HunterGatherer is the latest artist to be commissioned by Fuel TV for one of their award-winning Signature Series IDs. The new stop-motion spot is inspired by the idea of synthesia, with music transformed directly into the spare and graphic visual style of Todd St. John. Bright, stimulating and very impressive.
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Q&A with Todd St. John, HunterGatherer:
1. The Fuel Signature Series is pretty wide-open, allowing artists a blank canvas to express themselves and sign their own name. What was your process for coming up with the idea for this piece?
I often try to make complicated things out of simple components. Sort of like the idea of a tangram, where there’s a constraint built-in. This was inspired by the graphic display of music. Looking at the way musical notation or midi sequences visually manifest an aural arrangement. When you try to very literally translate or slide something from one medium to another, interesting things can happen. Once that idea was in place, it was just pushing and expanding that thought. The animation bounces back and forth between literal and abstract.
2. Stylistically, this piece is similar to your work for the Swerve Festival and the New York Times, is this technique of stop-motion with wooden blocks a process that you particularly enjoy? Can you explain that working method a little bit?
It’s something that’s developed over a few projects, like the Swerve and Times animations. Building is a big part of how we work, through products, animation or illustration work, so when we were invited to do something for this ‘signature’ series, it seemed like a natural choice, and a way to push those ideas further. In terms of the method, it’s pretty much what it looks like; everything is built out of wood models and painted blocks that are arranged and animated. Beyond some compositing and clean-up, all three of these projects were created in-camera.
3. Often stop-motion has a very static camera, since it’s complicated enough to move the objects in front of the camera. How did you manage the camera moves?
Not a lot of people notice that, but you’re right, any camera move adds a layer of complexity, since you can’t then cut, add or repeat frames. Without going into too much detail, I’ll build rigs, like low-tech motion-control. For the final shot of this piece we had to make something custom, because the camera was orbiting along a curved arc above the logo, while it was animating.
4. Did you draw or plan out the shots in this first? Was there an animated test? Or is it all done in front of the camera and edited together later?
It’s all pretty planned out. We’d done sample styleframes with real models, and then some pre-visualizing using CG before we shot the sequences. We mapped out more ideas than we used, then edited down.
Thanks, Todd. You can also catch a glimpse at some more behind-the-scenes here in a video that caught some of the making of this piece.
Director: Todd St. John
Models and Animation: Todd St. John, Ben Yonda, Leta Sobierajski, Eric Schoenbrunn
Editor: Phil Pinto
For FUEL TV
SVP & GM: CJ Olivares
Creative Director: Todd Dever
Director On-Air Promotions: Michael Cooley