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Space Oddity


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.

Space Oddity

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still from climax of video piece.

My first action in response to this prompt was to make a mood board. I found myself drawn to representational images of the solar system. I was finding images of spheres and circles. I was also influenced by images I found in a book on Elizabethan theatre: Kingdom for a Stage by Joy Hancox. The architects of the Globe and other contemporary theatres were influenced by cultural ideas such as astrology, sacred geometry, and the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Their sketches contained complex interlocking patterns composed of simple shapes. I wanted to work with rich colors and textures, and this dark purple to me has the mood of Bowie’s song and the feelings of deep space and travel.  The background layer is a solid color with a “noise” effect.  I lowered the opacity of the noise so that it would show the purple. Now for the animation. Initially I wanted nine planets and nine movement paths for them. If I’m able to work on this animation further I think I’ll build it out.  I started with the goal to animate a single planet moving along the path of its orbit.  There is no sun or visible central point in my animation until the video shifts and I cross fade in the fractal shape.  I kept my turbulent purple background layer behind the fractal to keep continuity, but key framed the color scheme of the fractal to create a sequence of rapid change.  The symmetry of the fractal equation complements my symmetrical orbital paths.  I see the fractal as a wormhole or mysterious portal, and the color wheel sequence as an electrical storm in deep space.
Preliminary movement sketch.

Preliminary movement sketch.

I began with a solid filled circle overlaid on a circular shape layer with a trim path. The circle follow the rotation of the white path. The rings of my planet are larger than the frame to suggest a cosmos which extends beyond what we are seeing. The blue planet disappears and reappears to stimulate the eye.  I used a repeater effect on the shape layer of the original white ring to create 2 more complementary rings moving in harmonious motion. Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 4.13.31 PM Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 4.13.55 PM I was challenged early in the process to think about color holistically. The flat fill inside my circle created by the program was not speaking the same language as my textured background layer. I tried creating a sphere shape, but that changed the way my animation moved, so I stuck with the simple circle. In critique I received the suggestion to stack many shape layers together and reduce the opacity of the fill color to create depth.  I am also not satisfied with the spacing of the rings.  They do not align with the center of the image.  I believe that this is an unintended consequence of the repeater animation.
showing the building of concentric, harmonious movement

showing the building of concentric, harmonious movement

Space Oddity: Princess Leia

Space Oddity by Izzy Singer  

sketchbook drawing1


Sketchbook drawing 2

  If I thought harder on the project, did some research, or found some good art depicting space I probably could have found a song to animate an exploding star too…or something. I didn’t do that. I went back to my basic interests. Though exclusive, and perhaps lost on some who do not know the Star Wars franchise I justified making this piece of art by making it for myself. And I did. I had fun, I got to listen to a track that brings up a flood of emotions and visualize an abstract to pay homage to a character (and the lady who played her–you can’t really have one without the other, as Ms. Fisher put it herself: “I am Princess Leia and Princess Leia is me. It’s like a Möbius striptease.”).   Okay, I’ll stop now. On to the project.   When made the first sketches I imagined something with far less structure. My initial idea included the use of colors–royal blues and purples for the most part. I was going to play with the size and opacity of the shapes against a black background whilst the colors within turned different shades in a cycle. Then adding lasers once the horns in the track swell to gather our attention. I knew I wanted a silhouette from the beginning and wanted it to capture movement.   Once I was introduced to “Kaleida” however, my “simple color” ideas all got sucked into the nearest black hole. I began to bank on the 2-Dimensional movement by making it as flat as possible so the Kaleida effect would keep our attention. I used a pattern I found online by Eloise Renouf:
"Curves" by Eloise Renouf. 2014. Link: https://www.etsy.com/listing/203134847/curves-blue-giclee-print

“Curves” by Eloise Renouf. 2014. Link: https://www.etsy.com/listing/203134847/curves-blue-giclee-print

