Axis Animation / Fable Legends

I’m a gamer. I grew up playing games, of all sorts, and I’ve always loved them. Unsurprisingly, I’m a particular fan of the art and animation that goes into games – whether that’s a well-animated character, fantastic effects work, or a beautiful composed battlefield (the maps for Heroes of the Storm are full of gorgeous details that cover design, animation and art, all of which have the classic Blizzard art style).

I’m also a big fan of game cinematics and game trailers. They’re a great example of storytelling in a very short format, that usually have to meet a number of goals. They need to set the scene of the game, explain it’s setting, give you a sense of the characters and the stakes, without being explicitly about moment-to-moment gameplay (which is often their downfall – too many games have had fantastic trailers and then fallen a little short when the final product is released).

Which brings us to Axis Animation based in Glasgow. They produced this game trailer for Fable Legends from Lionhead (I’ve always been a fan of the Fable games, even back in the Molyneux days when it was a case of ‘oversell and then under-deliver’). I love the combination of technologies here, with the pushed art style from the Fable games, with lovely mocap and animation work and some very nice frost and ice work on the ice wizard. You can see the video, with some additional stills and character breakdowns, on the Axis Animation website here.

Axis have done a number of different trailers and projects that I like, and they have a VFX wing plus a sister animation studio called Flaunt Productions – expect some posts highlighting their work in coming days!

Skazka – The Mill (again)

I know I’ve been going on a bit of a Mill kick with posts lately, but I keep finding such great stuff on their Vimeo channel that I’ve missed. Here’s a fantastic piece for OFF St Petersburg 2014 – I absolutely love this film, the fantastic abstract particles, the way the scenes build and move, the human elements of the dancers – it’s just brilliant.

The particle work was apparently all X-Particles in Cinema4D – it’s a plugin that I know of but haven’t had the opportunity to get hold of yet, and I definitely want to look into it after seeing this gorgeous piece. There’s more behind the scenes goodness over on The Space Between, with a more detailed look at the inspirations for the piece. One thing that I adore is the combination of analog and digital techniques, with hand-painted typography brought into 3D, the printing and painting effects that were then brought into the 3D environment, and the motion capture work for the dancers (original choreography brought into the digital space).

Very different to the last piece that I highlighted by The Mill, and that’s another thing that I love. They’re quickly becoming a studio that I definitely want to work for at some point (to my shame, although I knew the name, I’d yet to have a close look at their motion graphics or commercial output).

My Way // The Mill for Eviivo

Back with another lovely piece from The Mill, here’s a beautifully charming advert for Eviivo – an online booking management system. I really love the art style they went with, and coupled with the great music writing, turned out a really lovely piece.

There are a number of things to love here – firstly, it’s a charming, funny, piece – but it also tells the story of the company and how that can help their client. They haven’t lost focus on delivering to their audience the point of the film itself, which would be easy to do as you get swept up in the creation of the piece.

There’s another great blog on The Space Between on the process of making the film, it’s evolution into what it ultimately became – starting with the song and building the visuals – it’s such a good example of the different creative fields fitting together and complimenting each other to create the final product. I was also interested to hear that it was put together in Cinema4D in a relatively short time frame as well.

A city … in a suitcase?

Here’s a really lovely spot that was brought to my attention via the people at CreativePool. It’s called City In A Suitcase, and was done by A+C Studios – they do a lot of stop-motion work, and so were a good fit for the project.

There’s also a great ‘making of’ video that can give you an insight into how it was done. There’s a really lovely feel to the paper craft look, something that director Dan Richards was particular interested in using, with the integration of the live action footage into the piece using a process called ‘pixellation’ – not a term I’d come across before, but essentially shooting the live action footage on fours so that you get the choppy feel to the movement of the hands, so it’s less jarring when integrated with stop-motion shot on twos. There’s a little vfx magic going on, with elements like the planes added from blue screen footage, but the vast majority is in-camera. Really great piece.

Marco Polo – The Space Between

I really loved the artistry in the title sequence for Marco Polo – the art direction is just perfect, drawing as it does on traditional Chinese painting, but with the underlying themes coming through in the imagery.

There’s a great article over on The Space Between, the Mills own behind-the-scenes blog, on how the title sequence was put together and where the art direction and themes came from. It’s well worth a read.

The most interesting part for me was the creation of the ink effects, using a high-speed camera so they could better control the timing of the footage later on, and recreating the artwork with water on heavy stock paper – when the ink was added, it spread out following the invisible water artwork. It’s an great technique that works really well for the piece.

How To Improve Capitalism

Or at least, here are some ideas on ways that we could change it – I always feel that a video like this works best if it prompts you to at least think about the questions being raised, even if you don’t necessarily agree with all the answers – thinking about these problems (rather than just accepting the status quo) is the first step to finding workable solutions.

This is also the most recent project that I’ve worked on. The client in this case was Alain de Botton – a contact that I picked up through Twitter.

Starting with the script and voiceover provided by Alain, I had a chat with him to go over the project, check what his requirements were, who the intended audience were and so on. I was also able to ask if he had any specific themes or styles in mind for the piece (he liked the Guardian piece that I’d worked on with Alex Purcell, so I went with a similar art style). From there I created all the concepts, worked up the art direction for the piece, built all the art assets in Illustrator, and animated everything in After Effects. Sound design was done by Jonny Elwyn.

One thing that I specifically wanted to avoid was the use of maps when talking about countries – it’s used everywhere (as it’s frequently the shortest distance between information and understanding) but ultimately it’s just not that interesting. I felt the capitalist machine concept, with different countries being represented as machines painted in their respective flags, would work well for the subject matter (and I was able to play around with it a little bit – for example, Sweden has a lot more furniture on it’s conveyor belts).

It was a fun project to work on, as it’s always great when you have a bit of creative freedom. The release into the wilds of the internet has also gone well. At the time of writing, it’s been viewed over ten thousand times on YouTube, with likes far outweighing dislikes (always a good sign!).

Rufus Hound seemed to like it.

rufusHoundTweet

But the main thing is that the client was happy with it. It’s always great when you get feedback like this:

“The film is terrific, everything I could have hoped for. You’ve done a fantastic job. Thank you so much.” Alain de Botton

Forgive the absence…

I had a rather busy end to 2014! I’ll be posting more stuff here soon but I just wanted to quickly draw your attention to this motion graphics piece featuring an Ira Glass quote that I’m very fond of.

I’m not a hundred percent certain who created it, but I’ve been told it was probably Saar Oz. Really lovely work – and thanks to Dieter who’s tweet sparked this post in the first place.