Author Archives: Mallory Xu

Conference Project Post-Mortem:

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For this conference project, I intended to use after effects to recreate repeating scenes in my dream when I was a child. I believe most of us share the same experience of entering the same dream. When I was a child, I used to see kaleidoscopes before I went to bed and climb into and out of wells as I entered my dreams. When I had fever (even before I knew I would have a fever), I would dream of climbing on cement walls with cement balls crushing on my back. I also repeatedly dreamed of walking into a kindergarten with students and teachers with just three kinds of faces, my parents and I. Sometimes I could see two parallel worlds in my vision. These nightmare-like dreams had given me a lot of pressure, but I wanted to put them into a more joyful theme for this conference project.

After the trip to Japan during this spring break, I made several collages about color palettes I enjoyed for my printmaking class. I decided to introduce pastel colors in spring, for example, green, yellow, pink. into my video. I also picked out a song made by a Japanese musician to go with my project. This aesthetics are influenced by music I listen to on soundcloud. They are some artists from PC music, a record label, for example, Hannah Diamond and QT. I enjoyed the bright and synthetic characteristics with a hint of loneliness and disappointment of it. For my conference project, I hope to combine intimidating images with delightful colors.


I was able to recreate the kaleidoscope accurately. I took an image of traditional candy in Japan and photoshoped it so the color fit my theme. it was hard for other images since I didn’t have a specific image for other dreams and it was way more effort to put in than I planned to and more technique beyond my capability. Thus, I tried to simplify images into abstract shapes and outlines. Some of the most difficult things to make was on the 3D layers. Because I had so many layers, I had to create combine several after effect files into one in order to create animations in a faster and easier way. I was glad to pick up some new techniques (wave effect, adjustment layer, cc sphere, reversing the direction of a layer) after I followed tutorials on Youtube.

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As I was creating the animation, I kept reminding myself to limit my choices, organize the video into sections and repeat motions and form. I enjoyed the use of echo effect from background in 2d layer to foreground in a 3d layer. Same for the kaleidoscope effect, I introduced this animation twice in the beginning and the end of the video. This decision was inspired my dream: I used climb in and out of the same well as I enter and leave my dream world. I also loved the parallel layer with particles and tunnels and the next section with wave and ball form. I was inspired Ben’s amazing tunnels and Clark’s storyboard in her little robot animation (sudden zoom-in and zoom-out).

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In my conference, Angela suggested me to introduce more parallel/horizon line effect and animate the rotation of horizon line as the parallel world separates. I agree that these adjustments would make audiences more drawn into the video and make my video more cohesive, but unfortunately I did not have the time to do so. I also regret that I could not figure out the best way to make the kindergarten sections. Using just the trim line effect makes the section too plain compared to other ones. I wanted to use more specific images like pictures of my family, but I found the style contrast with other sections too much. So I decided to use outlines of images of interaction between students and teachers I found on line. In summary, I hope my video could have a more consistent story line or a clear expression in my content instead of putting together separate dream images with nothing common.

Kinetic Text: Tillandsia

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I am not a writer, but I chose to write text that describes myself so that I would be happy with my words. I decided to explain “where I am from?” through this work because this question has bothered me and my family all the time. I felt awkward, embarrassed, annoyed by answering this question because my answer is so specific and detailed that might put stress on the people who are asking. However, it is necessary to explain myself to meet new people as I move to different places almost every year. I thought creating a video for this question I encounter frequently could be a wise and fun solution.

The title and the palette are representational of the text. I named the piece “Tillandsia”, the Latin name for Air plant, a kind of plant that has no root. I thought I share the similarity of not having a fixative “root”, or a “home”, with the plant. In addition, I had one air plant in my room. I appreciated its accompany, so I want to dedicate this piece to my air plant too. I kept the palette for the piece to be black and white because these colors are either a result of mixing all the colors or having no “color” in it. This is the same as my hometowns. I can from everywhere, but nowhere.

I kept the whole piece the minimalism style because I wanted to try making something “clean” instead of the complex effect combination in the first prompt. I find limiting myself with certain fonts, effects, pattern and motion to be very useful in organizing a long piece. It can make my piece feel more polished and finished instead of a project made by a beginner in after effects who wants to try out all the cool things. I intended to let the audiences to focus on the meaning of the words and the graphics. Moreover, by doing this, the visual effect will incorporate with the music very well. In this video, I used regular and alternating rhythms frequently. I have my words contrasting in the direction of up and down, left and right, clockwise and counter clockwise. I repeated the rotating and typewriter motion throughout the piece. These strategies make reading text in various directions more dynamic.

