Author Archives: Sophia Concha Huusko-Pattison

Kinetic Text

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For my kinetic text video prompt, I struggled with what exactly I wanted to animate. “Men are trash” and other short phrases popped into my head… Ideas of a visually creative video with strong repetitive sentence or saying was what I was leaning towards. After a bit of brainstorming and planning, I came to the conclusion that maybe that wouldn’t be the most engaging video to animate. At least it was not in my opinion. In the end I chose to animate a poem I wrote in January of last year, after struggling with bouts of depression and choosing the right anti-depressant. The tone of the poem is hard to decipher, I think it may be different for every one that reads it. So, choosing the right song to fit it took a bit a time. I shuffled through the Submarine movie soundtrack by Alex Turner, through the album of my fellow New England native Lin Tullgren, and even some weird chillwave tracks. Nothing quite fit right. It was only until I stumbled upon an old favorite song of mine from the soundtrack of Spirited Away, did I feel like my poem had a certain tone. The song is called “The Sixth Station,” it comes on during the part in the movie when Chihiro and her small group of unlikely companions silently take a train across a lake. The feeling of the track is not necessarily sad, nor hopeful… I would say overall the song is categorized as deeply emotional and beautiful.

In this poem I specifically focus on the condition of my pillow on my bed, and how it is affected by the going-ons in my brain. Due to that topic I chose to use a watercolor painting of a bedroom from the Studio Ghibli film When Marnie Was There. I put the opacity on low and made the bottom layer a dull moss green. I chose this shade of green due to its peaceful demeanor, but also because the color green represents growth, renewal and rebirth. From a psychological perspective, the color green helps create an equilibrium between the head and the heart. Green is an emotionally positive color, that helps give us the ability to love and nurture ourselves. The message or purpose of my poem is to say that I am working on getting better, that after every hardship I go through I will get up and clean up the mess.

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I would like to preface this by saying that not every animated word was timed accurately in combination with the song. The file was so large due to the text and the length of the video that the song would often not play back while I attempted to watch the animation while working on it. So there are a few parts in the video where a word may take up too much time on its own on screen, which makes those parts a bit boring and uncomfortable. I did not foresee the program moving so slowly for this studio prompt, however, I had to make do with what I had and try my best to anticipate changes in the music.

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Throughout the video I wanted to animate the words or sentences with certain effects that complimented them and perhaps even emphasized them. In hindsight, this was not really doable. Therefore I had to be more creative and straight forward with my animation. For example, throughout the entire video I kept every word at 65% opacity, but when I wanted to really emphasize the feeling or image of a word I put the opacity to 100%. I chose to fade out a lot of the words and sentences because it felt appropriate in conjunction with the song, as well with the overall emotion of the poem.

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With some words I was allowed to use an effect that fit the meaning or action of the word appropriately. For example, for the word ‘tingling’ I used an effect that spun it onto the screen letter by letter, and spiraled it all the while. Some other words I wanted to use an certain effect but couldn’t find the right one. So instead I would simply play around with a trim line to have it come on screen in a more interesting way. With other words I would animate them onto and off of the screen in unison with a change in the music. Luckily this was not difficult to do as the entire song consists of only piano.

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More later on in the video I decided to stop focusing so much on the relationship of the animation effect and the meaning of the word, and to focus more on the animation of words and sentences with the movement of the piano playing. Despite not being able to hear the changes in the song while animating most of the poem, I somehow still managed to sync them up. However at the point of these next two screenshots, the song had ended and I was unaware. In a way it is fitting but I wish I had known so I could have been able to go back to the beginning of the video and shorten the screen time of some unimportant words.

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Unfortunately this animation took 13 hours to render to a video file, so it would take a bit more time to go back and edit all of the things I had unintentionally animated. Overall, I am happy with how this video came out, despite how difficult and frustrating it was, I think it paid off mostly.

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Space Oddity

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For this first studio prompt, we were told to listen to the late David Bowie’s song “Space Oddity” and to think about what exactly Bowie was trying to say to us and to decide what we will say in return. I grew up listening to Bowie, I know his songs front to back, and especially this one. He sings of an astronaut, Major Tom, who launches up into outer space… never to return. The song is dizzying due to the fact that the instrumentals are almost the only thing that tells of Major Tom’s journey in the cosmos. Though this astronaut is lost, we know that his adventure continues, and that there is much to be found on his way.

I am terrified of outer space. Yes, it is grand an beautiful, but also horrifying, dark and without air. I commend all astronauts around the world who pursue that lifelong career of exploration and discovery, who are brave enough to leave home knowing that it will be years before they return. In my response video, I decided to say “Stay. There’s much to explore here.” Which is why my video is called “Earth Oddity.”

