If you’ve been reading this site (or Tween) for any time at all, you know I love to talk about the convergence of web and motion design. When I first started thinking about it a few years ago, it all seemed so distant and vague. But now the revolution is upon is, and its supporters are multiplying.
I’m using the term “revolution” ironically, of course. Nothing is being overturned here. No great power is being dethroned. No long-held assumptions are being turned on their heads. A more accurate analogy is that of birth. Mom and Dad, in this case, are web design and motion design. (Not sure who’s Mom and who’s Dad, though. For some reason, motion design feels like Mommy to me… Freud would have a ball with that one.)
A generative or evolutionary analogy is better than a destructive one, because this new space is opening up in tandem with the old spaces. Yes, eventually, the old spaces will lose their teeth and start crapping their pants in a darkened corner of a nursing home for neglected media, but for now we’re all one big happy family gathered around the dinner table.
So what does this new baby look like? Does it have its mommy’s eyes? Its daddy’s smarts? Well, just like a portrait of a real baby, capturing its features is only good for a moment. In a few months, it’ll be a different shape and size, and in a few years it’ll hardly be recognizable. But there are a few features that promise to persist, features that are integral to the identity of Kid Convergence and as such will always be around, even if they eventually grow hair and need to be shaved.
A couple recently launched sites showcase two such features. The first is an experimental journey from Designgraphik, and the second is a commercial site for Nike Air from the wizards at Big Spaceship.
Video Without Borders
Designgraphik’s site gets off to a slow start, but once you dig into it, you’ll find some beautiful compositions that use video clips in interesting ways. Video is alternately treated as a graphical element (as in the scene with the dismembered eyes) and as an all-encompassing a/v onslaught (as during the full-screen clips of mouths speaking).
In both cases, the video clips don’t have borders, except for those defined by the browser. This may seem like a trivial thing, but it signals a shift towards thinking of video the same way we think about static images in general. Everything that was once still is now potentially charged with motion. To put it another way, motion on the web is no longer confined to a 4:3 or 16:9 rectangle floating against a black or white background.
Motion is, instead, another tool in the palette of a designer. Because Flash and increasing bandwidth have eradicated many of the former barriers to employing motion on the web, its inclusion can now be an aesthetic or conceptual decision instead of a logistical one. This helps explain why many motion designers come from other design-related fields like illustration, web design and architecture. Motion is no longer the exclusive domain of people working in broadcast, it is a mode of communication that can be appropriated by anyone for anything.
Interactive Motion Graphics
I’ve long been curious about the way Kid Convergence would take advantage of his dad’s ability to interact with viewers. The Designgraphik site uses a fairly low level of interactivity: You simply click or mouse over things to trigger a new scene or visual.
Big Spaceship’s Nike Air site turns up the volume a bit by essentially creating a real-time motion-graphics engine that you control with your keyboard.
In essence, as a viewer, you’re being invited to play a visual instrument, a magical a/v synthesizer that seems to create beautiful images no matter how little you know about motion graphics. It’s an incredibly effective way of empowering the user. Yes, it’s an illusory form of creation—the viewer doesn’t have to actually do any work to get results—but you could argue that After Effects has automated certain parts of the creative process so much that they’ve become transparent and effortless as well.
What I think is important about this site is the way that multiple video clips are layered and linked to interactive moments. In the offline world, this isn’t really all that new. Live VJ’ing is basically the same concept, albeit driven by different motives. But in the online world, this is very new stuff, made possible by Flash 8, which not only lets you layer video, but apply real-time blending modes.
Big Spaceship seems to understand that when you’re playing with Kid Convergence, you don’t have to control everything down to the last pixel. You can set up parameters and then hand everything over to the audience. They’ll take care of the rest. And in so doing, they have the opportunity to forge a new relationship with the website and/or product/service/idea that’s being promoted.
A lot of you are probably thinking, “So what? Why does this matter to me?” For some of you, it doesn’t matter at all. Some of you are content working for television and film. That’s fine. I’m sure we’ll be posting a new piece from Buck or Psyop or whoever very soon, and everything will return to normal.
But there are a handful of you out there who are dissatisfied. Maybe you’re feeling a little anxious or claustrophobic. You feel that, even at time when the growing ubiquity of 3D is injecting a kind of excitement into everything, there’s something stagnant about all this stuff.
I think that for you select few, Kid Convergence may just be your salvation. You might need to wait a couple years while the baby fat melts away and the eye-hand coordination improves, but Kid Convergence is going to create loads of opportunities for people who know how to think in terms of motion. I’m not just talking about financial opportunities—although those are already growing like crazy—I’m talking about expressive, artistic opportunities.
In the meantime, add The FWA to your daily inspiration and let yourself think outside the rectangle of a QuickTime movie.
Thanks to Babe Baker for bringing the Designgraphik work to my attention.