one color correction and that was it.

MM: What about the fat gold characters, and how they sort of melted together?

MW: Oh, yeah, I used Houdini for the melting gold people. I have no idea how I did that. When I started this four years ago, it was the first time I’d ever done characters. I used Mixamo for the big gold character, and Houdini for the melting effect. It’s a good thing I saved that as an Alembic file, or I would have had to start over since I don’t remember how I did that.

All of the fighting was done with Mixamo models that we already in poses, like they were hitting, ducking or punching. I just had to choreograph the characters, so it looked like they were fighting. I’m happy with how it turned out. The melting thing was kind of symbolism for this weird orgy of people at the top, like our politicians and upper-class elite, all bumping heads and wrestling around in a big pile. They’re not really doing anything meaningful, just shifting their weight around while very little changes for the rest of us.

MM: Why did you go with text and music rather than narration this time?

MW: I was going to do a voiceover with music, like I usually do, and I had like 140 people submit auditions, but none of them were right. So I decided, pretty much at the last second, to put use text, even though it would be covering up all that sh-t I worked on for so long. That was probably a better choice anyway because a lot of people watch videos on mute, so they wouldn’t have heard the narration. I wanted to get a lot of stuff across, like how much debt we’re in, how rich Americans are, and how so many people are insanely poor and a few are insanely rich.

MM: Do you worry, or think about, the state of the world a lot these days?

MW: No, I wouldn’t say that. But I do work a lot more with two TVs on, one turned to FOX News and the other to CNN. I mute the sound, but it’s very interesting to see how differently they cover things. FOX is just all of this propaganda and, pretty much the opposite of what CNN says. You can see why the country is so divided.

I’m definitely interested in politics, and I do think we are headed for a time when we’re all going to have to make some changes and adjust to a new reality, including changing our levels of spending. But there are things we can do, like give money. Most of us can afford to give money, but we don’t. Or we don’t give enough. Honestly, as I’ve made more money, I’ve given less money. This film is kind of a wake-up call, for everybody, me included.

MM: It seems like you’re trying to say more with your Everydays now, too.

MW: I’d say it was about July when I started doing things that are overtly political. I like taking a political- or commerce-related scenario and abstracting it out to a ridiculous degree, like the pro-choice one where robot Trump is being forced to have a baby in the future, or where Mark Zuckerberg has no nipples because women can’t show nipples on Facebook.

The response has been super, much bigger than anything else I’ve done. It really just felt like a natural progression from the storytelling I’ve been doing.

MM: What else are you doing these days?

MW: I’m working on a couple of things I can’t talk about yet. I just did some concert visuals for Zedd, and I’m doing a video sculpture for a festival that Amazon’s doing in December. I’m traveling a lot more. A month ago, I was in Brazil with my wife and the kids. And my wife and I are going to Russia soon for a conference I’m doing with Maxon. There’s a lot going on.


Credits and Free Downloads:

Directed by: BEEPLE
Music: RUN THE JEWELS

Donate:
Donations to Direct Relief.

Make a Donation

DOWNLOAD ALL CLIPS:

Does not require Cinema 4D.

Download Now

DOWNLOAD CINEMA 4D PROJECT FILES:

Beeple’s resources

Get the Project Files

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


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Lighting iPhones and Peripheral Products in Cinema 4D and Octane

October 30, 2019 - By 

Breakdown the composition, lighting, and render settings of this iPhone product render from R4D Studio.

All images via Nik V. of R4D Studio.

After seeing the jaw-dropping renders from R4D Studio on Twitter, we reached out to creator Nik V. to talk about his product render process.

He tells us all about his work creating product renders, then guides us through his latest render of an iPhone 11. Take a look at his process and breakdown this Cinema 4D and Octane project.

Read More


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Interview: Ash Thorp on Designing a Pro Driver’s Ford Rally Car in C4D

June 19, 2019 - By 

Go under the hood in this breakdown on using Cinema 4D to design a Cossie V2 rally car for driver Ken Block.

Designer/Director Ash Thorp is well known for the visual effects and prop designs he creates for feature films, like Ghost in the Shell and Assassin’s Creed. But he’s also really into designing CGI cars, like the ’64 Ford Fairlane Z and the Hellion, which are artfully featured along with several others in the Auto section of his website.

Thorp considers car design a hobby, but he admits that he was hoping that professional rally driver Ken Block might one day see his cars and want to work with him. He didn’t. But as luck would have it, a friend introduced the two of them and Block did ask Thorp to collaborate on the design of his newest rally car, a ‘90s Ford Escort Cosworth known as Cossie V2.

Using Cinema 4D, Octane and Redshift, Thorp spent nearly four months working on and off with Block and others from Block’s racing company, Hoonigan. Read More


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Assembling Avengers: Endgame User Interfaces and Holograms with C4D

May 16, 2019 - By 
Assembling Avengers: Endgame User Interfaces and Holograms with C4D - Featured

Territory Studio Creative Director Marti Romances on working with Marvel Studios on Avengers: Endgame graphics and futuristic UI.

Territory Studio has worked with Marvel production designer Charles Wood’s team to realize aspects of many Marvel blockbusters, including Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Infinity War. Now with Avengers: Endgame Territory’s San Francisco team once again helped bring directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s vision to life.