At the beginning of my video, I pan outwards from a desert landscape, heated by a sizzling sun. The sun rises on its own, slowly. And after the intro of the song, sand dunes of different shades of earth tones grow up from the ground, pointing high to the sky. They then spin out of control, dizzyingly, and grow big enough to consume the screen.

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Once the screen has become a uniform color, trim lines in disguise as snakes slither in zigzags across the screen. This part in particular shows that despite unsavory environments, it can still allow the possibility of sustaining life. Each trim line (snake) is colored vibrantly in red, green, or yellow. I put a Thread effect on each one to mimic a pattern of common snake skin. The trim lines travel across the screen in different directions, and at different speeds.

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At the next part of the song, I wanted to go even further down in scale of life on earth. To a microscopic level even. This is the point when I used the kaleidoscope effect for the prompt. I went onto google images to search for the right image that portrayed an even smaller form of life. Initially I was going to choose a photo of flowers and mountains, but I realized that I didn’t have to go that far down just yet. Ultimately I ended up choosing a photo of a Monarch butterfly, lightly perched on the central disc of a pink flower against the background of a forest.

I spend several moments keyframing the transition of the kaleidoscope. The amount of color combinations the Monarch butterfly photo yielded was quite satisfying. The evolution of the image synced well with the upbeat melody of the song. I saw it as though we were looking through a microscope at tiny organisms and watching them writhe with life energy.

Afterwards I faded out of the kaleidoscoped image and onto a light blue background, reminiscent of our daylight sky. At this point I wanted to give the feeling of one looking upwards at the clouds and becoming overwhelmed with the notion that we are so small and the planet is so vast.

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For the cloud animation I created a few white ovals of different opacities, and added a repeater effect to each one of them. Each repeater effect allowed the oval copies to move at their own velocities and turn in different directions. Apparently there are at least 10 basic types of clouds… But I think I read in a textbook once that there are actually 30 different types of cloud patterns/behaviors. There wasn’t exactly an easy way to animate 30 different cloud types, however, I did my best at showing some diversity and versatility with the movement and portrayal of the animated ovals. This next screenshot shows several circles animated with repeaters to go along with ambient music.

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To continue with the theme of going further down into smaller scales of life, my next animation was of a fractal, with which I wanted to imagine a cell. In the few moments the fractal is on screen, it revolves around and manipulates itself in size, shape, and color. I wanted this cell/fractal to demonstrate the smallest scale of active life. After turning the fractal inside-out, I minimize the scale almost completely so that it disappears from the screen entirely. In a way this is us zooming out of the macro perspective we were at with observing the fractal cell.

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After zooming out of the macro perspective, we come back to the chaotic kaleidoscope shot of microscopic life. This time I chose to animate a photo of a field of colorful flowers before a majestic mountain range. The kaleidoscope evolves along to the cheerful tune of the song, before it quickly begins to multiply upon the screen, resulting in a very detailed pattern of natural colors.

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Ultimately, with this video, the message I put forward is that there is plenty to explore here on planet Earth. There is an abundance of colors and light and life. Yes, there may be that plus even more up in space, but we know more about outer space than we do about our own oceans… Save the risk, unlike Major Tom, and explore what this world has to offer before setting off for other planets.

Conference Project Post-Mortem: An Exploration of Animation Techniques

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At the beginning of my final semester at Sarah Lawrence, I realized that digital animation was a form of art that I was mostly unfamiliar with. Since my sophomore year I’ve taken three oil painting classes, and one sculpture class… It was important to me to take advantage of these creative courses while I still had the time.

It took a few weeks for me to get the hang of the Adobe Creative Suite, but once I knew the ropes of the programs I took vantage of my lack of experience. Throughout the semester there wasn’t any one thing in particular that came to mind for what I wanted my conference project to be. Nor was there a specific artist that I was following with my creative method. At a certain point I came to the conclusion that I wanted to use most of the techniques I had learned in the course and explore them almost individually for my conference work. Angela and I spoke in conference and she told me to stick to the abstract, and that helped me fulfill these videos. With these final four videos, I aimed to show my growth and understanding in this class with Adobe After Effects in a minimalistic way.

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My four conference videos consisted of: a 1 minute video of a 3D tunnel centered on a vertical plain with a text fading up and out; a 2 minute video synced to the beats and happenings of an electronic song; a 1 minute video of a green square morphing into origami style shapes and animals; a 2 minute video of the masking evolution of a square. With these videos I purposefully chose not to have any specific direction, and allowed the Adobe program and my intuition to guide me alone.

