Author Archives: Clarke Powell

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Part1-Time, Part2-Factory

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Part 1: “Time”

This part of the conference follows in the footstep of my kinetic text project. I really enjoyed the phone themed soundscape I created in that project and wanted to do another one with the theme of clocks and the passage of time.

The idea started out very vague. I started out with two graphics made in illustrator. They were both the same picture structurally. However, they had drastically different color palettes one was for night and had the moon and stars. The other was for day and had blue sky and the sun. I wanted to make different types of transitions between these two graphic. I also had all the elements of these graphics on seperate layers. So when I imported the Illustrator composition I was able to play around with each them.

Clocks Morning


I was originally going to start by making the clock hands move on the wall clock as the two graphics fade in and out of eachother. Then I found the clock wipe effect and key framed it to move like clock hands to the sound effect of an atypical ticking clock . The hands on the actual clock stay still as to not draw attention away from the clock wipe and the transition of the color scheme. I also keyframed the sound so that when the clock wipe transitions to the night graphic cricket sounds get louder. As it transitions to the day bird chirping get louder.

I then started playing around with the elements of the graphics individually. After some trial and error I settled on superimposing the sun and moon on different clocks hanging down from string with a drop shadow. I left the background gray to make it seem like the clock was in an empty space separate from the two graphics in the beginning. These clocks were accompanied with a fast moving clock hand keyframed to a ticking timer sound.

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I bounced back and forth between the clocks in the empty space and the two graphics. I ended with a clock that had both the moon and the sun superimposed on it as well as a transition to its corresponding graphic with both the color schemes of the previous graphics blended on top. I also had a clock-strike-the-hour sound to bring the piece to a close. This ended up being one of my slower paced pieces but I do take pride in what I was able to to accomplish when limiting my resources. I also think the slow pacing enhances the experience by forcing the viewer to focus on sound more.

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Part 2: “Factory”

Despite the fact that Part I is called”Time”, I actually created Part II“Factory” first. I decided to switch the order of them up because it seemed more appealing to start out slow and end with a fast paced bang to leave a lasting impact. I started with this idea of a helpless character being trapped in a factory with a bunch of other helpless characters. The piece would end with the character being encased in a box on a shelf with the other characters in the factory.

I thought of animating it to dubstep music of some sort but I did not have any particular soundtrack in mind. I searched the web to see if I could find something that I could work with and saved ones that interested me. There were not too many soundtracks that sounded good for my piece.

I was having so much trouble finding a soundtrack that I was considering just creating a soundscape consisting of factory sounds, but I really just wanted to animate to music on this project. I ended up coming back to one of the soundtracks I already went through. I listened to it again and realized it has a lot more of the somber tone I was looking for.

I made tons of thumbnails and sketches for the characters and background. I wanted to keep things simple since this was my first time animating in After Effects. The character was essentially a square with big eyes and simply shaped limbs that float in mid air without physical connection to the body. Although this character was easy to create it was a bit more complicated to animate. I thought that I would try using the puppet tool to move my character. However, since my character’s limbs were not connected to its body the puppet tool treated every part like it was its own character. This made animating really awkward because the slightest movement could split the shape I made in half. I decided to use keyframing instead. Most of the animation involved keyframing the position and rotation of each part. I used a mask on the eyes to give the illusion of them moving around the head. As I settled into using this new animation method I was able to apply what I already learned from previous 2D animation courses.



I kept the background as simple as the character. Pretty much everything was a square or circle shape with the exception of the characters limbs. The machine claw was as complicated as the design got.

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When it came to color scheme I was thinking of making the main character as the only one with a black fill and white outline. I was going to make all the others different colors to help the main character stick out more. I decided against this idea since keeping everything grayscale would help with the gloomy factory theme. Thus all the character are the same exact shape and size to further emphasize this theme. I ended up making the main character stand out more by their actions, as they are the only ones struggling to break free from the assembly line.

My project ended up coming to only 1 minute and 14 seconds of work but being that I am studying animation I was not all that surprised. I am used to it taking weeks or months just for a cartoon short. This method of animation took some getting used to but I did end up appreciating the convenience of it (this coming from someone who is used to animating frame by frame). I still managed to tell a full story and I am happy with the results.

Kinetic Text

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For this project it was preferred that we use text that we had written ourselves. The text we used could be as long or as short we liked.  When I began brainstorming for this project, I was not sure of what kind of text to use at first. I did not want to limit myself to just one word but I also did not want to end up having to fit in a whole page of text. I am not much of a song writer or poet so that was out of the question. I do however, like creating small dialogues between characters from time to time so I decided to start from there.