Here Territory Creative Director Marti Romances describes the studio’s latest foray into the Marvel Universe, explaining the team’s use of Cinema 4D and other software, as well as what it was like to be embedded with the Marvel team in Atlanta, Georgia. Read More


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Painting Over Cinema 4D Renders to Animate a Spotify Music Video

April 16, 2019 - By 
Painting Over Cinema 4D Renders to Animate a Spotify Music Video - Featured

A behind-the-scenes look at the surreal and powerful Spotify music video for Mitski’s “A Pearl.”

In the new music video for Mitski’s, “A Pearl,” from Be the Cowboy, a barefoot woman walks determinedly for a while before breaking into a run that turns into a freefall as the lyrics lay bare her soul. Eventually, the Mitski-like woman lands on her feet and begins walking again and it’s hard to know whether to breathe a sigh of relief, or cry.

Artful and heart-wrenching, the Spotify-commissioned video is a collaborative creation by Brooklyn-based studio Art Camp and New York City-based designers/animators Saad Moosajee and Danaé Gosset. 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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Interview: Maxon’s Academy Award-Winning MoGraph Tools

March 5, 2019 - By 

Cinema 4D’s Lead Developer talks about the now Academy Award-winning MoGraph toolset in C4D, which earned a Scientific and Technical Award.

Though the films themselves often take the spotlight during the Oscars, this celebration of achievement in production extends far beyond the last year’s movie releases. In addition to the Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (A.M.P.A.S.) celebrates outstanding achievements with Scientific and Technical Awards.

We previously talked about Cinema 4D’s MoGraph tools earning a Scientific and Technical Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and since we have had the opportunity to talk with Maxon’s Cinema 4D Lead Developer Per-Anders Edwards about their achievement.

Here’s our conversation.


Per-Anders Edwards Interview

Per-Anders Edwards at the award ceremony. Image via Todd Wawrychuk / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Read More


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Creating FUI for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC Shows, and More

January 31, 2019 - By 

Fantasy User Interface (FUI) artist Robyn Haddow talks about her experience building functional interfaces for films, television, video games, and more.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Credit: Marvel Studios

Motion graphics artist Robyn Haddow is a dreamer, and as a successful freelancer specializing in creating fantasy user interfaces (FUI), she gets to dream plenty. Ant-Man and the Wasp, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor, Transformers, Mile 22, and Bumblebee—those are just a handful of the feature films for which Haddow has designed screen graphics and holograms.

She’s also worked on games, including Batman: Arkham Origins and several TV series in the DC Universe as well as televisions shows on networks such as Netflix, FOX, CW, NBC, TNT and CBS. Read More


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Interview: Making Iceland’s Landscape More Surreal

January 8, 2019 - By 
Interview: Making Iceland's Landscape More Surreal- Featured

You’ve seen countless photos and videos of Iceland, but nothing like this.

See how this filmmaker and VFX team took surreal footage of Iceland, then used Houdini and Nuke to create something you’ve never seen.

It was really refreshing to see a unique piece like this, so I reached out to the creative team behind it. Here’s our conversation.


Interview:

Michael Maher:  We have the whole ANOMALY creative team joining us today. Can we go around and hear a bit about each of you?

Jacco Kliesch: Hi, my name is Jacco and I’m a filmmaker. I grew up in Erlangen, Germany. I studied Media Technology with key focus area Media Design at the Deggendorf Institute of Technology. Now I live in Nuremberg.

I love to make creative films and to edit dynamic videos. I work in advertising and I do corporate videos and commercial films. But I also do personal projects from time to time – like this short film ANOMALY, which I did with Wildboar 3D Design Studio. Read More


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The Making of These Mesmerizing Flourish Loops in Cinema 4D

December 10, 2018 - By 
The Making of These Mesmerizing Flourish Loops in Cinema 4D - Featured

We talk to motion designer James Owen about his experimental series of looping animations. See how he uses C4D, Redshift, and the new Everyday Material Collection.

All images via James Owen.

The benefit of scrolling through the Instagram accounts of the many talented C4D motion designers is the treasure trove of stunning imagery.

One of the most recent eye-catching designs that caught my attention where the series of flourishes created by James Owen.

It’s a really beautiful series of shorts, and to find out more I reached out to creator James Owen. Here’s what I learned about his Flourishing series. Read More


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Oscar-Nominated Animators on Creating Their Dark Comedy Short in C4D

December 7, 2018 - By 

To create a spiritual sequel to their Academy Award® nominated short film, this trio relied on Cinema 4D, Octane, and After Effects.

In Dutch animation trio, Job, Joris & Marieke’s latest short film, A Double Life, a husband and wife spiral into a life or death confrontation when the wife suddenly opts to become a man. A complex story to tell at any length, Job Roggeveen, Joris Oprins and Marieke Blaauw manage to do it in two minutes and forty-three seconds while intentionally leaving the ending open to interpretation.

Like their Oscar-nominated short, A Single Life, about a young woman who finds a mysterious record on her doorstep that allows her to time travel, A Double Life is a thought-provoking darkly humorous tale that relies primarily on in-house sound design by Job Roggeveen and visuals created using Cinema 4D, After Effects, and Octane rather than dialogue.

Here Marieke Blaauw, Job Roggeveen and Joris Oprins—who met while studying product design at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands—explain their latest project as well as their love of black comedy and really, really short stories Read More