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In a couple videos I struggled with the preciseness of some movements of position. In the tunnel video I really wanted the text to be perfectly centered coming into the screen and out of it, but didn’t succeed in doing so manually. One frustrating moment was when I was working on my morphing origami video… Later on in the video I had too many pen points from previous shapes that I had to delete a few to make the following shape easier to make. This resulted in those points deleting themselves from all previous keyframes. Consequently I had to go to the beginning of the video to add more points to complete the shapes I had already made. Another difficulty I faced was choosing the right color palettes. Well, “right” isn’t exactly the appropriate word. I mean to say that I like the color schemes I chose, and they pleased me, but in once instance the color contrast made it hard for the audience to see the animation well.

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I am very proud of my conference video that I synced up to a favorite song of mine (“Girl” by Jamie XX). This video was completed only after my conference critique, in which I showed two shorter videos. It was lucky that I waited to make this one, because I wouldn’t have struck such inspiration without having watched a couple other videos from the class. There were some specific effects I noticed other students had used and they were very appealing. It worked to my advantage that they went well with the animation of this video. One student used an effect called “fractal noise,” which I took to animate an otherworldly chorus in the song. I was also reminded of the use of particles, and how their constant movement would be great to animate ambient sound. I used another early technique, the repeater, to animate the bass in the beginning of the song… Making the repeater circle move from the center of the screen outwards in motion of the beat. Lastly, in the Girl video, I used the effect CC Scatterize to animated my mutated circle. With this effect, the object in question is manipulated to scatter into tiny particles, which I used to animate the final echoing beats of the song.

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Overall, I am content with how these conference videos came out. I believe that they show my creativity and growth from the class very well. In the beginning of my work on these videos, I had intended to make six individual ones consisting of a minute each to meet the conference project requirement. However, I reached a point where I realized I could show a lot more evolution of thought if I made some longer videos. Which is why two of my videos were extended to two minutes.

Digital Tools: The Art of the GIF

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I am going to be very transparent in this post: learning the ropes of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects was quite a long and perilous journey for me.  It might be important to add, or not so much at all, that I had no plans or ideas going into this project… which brings me to introduce the gif above.  This gif developed from the repeater effect on AE.  Generally, in my art, I tend to use a nice complementary palate.  Lately, I have been enjoying the feeling of pastels.  In this gif I played around with different functions and characteristics, such as opacity, rotation, trim lines, and changing of position.  I would say this composition worked O.K., however, it’s not too much to my liking.

My next gif was more thought through, and much more engaging than my first.  A few years ago I discovered the artist Deth P. Sun.  A great deal of his paintings have dark, grey, night-like backgrounds… usually featuring a cat with a sword at his waist.  This cat is often depicted in a colorful yet seemingly quiet environment, whether it be a tropical forest or his cluttered bedroom.  I love Deth’s scenes and wanted to reciprocate that quiet but brightly colored world he creates.  I created the star shapes with stroke and without fill, as it seemed to be gentler and allowed the atmosphere of the gif to be more inviting.  The stars all rotate at different degrees, and some are rotating at a negative degree to add some diversity.  Once I had completed the stars, I felt as though the gif was too monotonous, so I added some fast moving trim lines throughout.

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Recently I discovered a really exciting and magical Japanese artist called Ikegami Yoriyuki.  Her paintings are so inviting with their deep and bright colors, and the characters shown appear to be emotional and sometimes indulgent.  Ikegami’s imagination is full of rabbits that dress and walk like people, small fluffy dogs, serene and dazzling nature.  A painting of hers that I saw not too long ago depicted very small pixie-like persons with wings for hair.  They were hiding inside of bold colored tulips, and flying to them from different angles.  In my final gif I wanted to create a scene of nature, that was also magical and serene.  Yes, it was very difficult to do… but it worked.  I created the flowers with the shape and pen tool, arranged them neatly in a row.  Then I drew a trim line that curves and curls playfully, as to represent the trail of a bumblebee.  I made sure that the line kissed the top of each flower, while it traveled across the image.  When the gif was almost complete, a risky idea came to me.  The thought was to show a tiny ball of yellow above each head of the flowers, and to make it disappear once the trim line came into contact with it.  This worked by way of me meticulously timing keyframes for the opacity of the yellow dot to diminish completely upon meeting the trim line.  This gif I like the most because of its color scheme and seamlessness.  I’m hoping to create sillier images in the near future.

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