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 In the beginning, I organized my text into four sections so that each section will have its own signature motion. The first part is the conversation between the asker and me. Originally, I was planning to use two different colors to distinguish the asker and me, but I gave up the idea because I wanted to keep my video as simple as possible. I decided to layout according to the messages on our phone with the same font. I adjusted the pace of typewriter in “…” to strengthen my hesitation in answering the question, just like how I feel in a normal conversation. For the part where there are multiple detailed questions, I used variations of grey and eight different fonts to suggest that they are asked by different people. Still, I insisted on organizing them into vertical lines and using the same trim line effect while introducing the questions and fading out them. Toward the end of the first part, I changed the reading direction of the text to circular. The crossing and almost unreadable text is to suggest that I am a combination of the answers and the answers are not important to me. It also became the transition to the third part of the piece.


The second part is the explanation of places that are important to me. I struggled about the layout for the text for the origins of my family members. At first, I wanted to create paths with outlines of provinces on the map, or making a shape of the map of china, or using signs that marks locations on google map, or making a family tree. Yet, I reminded myself not to over design the video, so I continued using the same effect from the last section and modified a bit. I varied the fonts and changed the size and pattern of the circle to keep the piece connected and moving. It was difficult to layout the circles on a diagonal in rectangle too. I’ve thought of multiple ways in putting them. When it comes to introducing my story, I brought back the typewriter effect and enlarged the locations to fill the screen. This was inspired by Young Hae Chang. It should be noted that each line with the typewriter effect follows order throughout the video. The asker is always on the left. I am always on the right. The latest sentence is always closer to the bottom of the screen than the previous one.

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The third part is my reflection on the experience. I kept the keywords, Home and 家, large because they appear frequently in the text of this section. I incorporated rotation on 3d layers to bring in some changes. The keywords rotate by themselves instead of following a path of a circle. Toward to the end of this section, I introduced the particle effect to create changes on the background. I lost some patience in keeping the text graphical so I just threw in a number of animation presets that follow the meaning of some words. The last part is my own ultimate answer to where my home is. I laid them out on the central axis, kept each word far away and used three languages.

The only other two difficulties I haven’t mentioned are deciding where to use masks and adjusting the speed of key frames on the text. Especially, at the end of the third section, I rushed on some lines. I am planning to make my video smoother this week.

Space Oddity

As a response to David Bowie’s Space Oddity, I selected another song, Crawler by Paranoid London, which is also space-themed and drifty. I assume David Bowie is trying to convey being comfortable with the state of going off control through his lyrics. To a person who is almost a control freak like me, it is quite impossible to be easy in Major Tom’s situation. Therefore, my music video is more of a panic and anxious expression of my reaction if I get lost in the space.

Before I started making effects for the video, I listened to the sound track for several times and added markers where I noticed transitions in the song. I decided to divide the song in to three main sections: a slower and quieter beginning, a louder, noisier and more dynamic middle part, a monotonic end. To represent my responses visually according to the layers in the song, I assigned more simple geometric shapes for the beginning and the end and used more complex kaleidoscope and fractals for the middle section. As for the color palette, my immediate response is to apply blue, purple, green and black with a hint of yellow and pink to indicate the theme of space. The main motif which connects all three sections is circle and its transformations. I used rotation to create the feeling of getting lost and replicate the motion path of planets. By playing on scale, I was able to introduce depth into the video and to create smooth transitions.

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Inspired by the common shape of various planets, stars and their tracks, I drew a circle to make the first move. In the beginning section, I used repeater, echo, motion path and twist and adjusted the width, skew, color and scale of the circle. Additionally, I added effects made by rectangles with mirror effect, trim path, pucker and bloat and wiggle path in between. With various scales and effects, all blue rectangles originate from the same regular rectangular pattern occurred first in the video. In this beginning section, I used harmonious motion for most of the time. The only opposing motion occurred was to imitate the closing and opening of curtain in a theatre.

