From the moment Fanélie Muselier’s music video for Whodat begins, the viewer is thrown head first into the sights and sounds of New Orleans. Captivating from the first note, this effervescent film immerses you in the colours, patterns and bustling atmosphere of the city, by way of a painstaking creative process.
The ECAL graduate illustrated 1740 frames using marker pens, creating a hazy, painterly aesthetic that encapsulates that feeling of wandering through a new environment, bamboozled by the visual feast around you. Created by Fanélie over three long months, the animation seamlessly intertwines with the music, following the beat and channelling the exhilarating spirit of the city. Quite impressive, considering she’s never even been there. Still, it resonated with her so-called practice of “sunny graphic design,” bringing joy to people through her vibrant work.
It’s Nice That: Why did you decide to study graphic design, and how did you end up doing animation?
Fanélie Muselier: For me, the profession of graphic designer was the choice that best suited my desires. I was always creative, but very reserved about my work. And then when I started my studies, I liked to think that I would work to make the world easier to read, that I would be one of the people who help to communicate a message.
But during my studies, I changed a lot and I met Nicole Udry and Guy Meldem, two of my teachers, who had a great influence on my vision of design. I have been able to experience a lot of things, and I have developed an affinity with video and illustration. I was working with these two mediums separately, then it was really for Whodat that I decided to link the two, without knowing how it would turn out.
INT: What is the most important thing you learned at university, and what didn’t you like about your time there?
FM: There’s so much to say for both of them! For me, the worst was also the best, you have to know how to get out of your comfort zone, even when you don’t want to. You are far from home and your lairs, and you have to be up to the task while learning and experimenting; it’s not necessarily obvious or even as frustrating. There are so many things I would have liked to do but didn’t have time to try, like CNC for example.
It is through my theoretical courses, my teachers, my workshops, my conferences, or even my friends, that I have learned. My practice as a designer is not anchored, I can do what I want. I can be what I want, it’s not easy of course, you also have to be able to ask yourself questions and listen, but I’m happy to have this vision of things at the end of my studies.
“The music invades the street, and uses the landscape as a musical score”
INT: What was the concept behind your film, Whodat?
FM: Whodat is taken from the recently released album by the band Nola Is Calling. The band and the project took shape in New Orleans and is composed of six artists from France, Benin and New Orleans. The album was produced on site and is inspired by the musical culture of this city.
New Orleans is the most African of the American cities, well-known for its nightlife, concerts, music, dance and Mardi Gras festivities. Whodat is a song that is intended to be characteristic of New Orleans. Just like the band, I was inspired by the city and its colours. The city is at the centre of the album, so I naturally put it at the centre of my project.
The scenario of my video is simple: the city and its streets are in the spotlight, based on videos found on the internet. I propose a continuous walk in New Orleans. We start with the most emblematic districts, distributed with elements specific to all urban environments. I wanted to take advantage of these disturbing factors common to all the cities of the world, to propose an immersion in abstract patterns.
These abstract patterns are actually motifs found on the costumes of the Black Indians’ Chief, made for the Mardi Gras festivities. Black Indians is a community founded 300 years ago, originally composed of slaves who fled their conditions and were helped and saved by the Amerindians. So once a year, the Chiefs of the Mardi Gras Indians tribes put on a hand-sewn costume of pearl and feathers and commemorate the help that the Amerindians gave to their ancestors… It’s a way for me to wink at this culture in the album (two of the artists in the band are Black Indians Chiefs).
The music invades the street, and uses the landscape as a musical score.
INT: How did you create the atmosphere in the film? Tell us about your creative process.
FM: At the first listening, I fell in love with the album. I was able to make the music video of one of the songs because I knew David Walters (percussions and artistic director). He trusted me blindly, when I have never been to New Orleans. It was my research and discussions with him that allowed me to understand the issues at stake in the project. I didn’t want to treat my subject naively with my European eyes, that was my biggest challenge on this project.
After laying the foundations of my scenario, I edited together the music video with After Effects, and after this edit, I printed the final sequence and divided it into ten frames per second. Then I drew frame by frame using a light table. The resulting images are subject to my interpretation and modifications related to my drawing technique.
To make my drawings, I used alcohol markers and limited myself to a palette of 13 colours. These markers are very thick, difficult to handle because they drool and attack the paper. I had already used this technique before for illustrations but never for animation.
The use of After Effects also allowed me to play with the transition and deformation effects. Through this, I was able to transcribe digital effects into drawings. I wanted to make the digital traditional and play with the past and present of all the tools at my disposal.
I produced 1740 drawings, at a rate of ten frames per second to make a video of two minutes 54 seconds, in three months. It’s been a long and tedious job… but I am happy, because the result was different from what I expected. And restricting myself for the use of colours has allowed me to be more imaginative in the production of my drawings. For example, the parts where the street is in the purple pink hues, I had to adapt.
INT: Who or what inspires your practice and why?
FM: There are a lot of things that inspire me. I come from the south of France, from Marseille. I grew up with sunshine all the time in a colourful city. My main guiding principle in my work is colour, I am unhappy without it. And I like to think that I practice a kind of “Sunny Graphic Design”. I have always been very much in the visual than in the concept, even if the concept remains very important!
I made the Whodat music video with simple tools, which can be seen and appreciated (or not), by everyone, it’s all public, that’s what I like. And what I’d like to keep doing.
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