I played with the color with the “Color Offset” effect. Initially, I chose the pattern to play with the possibilities of Kaleida, however, once I got hold of the beautiful gold, blue, white and turquoise version I decided to keep it. I felt that gold and bright blues were more accurate to the character anyhow. Sorry purple.
My Project

My Project

It would also help with the yellow echo and lines later but I’ll get back to that. A too-realistic silhouette would have hurt the project alongside the Kaleida. It would be too adverse, maybe a little too creepy. I do not know if I avoided creepiness, but if the silhouette stands still without any implication of motion I thought it would help to avoid making that part of the piece distracting. Or, less distracting. A figure that did not look as though she were about to walk around.    

Space Oddity

As an homage to a character in a few Bowie songs, I decided to use a throwback song from my own childhood—the cover of Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom” by Shiny Toy Guns. I downloaded a slower and wacky version of it online and edited it in Audacity. There is a loud track of it playing forward and a softer track of it playing backward. The audio sets a slow, relaxed, but hopeless tone to the piece. While I don’t want to prescribe any emotions to the viewer, I wanted this audio to be an expression of the astronaut character in my video. Image 5 I designed a moon in Blender, a 3D modeling software. I also animated the moon in blender inside a cube—with a lamp lighting it around the cube. This created a beam of light across the sphere’s surface, suggesting the moon’s different phases. Furthermore, I 3D modeled a spacecraft in Blender. I didn’t animate this in Blender but if I could go back and edit this project I would. I would render out its rotation in Blender and then remove the backgrounds of each render in Photoshop so that it could remain backgroundless in After Effects. The astronaut is a distorted image—I tried a lot of different filters in After Effects. I played around with Glow and Distortion. I did not include any effects on the spacecraft. But thinking back I think I would have tried to add more. I don’t think that I was extremely successful in maintaining the 3D imaging because it looks 2D in After Effects. I’ll definitely work on this in future projects. Image 4 I had a lot of fun playing with different effects. I added snowflakes, digital glitch, fractal noise, and a mirroring effect. Furthermore, in the background with opacities of 50% or less, there are lots of lines with trim paths, repeaters, loops, and kaleidoscope effects going on. I do think the piece is a bit busy but I like the haziness that was made through all the filters. Image 3 The astronaut character is stuck in outer space. He orbits, rotates, and floats around. His body has no control over the gravitational pull away from his ship back home. At the end of this video, he finds his way back to his spacecraft but we don’t know if he gets home. After his spacecraft leaves the scene of the distorted moon, the scene becomes black and less enchanting than the limbo the astronaut was stuck in. Image 2There are quite a few drafts I made of the prompt. The first couple of movies I rendered out were a little quiet in terms of the action. I wanted the moon to stay in it’s kind of off-center place. But if I could go back I think I’d try to make it pulse a bit to show the kind of gravitational pull towards the astronaut. In the future, I hope to work with more scene changes in After Effects. I don’t have to keep the same objects in every scene. Image 1Overall, I am happy with this project. I was able to characterize the astronaut a bit more in my final draft. This prompt was a great way for me to get into the nitty gritty with After Effects. I feel pretty confident in making 3 minute long videos. For my next project, I definitely want to play around with having different scenes. I also definitely still want to include 3D images imported from Blender. I also still want to use Photoshop to help create scenes in After Effects. Here is a link to the video.