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Following the first section, I introduced more vibrant palette and complex shape with fractals and kaleidoscopes. To further emphasize the transition in the music, I changed the background color from blue to black. A darker color also indicates that the viewers are entering into a deeper space where aliens reside (I will discuss the storyline later in this post). I made four fractals in total: three Julias in the same function and one Mandelbrot Inverse. The rhythms explored in this section are flowing and random. As the background of the previous section zooms into Mandelbrot Inverse fractal which looks like an alien’s eye, the hue varies in an unnoticeable way. After the “beap” in the song starts, hue continues to change. Meanwhile, x and y key frames in post-inversion offset is introduced to create the flipping effect. Every time when each motion completes, the palette is readjusted in the order of hue wheel, lightness gradient and escape angle. The noises on the colorful circular patterns are created through adding cycle steps and edge highlight force. Following Mandelbrot Inverse fractals are a series of Julias. For Julias, I played on x and y key frames in Mandelbrot and magnification to create the mad external or bacterial creature effect. The main idea behind motions in Julias is for the “tentacles” on the fractals to meet and disconnect repeatedly. It should also be noted that two of the Julias were created on rectangles instead of a solid layer. I decided to do so so that I could continue exploring the effects, for example, twist, I used in the beginning section. Even though this middle section creates a great contrast in texture compared to the beginning section, circles and blue reoccur nevertheless.

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Before the beginning of the last section, I combined a Julia fractal with kaleidoscope. I kept on changing center, size, rotation, x and y on Julia to get the shape in the kaleidoscope moving in a circular manner. As this layer fades out, I returned to the simple glowing geometric shapes and the same blue background occurred in the first section to emphasize on the consistency of my style in this video. I started out building the motion of galaxies spinning and connecting to a different one through a light beam. Toward the end, I moved two “galaxies” to the center and made them flat so that the video will begin and end in circles all the time.


The storyline behind each section is as following. The beginning section marks an astronaut who just entered the space and was excited to find everything to be pure, simple and fascinating. The second section represents the astronaut was taken by an alien and entered an intimidating extraterrestrial world. The last section shows that everything this astronaut experienced was just a dream. He is safe and so do we.

The video came out really well. I feel proud of myself to make my first 4-minute video out of nothing for one of the songs I enjoyed listening during the winter break. In the beginning, it was really difficult to come up with new ideas/motions for an every-10-sec change, but later I discovered the importance of using motifs so it became easier. When I was making the effects on the kaleidoscope, I accidentally deleted a keyframe and every motion before it went wrong. I had to save the document I had at that moment and save another after effect file to go back to my first step and see what was wrong. Yet, I still enjoy making this video and seeing my classmates’ art works. I appreciate everyone’s comments. I agree that the video would have been better without a space craft and with a smoother transition for the end.

Digital Tools: The Art of the GIF


For the first gif, my plan was to be make a gif with alternating patterns based on the brush I created for the first assignment. I intended to create a series of the finger print patterns with enlarging scales. So each new finger print pattern shown on the new frame would be larger than the previous ones. In addition, both the background color and the color of the finger print would reverse compared to the previous frame. Thus, there were alternation of color in both background and foot prints. The pattern in the previous frame would be the same color as the next background, and vice versa.  My plan in the change of scale worked well, so there was the effect of stepping up and leaving finger prints. However, the alternation of color was difficult in workshop because every time when I switch color, Photoshop was not giving me the accurate reversal color I needed. So on the second and forth frame of the gif, the pattern on the right bottom is visible when it is not supposed to be.


For the second gif, my plan was to make a gif of a pimple popping disaster. The gif is supposed to have a random pattern of blood flowing on the person’s face. I drew the image of the nose based on an image searched on google. It took me more time to make this gif than the first one because this one has more frames. I was considering the color of the nose and the nostrils so they would look both natural enough. I chose purple of the lips before the pimple popped out so the face looked more peaceful compared to the later disastrous face. I specifically chose this perspective of the face so it would be more unexpected. It also gives more attention to the nose compared to other parts of the face. It was difficult to draw the needle. I considered the brush tool, but I was not confident of drawing a perfect straight line and giving a sharp end. The line shape tool seemed to be a better option, but it still looked more of a thin rectangle than a needle. I enjoyed drawing the pimple the most. I used a larger brush with a blurred edge to draw a red dot and drew a smaller orange one on top of it. After all, I am happy with this humorous presentation of a disaster in daily life.


Finally, making glitch portraits was one of the most exciting experience in this class since I’ve enjoyed playing around with my self-portraits on some glitch photo making apps on my phone and listening to 8-bit music. I had never expected the theory of making a glitch art could be this simple. I did not really have a plan in my mind when I was glitching my portrait. In the process of glitching, I found some come patterns. Codes that are closer to the beginning of the file is describing the upper parts, and vice versa; longer codes contain more image information so when I edited with longer codes, more areas of the image were changed. I was having a hard time with glitching in jpeg format. I did not give me much effect as other file types. After I finished glitching some images, I selected eight of them for the gif. I arranged images with similar glitch methods separately. The final gifs change glitch from up to down repeatedly. I wished I could have added more glitch or pattern on the background too.