Inspired by the Zoomquilt project, the Infinite OZ site beautifully captures the inter-dimensional weirdness of the Outer Zone (“OZ”) by surrealistically embedding one dreamlike vista in another.
What makes the project tick, though, is the injection of thoughtful motion and excellent sound design. Atmospherics like rainfall and particle fields are buttressed by shifts in the sonic landscape, adding depth to the fantastically detailed paintings. The whole experience is seamless, thanks in large part to some bad-ass code running under the hood, but also thanks to the natural way in which each artist’s painting resonates with those before and after it.
I love this stuff. It’s motion + code + narrative + interactivity + beauty. It’s the kind of experience I wanted back when I first jumped online in 1996. It’s a geek’s paradise—but it’s also the kind of thing my mom can enjoy.
Getting Back to Pangea
Over the last several years, the fields of motion design and interactive design have been overlapping more and more. The overlap has been driven by a combination of technological advances and a paradigm shift on the part of designers to regard the web as a broadcast medium. Some people—dubbed “visionaries” in the 90s because their creativity outpaced the available technology—have seen this trend developing for a long time. But the ad dollars and broadband penetration simply weren’t there to justify their grand ideas.
Now things have changed. The big money is going to the web. Budgets for web sites can be staggeringly huge—much larger in many cases than the budgets for national television spots. With these burgeoning budgets has come some willingness to experiment. If you don’t believe me, hop on over to The FWA and launch the first few sites. There’s some truly ballsy stuff going on there.
Exodus, Movement of The People
I’ve met a lot of interactive designers who’ve migrated to motion design. I’m one of them, in fact. I couldn’t wait to leave behind the comparatively limited capabilities of Flash for the seemingly unlimited power of After Effects. When I threw Cinema 4D into the mix, I started to feel like a god.
But all that time Flash was growing up, becoming much more sophisticated than a mere vector animation tool. ActionScript hit puberty and then went dashing into adulthood, becoming a fully fledged object-oriented language. Meanwhile, the authoring environment sprouted all sorts of interesting new tools.
Perhaps the most relevant evolution for motion designers, however, was the way in which Flash’s video support changed over the years. Initially, the Flash Player’s video functionality was simply seen as an alternative to QuickTime and RealPlayer. It was just another video player, albeit one with greater penetration by far than the alternatives.
As the video codecs improved, two things happened. 1) High-quality video with low data rates was possible. 2) Alpha channel support was introduced. That, combined with overall performance boosts in the Flash player, particularly with regards to handling bitmap data, set the stage for the quiet revolution taking place now.
I find it a little strange that so many interactive designers have come knocking on the door of motion design but that the reverse is seldom true. I think this will change. As motion designers begin to see how much fun it is to build projects for the web and as the underlying technologies continue to evolve, I think we’ll see more and more motion freelancers being picked up by studios like B-Reel. To put it another way, studios like B-Reel, who put web and broadcast on equal footing, will start snowballing into larger and larger powerhouses.
For now, add some interactivity to your daily diet, if you haven’t already. Think about how motion might become more than just a passive experience. Consider that you have the power to create entire worlds, not just 30-second spots.