Space Oddity

sunWhen beginning this project, I found John Whitney’s motions graphics that have triangles layered over top of one another. I love simple geometrical patterns. I then created a mood board. It included a lot of geometric triangular and square patterns as well as black and white patterns. When I looked over my mood board, it didn’t feel ‘space-like’. I went back to try and search for more space-oriented images. I was drawn to the magentas, purples, and blues of nebulas, but was worried about trying to re-create these images on After Effects. The combination of a lack of software experience and a prompt made me nervous, but the next day, I was staring at my phone case which has a sun on it. I immediately decided I would start with creating a sun. I wasn’t in love with this idea because I thought it seemed too obviously aligned with the theme of the prompt. However, I saw it as a starting place. sun My process revolved around sketching images that pulled from concepts in images online and then thinking about what tools in After Effects I could use to make my ideas come to life. I found an image online that had vertical black and white striped lines, so I sketched an image of a sun with vertical stripes on top of it. I figured I could use a repeater to do this. This idea later morphed into the kaleidoscope effect with the white strips on top. During the beginning of my process, I focused on using the tools that were required for my prompt such as a repeater, trim paths, a kaleidoscope, and a fractal. I used these as a base that I later built off of.  For example, originally, the sun wasn’t textured, but just solid color. I thought it looked too simplistic, so I added the Scatterize effect. Later on, I found the Starburst effect which was a pivotal moment for me. It looked just like the speckles of a galaxy. I figured this effect could be re-occurring and a sort of back up plan for if I couldn’t figure out to create a space-like feel in other parts of my motion graphic. However, it became something that wasn’t a back-up plan anymore, but something really intentional, and one of my favorite parts of the piece.kk   There are a couple parts of my motion graphic when motion completely stops. I’ve realized this doesn’t work. It seems un-intentional and glitch like rather than purposeful. The parts that work best are when I have a combination of different kinds of motion. There’s a moment when I have the Starburst effects in the background with the Kaleidoscope effect on top. They both move at the same time in different directions, making the images more dynamic. bk Art can be intimidating, especially a 3-6minute assignment after struggling through just 20 seconds, so I found it really helpful to give myself time limits. When my timer went off, I moved on to the next part of my video. I continued in this way until I had 3:00 minutes. I spend a solid few days on the first 30 seconds of the video because I wanted it to be perfect before I moved on. However, I found that it was more productive for me to create a rough draft of sorts the way I do when writing papers and then to go back and focus on specific parts of the video, perfecting that portion. After creating the base and making specific sections as perfect as I could with the time that I had, I worked on the transitions. I had really harsh transitions that I wanted to smooth out. I played around with opacity and scale to do this. I’m still not completely happy with my transitions, but I plan to continue working on them. While making this graphic, I realized that 1) transitions add time and 2) I don’t need a new idea for every second of the video. A good chunk of the video was a merely the kaleidoscope effect, I just altered the size, scale, opacity, and color. I learned that I could use the same shapes and effects repeatedly if I just altered one aspect of it. Like most things, starting to make a piece of art is the hardest part, but I continuously learn that I have to just see what happens, explore the software and click undo if I don’t like how it comes out. I’ve also realized spending less time imagining images in my head and more time actually in the software seems to be more effective.   Screenshot 2018-03-09 19.09.37

Space Oddity

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When we were first given this assignment, I was going to do the song “Life on Mars” by David Bowie, but upon being given “Space Oddity” as the inspiration for the prompt I decided I should choose a song by a different artist, as a way to respond to Bowie with someone other than himself. My choice ended up being “The Handshake” by MGMT, which I chose because it met the length requirement, but also because its sound world is a bit psychedelic, and the lyrics have a poeticism that in some ways speak to the Bowie perspective on life.

Since the setting of “Space Oddity” is outer space, the obvious starting place for this work was the night sky. Originally, I thought the work would follow a narrative storyline where the viewer would “pass through a star” and move linearly into space, but I realized that this type of work – especially when there are fractals involved — lends itself better to a more abstract type of journey. I started making lists of concepts we learned in class and how I could build them into scenes that would respond to the changing cues in the music. Marking up the timeline with post markings right at the beginning of the project was very helpful; these became cues that I referred to throughout the process, from the very beginning until the end.