  Initially, I was going to have simply shaped characters on the screen along with the text, but I scrapped the idea out of fear they might take too much attention away from the text. Since I could not have my characters I had to think of other graphics to go with my text. I started to think of phones and the small phrases commonly used over them. I then began to brainstorm several phrases I could build scenarios on. I also began designing phone graphics to put alongside the text so I could have more to work with. My idea was not very specific when it came to the overall structure of the project. All I started out knowing is that I wanted it to start out slow with a few phone sound effects and then build to a loud climax.

  Most of the graphics were based off the different types of phones I’ve had. I was very young when I got my first phone. So young in fact that my first phone was a flip phone. Then the next one was a phone that had the back slide out to reveal a keyboard. After that my next phone was the first of the standard smartphones we use today. I made a graphic representing each of these along with a graphic for the most symbolic a all phones the rotary telephone.



I had specific ideas on how I wanted each phone to move in the project and I kept those ideas in mind when making the final graphics in illustrator. I wanted my flip phone graphic to flip open. I created two frames: one was closed the other was open. I put a click sound between the two frames in order to imply movement. For the the phone with a keyboard I designed two halves. One was the top with the screen. The the other was the bottom with the keyboard. I put the bottom half behind the top half. Then I  keyframed the top half sliding up enough to reveal the keyboard on the bottom half.

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While designing the smart phone my intention was to make several different screens and have them slide onto the phone frame I created. Then a call screen would come up and I would keyframe it in After Effects to imply the person hit the decline button. However, all the screens aside from the call screen seemed to be a bit much so I decided to scrap them. I also gave the  smartphone a gradient color screen to set it further apart from the older models.. The other phones’ screens just went from black to blue to suggest there was a call. Finally, There was the telephone graphics I based off of rotary telephones. Despite the fact that you don’t see them around their likeness is still used as a symbol for calls. Whenever I get called on my smartphone it’s always two rotary phone handle symbols that pop up on the screen. This is reflected in my smartphone design for the call screen. I had two phone designs for rotary phones. The first was the classic rotary dial phone. I wanted to use it towards the end of the video to transition from the loud noise of the climax to the calm end. I split it into two parts: one for the base and one for the phone handle. I wanted the handle to come down to the base as the climax starts to settle down. The second graphic I designed was a rotary phone handle hanging from the cord. I wanted it to drop down during the climax along with a few other items.

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Once I finished my phone graphics I had decided on what kind of music or sound I was going to use. I already knew I wanted to use various sound effects, especially for the climax. I thought about using music as well but decided not to because I did not want it to take away from the sound effects. I also decided against voiceover for the same reason.  Since my ideas on how to go about structuring the video were still fairly vague, I just picked out as many sound effects as could (but ended up looking for more later on anyway).

  Along with small sounds that build up to louder climax I also wanted each of the cell phone models to have a small segment of the video to themselves. I decided to jump right into video making and working things out as I went along.  The first segment went to the flip phone. I just used two pieces of simple text (“Hello” and “Oh hi!”) and from there I thought that I would have each phone have its own independent segment of a random phone scenario. However, as I continued I began to build a single narrative. This narrative being that someone is deliberately ignoring someone else. The next segment was with the keyboard phone being filled with text messages and then having “I’m Busy” typed out as a response. The smartphone segment had the call screen come up and the red phone decline button was pressed. Then it transitioned to a voicemail being typed out.

  Even after those segments I still had a decent portion of the video to fill before the climax. I decided to take elements from the previous segments and combine them in different ways to build up to the climax. When I finally got to my climax I ended up using less elements than expected. I mainly just implemented the rotary phone graphics and voicemail text.

  Despite the constant trial and error I still managed to keep to my original ideas. I had to adjust many of the audio levels so the climax would not be unbearable to hear. I also think that in some cases the phone graphics might overshadow the text but they both serve their purpose well overall.

While working on my conference I reworked the video a bit. Before the edit the big phone closed and then it faded into a white space with a smaller phone and the word “Hello” written on the screen. I decided to cut that part out and just have the video end at the big phone closing. I added a vintage phone hang up sound for good measure. I also switched around the phone symbols on the smart phone image because the red symbol is usually on the right side.

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Space Oddity


For this project our class was assigned to create a video response to David Bowie’s music video “Space Oddity”. Our video had to include aspects of futuristic sound and space. I did not really know that much about Bowie at first. I knew some of his songs, but that’s pretty much a given with his popularity. I spent a decent amount of time looking at some of his video for inspiration.

