Having graduated from the Royal College of Art just last year, in a short space of time, the animator and director Cheng-Hsu Chung has achieved rather a lot. Setting off to Berlin immediately after his studies, Cheng-Hsu began his career as a freelancer, working with the likes of Sophie Koko Gate and Casey Raymond on a couple of music videos. Learning from some of the best in the business, he gained some understanding on how to direct music videos and went on to work with Adidas and the BBC where, in turn, he further developed his character design and prowess as a director.
Now positioning himself as a film director who collaborates with all manner of clients, Cheng-Hsu’s most recent project sees him direct the American dance-punk band !!! (Chk Chk CHk)’s latest music video. Titled Couldn’t Have Known, the animation, released just last week, presents the viewer with a torrent of fluidly colourful visuals to match the pace of the band’s latest track.
“Time travelling is one of the idea’s that !!! and I both agreed on at the beginning,” explains the director. After listening to the song and determined to visualise something equally “groovy and upbeat”, Cheng-Hsu wanted to create something both “enthusiastic and wild” with a touch of the surreal to go alongside the song’s funky rhythm. Continuing on from a set of visuals he’d established earlier on in his career, which saved the director a lot of time during the month-and-a-half-long project, Cheng-Hsu created a bopping animatic full of crazy visuals to compliment the feel of the music.
“Basically, the video is about a fierce bossy woman being chased by a guy who gets attracted with a ball she throws to him,” says the director on the quirky storyline. “One of the bandmate’s suggestions was that they wanted to see the day and night shifting, so I made the colour scheme go from bright to dark through different environments where the characters travel,” continues Cheng-Hsu. Eventually creating a 24-hour time trip, he made a cyclical narrative filled with a variety of chaotic visuals to match the dance track, which finally comes full circle. On this storytelling technique, he goes on to say: “I frequently use this trick in my films because somehow, I feel like it’s a way to explain the video to the audience in spite of my confusing and weird storyline.”
Drawing visual inspiration from one of his favourite cartoons Superjail, the nonlinear narrative brimming with “a bunch of visual explosions” is designed to resemble a celebration or a party, not only in its visual interpretation but also through its evocation. “The most important things is that people leave with happiness and satisfaction from a lovely chaos,” Cheng-Hsu goes on to say. And, as a result of this, he decided to incorporate the visual of a ball zooming around the animation frames to signify this. As well as being easier to animate than the human characters, on this, the animation director concludes: “[the ball] as a character can cause lots of craziness and simultaneously connect different spaces smoothly.”
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