Motion designers ATYP have just produced a literally mind-blowing (you’ll see when you watch it) promo for electronic musician Si Begg’s latest single, Permission to Explode. It’s a powerful combination of hands-on traditional animation techniques and computer-generated imagery that has a familiar digital feel. However, the hand-rendered aspect to the project elevates it beyond a simple digital aesthetic, taking the transient waveforms of Begg’s glitchy compositions and rendering them physical with vibrant style. We caught up with ATYP to find out a little bit more about how the project came about.
Having worked on a lot of commercial work, what’s it like to put together something more collaborative like this?
The motivations are initially quite self-indulgent, as freedom of expression is high on the list with a project of this nature. But in reality it very quickly turns into a more holistic, shared experience that takes a very different organisational approach to a commercial project. You feel a certain responsibility to include everyone and give them the input that their expertise deserves. It’s more of a family feeling that the project takes on.
Where the challenge lies is in the timeframe and how that affects motivation and stimulus. Everyone involved simply cannot take moths off to do this so its finding a relaxed enough timescale that suits people while also keeping up the energy and motivation to really drive the project forward to the best possible place. That’s a very different proposition to a commercial project that runs like clockwork to a fast approaching deadline.
What involvement did Si Begg have on the direction of the project?
Si was there at the start with a new album and a lot of energy for it. We’ve had a relationship for many years and have a great understanding of each other’s attitudes and history. Even with this clear understanding, the creative development and production process was constantly changing and evolving. Si was kind of like an idle mentor though the process. That could sound negative but it was quite a relaxed way of being very motivational.
We would discuss the latest ideas and inform him of various u-turns, asking him to inform the label that the release date would be pushed back again, and he generally would get more excited than we would and you knew that however ridiculous or convoluted it sounded when you proposed it, ultimately it was worth doing.
We also updated the audio throughout the project readdressing it and developing it as the aesthetic grew, tailoring it for the animatics and shoot and shifting the mood to suit the visual.
“It’s a good feeling when you make something with your hands and stand back and genuinely think: I made that, and to me it looks pretty good.”
How come you decided to create all the elements by hand but keep a digital aesthetic?
It’s a very different exercise, creating a live-action shoot over staring into software for the duration of a project. There are subtle discrepancies that the analogue real-world brings; imperfections, anomalies, challenges that a computer never brings or poses. In this instance it was much better to try and perfect the real life environment than sitting there trying to degrade and humanise any 3D renders, and there are two main reasons why we went this way:
This analogue approach could appear insignificant to some or irrelevant to a producer and DJ that works in an electronic arena but on this album there are many sounds that were captured out in the ‘field’ with live recordings taken on old microphones. There is a real world, physical foundation to the eventual digital output, and we wanted to represent this in our execution. Also it appeals to our craft. We are as excited by engineering, designing, building and physically playing with materials – it’s an approach that produces results that are both individual and personally rewarding. It comes from the same origins of why people but a brush to a canvas I guess. It’s a good feeling when you make something with your hands and stand back and genuinely think: I made that, and to me it looks pretty good.
What are the advantages of stop-motion over digital animation?
From a practical perspective on this project I am not sure there were that many at all. The whole stop-frame component of the film was precisely pre-planned in software as a guide that was pretty much shot frame perfect on the shoot. Saying that, were the stop frame came into its own is the section were the flowers explode out. It’s much quicker and more beautiful to have a plastic bag full of petals that you throw down, than it ever would ever be to try and create this in 3D software.
From a creative point of view it can be very inspiring to have it all laid out in front of you. It’s a different connection you have to the cast you are working with. You can walk around it and touch it and you instantly know whether something feels right. You also intensify your methods. Concentration is high in a stop-frame shoot as everyone knows that it’s happening now and under this pressure people really perform in special ways.
What’s next for ATYP?
We have just finished a project with Nike for their new House of Innovation at Selfridges and are pitching on a couple of things that we are unable to mention. We have plans bubbling for another non commercial project but…If David Lynch decided to call us up because he needs a 30 minute dream sequence right in the middle of his next feature, my guess is we would happily do that for the next six months.