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My original vision for this project was to work solely in black/white and grayscale.  I managed to stick with that idea for the first 45 seconds. I thought that if I kept my color palette simple it would be easier to plan down the road. I also had some black and white fractals already made and thought they could be put to good use in this project. As it turns out, being to limited in my use of color is more troublesome than having too many colors to choose from. As I got deeper into the project I could not help but add bright colors against the black background I ended up with. I always liked color schemes that involved black and another bright color. The way it can be set next to another color and almost absorb it has always been interesting to me.

  I was also planning to use mostly fractals but as I went further along  I realized I did not have much of a narrative with them.  So I had to come up with a new idea and go back to square one. I searched through images  dealing with space in general. This is when I came across a picture of a common science project dealing with displaying our solar system. I then realized that while looking through more detailed representations of space (diagrams, illustrations, etc.), I nearly missed an opportunity to explore something more simple. The simple shapes of the rings and painted stirofoam balls were brimming with possibility. Instead of being confined to the more complicated forms of space I was presented with, I could start with these simple shapes and make them into something new.

  I decided to limit my search solely to solar system displays. I was not planning on copying the display exactly but I did want to understand the general structure. However the graphics I designed did end up looking for the most part like the models minus one or two solar rings.


I did multiple sets of  rough thumbnails and sketches to work out what I wanted to do. The music I chose had many changes in pace and I wanted my video to reflect that. I made sure not to get to detailed so I would be able to make changes as the music dictated. I made somewhat of a small narrative involving my solar system design. I broke up the song into small acts several times to see which option would be the best. Eventually I settled on:

  1. Starting the song off by slowly entering a dark space.
  2. Then when it is pitch black reveal the solar system on a tower-like display.
  3. The climax is light show of some sort
  4. The story ends abruptly with the space going dark again and the planets falling off the display

unnamedSolarSystem Tower 

  One of my graphic designs for the solar system was a display on top of a tower like structure. The idea of for this originally sprung from wanting to do a pan up shot to the planets. “Why not have them towering over?” I thought.

    I started out with black and white graphics, then jumped into slight color with the rings around the solar system. I chose a basic color ranged from red to blue so I could keep it simple. During the planning period I did consider using literally all the basic colors of the rainbow. However, I decided against it since it seemed to make the video too busy.

  I originally planned to implement some actual animated cells in my work but I found that using the basic tools in After Effects fit better with the overall futuristic style of the video.

  Ultimately my video ended up looking a bit more simple design wise. I think the simplicity helps it in a way. The simple shape gave me more room to experiment without worry of over complicating things or making the video too busy. Given how many times I had to rework  a scene or two I’m grateful for that.  

Digital Tools: The Art of The GIF


The inspiration for this gif originated from one of the brushes I created in Photoshop. I designed this brush after the cross hatching drawing technique I learned in my art studies. When I started to stare at the lines where they intersect I could see all the shapes they made. Then I thought it would be more interesting to see the lines move in different directions and see how the shapes in between them change. I decided to make four rows of lines going in different directions. I made the vertical and right diagonal rows go clockwise and the horizontal and left diagonal lines go counter clockwise. Initially, I was going to have the lines rotate all the way around but since I was assigned to work only in photoshop that seemed a bit too tedious. So instead I decided to let each row go in a direction for a few frames then have them rotate back. I also made the frame where the lines rotate the most invert colors to add more interest.


  When I first started this glitch portrait I was not sure what kind of glitches I wanted to use. I decided to take the trial and error approach and stop when I found something I liked. After several tries I finally came across the black screen and the disjointed face glitches as seen above. I achieved the former by first turning the png file into a txt file. Then I copied a small portion of text and pasted it in random places. The first glitch I made only had this glitch at the bottom part of the picture. I decided to copy the first glitch photo and repeat the same process going further up the txt file as I went along. I repeated this task until I had several glitch photos that could serve as animation frames to make the glitch look as if it was creeping up the photo.  I created the disjointed face glitch while messing with a bmp file.  I also erased the eyes out of my normal photo and layered it on top to give the glitch an eerie feeling.


  My original idea for this gif was orange and purple rectangles rotating at different rates on a white background. However I liked the idea of the background alternating between the two colors in time with the squares movements. I eventually settled on the background color changing in accordance with the corresponding rectangle that reaches the bar at the bottom of the screen. It took about 13 frames to animate each rectangle going up or down. Once I got them to go in opposite directions on the vertical axis I copied and flipped the frames around to create a loop effect. I also made the bar at the bottom change its color to a slightly darker version of the color of the background and rectangle.