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My design ideas came easily at first because the music I chose was generative and I was excited to try out my ideas in After Effects. My process began as a dialog between After Effects and my sketchbook, along with some math notes calculating time approximations for scenes and how to make transitions line up with the musical changes. I would come up with a scene that I imagined would fit the music and the narrative, and then try to figure out how I could transition from the previous idea to the new one. Most of what I imagined up front was not difficult to create in After Effects. As the process continued though, ideas became increasingly oriented around what I could make in After Effects, with the sketches being used more as a way to map out technical aspects of what I wanted to build. Sometimes I would end up sketching images, only to realize once I began building them that I would not be able to execute it in the program as easily as I thought.

The black stars were one instance where my vision had to stray from my execution. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to incorporate black stars as a subtle homage to Bowie, so I sketched a few ideas of how I could incorporate stars into some of the scenes I had been building. My sketch helped solidify the concept, but once getting into After Effects, I was faced with difficulty in making many black stars that fell at the rate and motion path that I envisioned. I got them close to how I had pictured, but not quite perfected. The final “downpour” part was where I compromised the most; rather than a downpour of stars falling down at once, I used a repeater and transformed them into a giant chunk. I made the chunk wiggle a bit to decrease its rigidity, but it still took on a character that was much different from my original vision for it, losing its star-ness and becoming more of an abstract shape. While this was a hurdle to overcome, it is also showed me how new artistic ideas can be born in the program.

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 10.06.11 AM

The moon was one of the most satisfying elements for me, and it happened as a result of negotiating with After Effects. I had built the opening scene with the starry sky, introduced the big star that is a main character, and then transitioned into the first scene using fractals, where the rainbow fractals are moving rapidly in contrasting motion across the frame. When there is a change in the music, the fractal is “exited,” and the viewer is dumped back into open space, where the sky is black and the stars from the opening scene are still sitting, but dimmer than before. I thought that the scene needed another grounding character, so I built a moon out of shapes. This took way longer than expected, and when I finished, I was really disappointed in the result. I had been hoping to show some moon exploration here, but I found the moon’s character so embarrassing that I decided I needed to quickly abstract it – so I added a keyframe changing it red, and turning its “craters” blue and purple. From here, a new scene was born, where I added a repeater and turned the moon from a literal moon to a colorful shape that expands and contracts, and finally flattens down into a line. This type of play with dimensionality and representation would not have appeared on its own in my imagination, and came of my attempts to reconcile the difficulties I was facing with building images in After Effects. After this scene finishes, it goes back into a scene that I had built in my imagination and sketchbook, where the moon pops back up, and the viewer “enters” a crater, which is another fractal world. I’d like to think that David Bowie would appreciate the moon scene.

Photo on 3-8-18 at 9.59 AM

Because of the trajectory my workflow took, the most challenging part of this project was the editing process, and coming up with an ending. I did the bulk of the project very quickly, and through working so intensely with After Effects, my skillset and workflow actually became more advanced from the start of the project to the near finish. This resulted in part of the editing process being my compensating for elements that may have been constructed inefficiently and trying to figure out how to compensate for it, if I even could. Some parts, like the jerky motion path of the moon when it scales up and “comes toward” the viewer, were difficult to troubleshoot because of the way they had been keyframed, and even after fixing them, they are still a little jerkier than I would prefer. Other parts, like keyframes that lined up with sound cues were just tedious to adjust. I found myself sketching out more technical diagrams and listening to cues in the music repeatedly, trying to parse out the correct timing for each transition. Sometimes this led to rethinking whether the scenes I originally conceptualized actually flowed together after all the changes that they underwent – and that I underwent as a designer — during the building process. I think that now, having spent so much time in the program, I would have some more fluid ways of building a few of the elements that I used.

