Two More Envelope-Pushers

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).

dg.jpg

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.

air.jpg

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.

So What?

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.

23 Comments

jez

designgraphik is the site of Mike Young of WeWorkForThem. he has been rocking the web based motion graphics for years and years. always loved his stuff.

seth

I like the audio for the “Run on Air” Any idea who did the music for the Nike site? Was that composed in house at Big Spaceship?

tengustone

The Designgraphik piece is terrific. It was too short, though, I could’ve played around with that for hours.

I think it starts to get into that realm of post-flash, post-motion design. It uses a lot of the same methods as film-based motion does, but it allows the viewer more room for exploration. I understand that doing something like that creates a more immediate connection between viewer and audience, but what’s disheartening is that things like timing (over a period longer than 5 seconds) get thrown out of the window.

I don’t think that film-based motion will disappear, ever, for the same reason that books will never stop being printed – but it is exciting to see this genre emerging more and more. It’s been a long time coming.

Sir Monkey

Tengustone… well said. I do believe the 30 second spot will evolve in the near future but regarding the internet, you are dead on about the 5 second rule, that shit is so disposable. It’s going to take some significant changes.

Justin, this is a GREAT piece!!!

Steven Heller and Rick Poyner, take some notes, Justin is going to kick both of you to the curb in the very near future.

tengustone

Heller and Poyner are wrinkly old douchebags anyways.

dunbarversion2

It’s a wonderful thing to hear other designers excited and positively prophetic about motion graphics. This especially relates to the boundaries that are about to be obliterated, as Justin points out.

I daresay, we are about to experience the return of the artist. Thank God.

SermonOfMockery

One thing to consider is the range of skills that this demands from the designer. Not too many people are good at both interactive and motion design, which means that projects like these will require larger and larger teams than ever. Yes, Mike Young can pull it off, but how many of us are Mike Young?

This development parallels trends within motion design as well, with 3D and all the associated skills (motion tracking, intricate compositing, etc) becoming a bigger and bigger part of the process.

It means that we’ll see bigger, more elaborate projects, but it also means that there might be less room for experimentation. Much like the video game and film industries, when “a guy in his garage” can’t do it all himself, it makes it tough to get your feet wet.

Just my $.02. Good post!

tengustone

Re: Return of the artist

Don’t tell the clients @.@

tengustone

Also, Sermon – while you’re right on some level about it being an extremely time-consuming new medium, I don’t think that means that it’s going to be too “tough to get your feet wet.”

Motion and film are extremely time-consuming, but even second-year college students without budgets have their own reels and films. Everyone can put together some animation tests, and everyone has the capacity to shoot a short film on DV.

In regard to video games, it’s no harder to get your feet wet now than it ever was – in fact, it’s easier now that the modding community has become a hotspot for employment. Back in the days of Genesis, no one had a chance of making a game by themselves because the technology was unavailable, but now, technology and information are readily available to us.

jez

There are quite a few different web based mediums that are based around interactivitiy and motion. one of the coolest ones is a programming language called processing. http://www.complexification.net/ has some very impressive examples of motion art made with processing, and there are other peoples examples at http://www.processing.org/

aspekt

I like the pieces but definitly dont see anyhting ground breaking here. it’s alot like CD-ROM development back in the day, but for the web. all in all it’s interactive motion design. so essentially the only difference is that this is web based Vs. Disc based delivery. I don’t think that you will even need to assemble such a broad team to accomplish this. maybe 3 or 4 people tops. I mean the one nike piece from big spaceship is essentially run by keyDown scripts running different film loops. I’m not saying it doesnt look nice. but it’s been done before.

fiercecurry

The real revolution is when here in America (and the rest of the world) we get true broadband, not a crippled version of it. South Korea and Japan has broadband speeds in excess of 30Mbps, up to 100Mbps.

Once that happens. than the line between broadcast and interactive will be blurred, since all media could be made instant and real-time.

Which begs the question…if the interactive realm becomes as quick as
broadcast, dont you just have something similar to DVD menu design?
What is so amazing about that?

tengustone

It’ll probably look like DVD menu design at first, but I think that evolution into a more interesting form of interactive design is inevitable – I mean, hell, the only reason that DVD menus are so mediocre is because they can get away with it. Mediocrity is the standard for DVD design, because the technology is limited and the designers know they can get away with it.

Additionally – one of the other big reasons that DVD menu design is such crap is that the designers working on it are usually pretty crap. There’s no reason for any production company to pay out the ass and hire a brilliant designer, especially when that designer might do something considerably less safe.

aspekt

I agree with tengustone. DVD design just flat out sucks. I mean sometimes you do get a gem but not so often. When I was desinging CD-ROMS back in the day we had way more flexibility in what we could do Vs. someone designing a DVD. of course this was using director the now red headed step child of macrodobe. with all the innovations in flash over the years though and especially with the tighter integration of after effects with flash you should really start to see some very eyecatching mograph on the web. I doubt that it will ever really beat out broadcast though. not anytime soon. the broadcast / digital signage market is massive. and lets not forget that not everyone has highspeed internet, and alot that do would sooner skip a flash animation to get where they need to be than sit through it.

fiercecurry

If you wanna be the guy that spends 18 hr days designing, coding, editing and animating by yourself…..have fun!

Glenn Riverside

I’ve personally felt a big pull in this direction from my clients. They’re looking for a more complete set of services now. They want motion graphics, then they want special packages produced just for their web videos. It feels similar to 1999, but with real video instead of lame flash intros.

Glenn Riverside

http://www.mgmgrand.com/

Click on the enter button. This is a perfect example of what Justin is talking about.

aspekt

Fiercecurry – if you can do all of the above than why not? You’d be making a hell of alot more money.

cinamonroll

I think motion is just a discipline and it’s pretty obvious to me that this is more about what’s motion graphics role in each medium. Comparing websites to dvd menus is unfair as they have different objectives, totally different, and therefore different executions.

By the way, just checked that FWA site and there’s an interview with the art director for the Nike Air piece, it seems like it was really a lot of work.

tengustone

Maybe, but the objectives of the design can be heavily influenced by the designer. Especially in new fields like DVD menus and web design.

Mac20

tengustone needs a job.

linchanhone

one more old example flypentop

tengustone

Huggies and kissies @ Mac20

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