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The only other outstanding issue with this work, for me, was the ending, which feels like it ran out of creative ideas. After all the time I spent working, I felt like I developed some “After Effects Fatigue” where I was up against a creative wall. To finish the video, I ended up using the kaleidoscope effect, and letting it take its time to play out. While the effect is visually pleasing, it doesn’t feel like it lives up to the rest of the creative ideas in the piece, and feels too stagnant. In the moment of creation, it felt like a satisfying idea, but in hindsight, I would have preferred to exit the kaleidoscope world much sooner, and pan back out into the night sky where more active ideas could play out, rather than just fading back into the night sky at the end, which is a much flatter visual idea. Still, being relatively new to After Effects, I feel mostly satisfied with the ideas I came up with and how I was able to fill the time and space of this piece. The biggest takeaway was that the more time I spend in After Effects, the more infinite the possibilities become for creating exciting and technically perfected work. The external inspiration of the music and of David Bowie himself were driving forces that pushed me to see how far I could take my creative ideas and expand my skillset.

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.

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.  

Space Oddity

This piece is an animation I created in After Effects which accompanies a piece of music I created. Inspired by David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” this animation evokes the themes of interstellar exploration and the infinite nature of outer space.

My process of creating this animation began with its musical score. The musical track I chose to accompany the visual is a piece of my own. As a composer and producer of electronic music, I found it made sense for me to utilize my skills in the realm of music to accompany this visual project. The song that scores my animation is entitled “Violence and Perfume”. This title holds no significance to the video piece, but comes from a vocal sample from Cecelia Condit’s 1983 horror short “Possibly in Michigan,” which is included in the opening of my track. As elements of the music (such as drums, bass, and synthesizers) are introduced and removed throughout the song’s form, visual elements of my animation are simultaneously introduced and removed.

Probably the most essential technical element of this animation is the fractal, which is zoomed in on throughout its duration. The fractal uses a mandelbrot set, with a z=z^5+c equation. With a black and white color palette, the ever expanding fractal represents the depths of space.

fractal layer

At 0:33, I keyframe the start and end parameters on the trim path of a circle shape layer to create the illusion of the circle slowly drawing itself. I then use the repeater effect to duplicate the circle, creating five interlocking rings.

Here are the rings:

rings layer


I created the above image by editing together sections of my glitch gif project from earlier in the semester. The original photo being glitched is a selfie I took of myself. I saved the photo in photoshop as a .bmp file. After changing the file from a .bmp image to a .txt text file, I adjusted small sections of the file’s text code in textedit. This adjustment results in a glitch effect when reopening the image as a .bmp in photoshop. I cropped the image down to the glitch sections and rearranged them to fit the 1280 x 720 dimensions of the screen. I utilize this image, which I’ve titled glitchscreen.jpg, in two ways in my animation.

I use the kaleidoscope effect on an image layer of glitchscreen.jpg to create a pattern reminiscent of stars. At 1:10, I introduce this image through the kaleidoscope and black and white effects. The kaleidoscope uses starlish as its mirroring shape to create the star pattern. I use expressions on various parameters of the kaleidoscope effect to create motion in this layer. I apply the expression random(10,20) on the kaleidoscope effect’s size and random(360) on its rotation. These expressions are random number generators, which cause the kaleidoscope layer to rapidly and unpredictably transform. I use the black and white color effect on the layer to drain the kaleidoscope of its colors. At 30% opacity and with no color, the layer serves as a textural overlay over the zooming fractal, but does not introduce colors of its own. After a beat drop which introduces a new synth sound around 1:40, I introduce a second layer of kaleidoscope, which includes color.

My animation addresses the themes of space travel and exploration found in David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.  Throughout the duration of the piece, I use keyframes to adjust the magnification of the black and white fractal layer. This evokes a sense of movement through the vast, infinitely evolving space of the fractal. At the 1:10 mark, coinciding with the beat drop in the music, I introduce a starlish kaleidoscope effect on a layer of a glitch image with a random number command on its rotation and size. This layer is intended to create the effect of stars as the viewer moves through the depths of fractal space. The five interlaced circles created by the repeater effect are the insignia of the imaginary space shuttle in which the viewer is traveling. At 2:24, the space exploration mission falls on unfortunate circumstances. The shuttle reaches a dangerous region of space and begins to experience technical malfunctions, represented by the purple glitch static and yellow transforming shape. These technical malfunctions lead to the tragic demise of the space exploration.

In conclusion, I feel that this piece is an accurate reflection of the After Effects skills I’ve learned so far this semester. I definitely feel that I was able to execute my vision for this piece on a technical level. On an artistic level, I am a bit less enthusiastic about my end results. While I do enjoy some aesthetic aspects of what I’ve created, I do wish that I had put more thought into my color and motion choices in the animation. At times in the animation, I feel that I introduce elements (such as the appearing and disappearing rectangles) simply for the sake of introducing new elements rather than for the purpose of furthering the narrative of the piece.

That said, I am very happy that I have created an animation to accompany a piece of my music. I also feel satisfied with this piece as a reflection of my abilities in After Effects. This piece demonstrates my proficiency in creating fractals, and .bmp text glitches, using keyframes, expressions, the kaleidoscope effect, trim paths, and the repeater effect.

Space Oddity


The first song I downloaded for this class, with the goal of using it in an After Effects sequence, was Debussy’s Claire De Lune. I find Claire De Lune to be one of the most beautiful songs ever written. I also have an emotional attachment to the piece, as I once had a professor recommend it to me during a conference. It wasn’t the recommendation that struck me, it was the fact that he recommended a song I had loved all my life but never knew the name of.

I chose to use Claire De Lune for my Space Oddity studio prompt as I felt it exemplifies the feeling of movement through time and space. The emotion that runs through the notes of the piano mimics the feeling of wind and evolution, of travel and growth, loss and struggle. The song is booming with inspiration. This was both a gift and a curse, as the song articulates so much emotion and movement, I found it difficult to do the piece justice. I found I wasn’t creating images and articulating movements that could adequately express the emotion that exudes through the piece. I had an idea in my head of what this sequence could look like and unfortunately my final result does not necessarily encompass what I had hoped to achieve. Sketch 02

Sketch 01 I started off with a rough idea of what my sequence would contain. I knew I wanted to have a piece that traveled from the earth towards the sky. I also knew I would use flowers as a kind of guide throughout the journey. I was thinking about the way a lost balloon floats up into the sky, seemingly on an endless journey through space. I wanted to achieve that concept with flowers, earth’s creation, as the balloon, continuously appearing throughout the journey.


I was happy with the environment I created at the start of the piece. I was especially pleased with the end result of the clouds and the sun. I chose to go with a very geometrical look, inspired by the PBS cartoons I watched as a child. This was both influenced by my love of early 2000s children’s shows and the fact that geometrical shapes are very approachable for a relatively new user of After Effects.


Things got bumpy as I added more content to my sequence. I became overwhelmed with the delayed playback. I had never worked with such a dense After Effects composition. This delayed playback made it difficult for me to get a sense of timing and movement. Going back, I should have been more diligent about utilizing my music markers. I used them at the beginning of the project and then started cutting by ear, but once my playback got so delayed it became difficult to cut to the notes of the song.

I am satisfied with the way the piece comes to a close. I wanted to create the illusion of an alternate universe mimicking reality with subtle differences. I replaced the sun with my Photoshop illustration of an orange planet. I am also happy with the way the magnified fractal combined with the kaleidoscope, gives the illusion of evolving static, I found this to be a nice reiteration of the space theme.


I struggled to incorporate the loop command. I used it towards the end of the sequence when the flowers bob back up into frame. The challenge I found in the loop tool adequately sums up the struggle I experienced throughout this project. I found myself planning out the piece in accordance to the effects I had to incorporate rather than create with a plan to implement the required effects at the end. For future studio prompts, I will be sure to look at the requirements as elements I need to include in the end result, rather than aspects that dictate the sequence. I wish I could have created something with a little more emotion. I think if I had gone further with my storyboarding and stayed closer to the beats of the music I might have achieved a more emotional piece.