Hello School of Motion!
From switzerland to vancouver.
Background & Education
Hi, I'm Vivian. I grew up in a small village in Switzerland with a cow to habitant ratio of 1 to 1. Fun fact, my great grandad was a chocolatier and yes, we do eat a stereotypical amount of chocolate.
In school I was the kid that was always doodling during class so, when I attended high school it was clear to me that I should attend the Fine Arts program. After graduating, I went on to the “Swiss School of Art and Communication” (Eracom) into their interactive design program. This is where things got real for me. Even though, After Effects was just barely touched upon in the curriculum, I got introduced to Video Copilot and Greyscalegorilla and spent all my time making my friends explode following FreddieW’s tutorials.
How did I become a motion designer?
After graduating with a sleek looking degree and a short internship at my local TV station, I convinced my parents I should become a filmmaker and headed to the other side of the world to go to Vancouver Film School for their Film Production Program. This was the most hardcore creative bootcamp I ever went through. Even though I was directing and producing my own projects, I ended up doing title sequences for the whole class, helping my classmates with visual effects on set and in post. I produced my final project, Reflect, which is loaded with motion graphics and 2D animations. I came out of this year with loads of experiences, friends for life and it is also where I met my partner. This year literally changed my life.
The school forbid us to do stunts. So, we used stop-motion animation instead. Improvise, adapt and overcome!
Since then I’ve been working for the past three years as the in-house motion designer at the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, capturing game footage, putting together the video boards starting Lineup, ridiculously big (27,000px wide) LED panels animations as well as getting into Data Driven animations, making tons of templates and a bunch of gifs.
It’s also where I made my most popular video ever. A few months after starting, Pokémon Go happened. We were about to announce two new signings and decided to have our take on it.
The video got the attention of the international sport press (Fox Sports, Sportsnet, Sky Sports, etc.) and thousands of retweets. And I got famous around the office for making pop culture inspired pieces.
I’m a proud school of Motion Alumni of both Animation and Character Animation Bootcamp. It was tough, but boy did I learn a ton from these!
I owe a lot to the team at the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Both my manager and the marketing director were super pumped to see me wanting to improve my skills. They allowed me to join School of Motion’s Animation and Character animation bootcamp and let me work on assignments during any down time there. I also got to use all I learned in tons of small social media posts.
A “Game of Thrones” inspired animation using Duik and Joystick and Sliders.
During animation bootcamp Joey poured on us so much knowledge and resources on us but I think the one most influential one was Ash’s Collective Podcast. I’ve been an avid listener since then and took his Main Title Design course which was so much fun, and I learned a ton!
The assignment was to build style frames for our favourite movie. So, here’s the Iron Giant!
Motivating and GUiding Students
I love teaching! After graduating from Vancouver Film School in Film Production, I got the chance to mentor a group of six students for their first semester. And this was amazing! Getting to introduce students to their first shoots, problem solve with them and in the end make six short films was awesome.
I think a lot of it is about sharing your passion for the craft. I remember teaching my classmates in VFS how to make a simple set extension for their short films and you can literally see the “WAIT, YOU CAN DO THAT?!” moment in their eyes.
Rotoscopy can be a painfully long process, but so essential to VFX and motion graphics. I had to do a simple one this week. In order to get a 2D animation, embedded into the real world.
When cutting out a building or an inanimate object you can use a single mask on a layer and use a tracker to match the camera movement, but if you’re dealing with people in action, go with one mask per body parts and move/rotate all the points at once when possible, do a first pass every 4 frames, then on two’s when needed and if it’s still not perfect, go frame by frame.
A big thing with roto is to composite it back nicely, paying attention to motion blur. Playing around with directional blur, matte choker and alpha curves to get the desired result. It’s also crucial to have a good clean plate to work with. Even if this means taking it into photoshop to make it perfect.
For color keying with H264. The truth is, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Again, if you get to manage the environment on the shoot (get separate lighting sources for the screen and the subject, use flops to cut spill from the screen to the subject, get an evenly lit screen 1 F-stop down from the subject (a light meter helps a ton here) and if there is action, shoot at a higher shutter speed to minimize motion blur), you can make a good looking key fairly easily. At the Vancouver Whitecaps, we had a GH5S recording H264 in UHD, at 60fps and it worked great.
Our one and only swiss player at the Vancouver Whitecaps. Woot woot!
If you’re handed a poorly shot key. Then you’re in for some fun. In H264, the footage will tend to show messy pixelated edges and blotchy hair details. This is inherent to H.264 using a lossy compression, with a chroma subsampling of 4:2:0. In order to save space, pixels are forced to share the same colors. If you’re able to get your hands on a recorder (e.g. Atomos Ninja) for the day, you can pull a much better recording like a 10 bit 4:2:2 ProRes codec out of an ordinary DSLR.
On a side note, I got myself a nice little camera for the occasional client shoot and short films. The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4k (I know, it’s a mouthful). The 12‑bit RAW you get out of it is a dream to color grade and work with in post.
The Toughest Project I worked on
The toughest project I worked on is not the one I'm proudest of, but it was a massive learning experience.
After working on a main title sequence for a low budget film I got offered to do the VFX on the film itself. The only catch was the timeframe to get these done was ridiculously tight. There were 26 shots for a total of over 4 minutes. Most of these were adding rain, splashes and drips on exterior day shots and the rest were getting rid of light switches, fire alarms and exit signs in the manor they shot in to fit the time period.
There was some 2D and 3D tracking, playing around with particular to get realistic rain and bounces and a LOT of rotoscoping. None of these were crazy explosions or noticeable effects, but they were crucial for the movie to be believable.
Since I was still working fulltime, I ended up spending a lot of late nights on this one. It might not be the cleanest work I made, but I got all the shots done in time and the client was pumped about the result.
Devil is in the details…
Templating and data driven animation does takes a long time, but then you can chill for the next 30+ matches of the season and give yourself time to focus on more creative projects.
Goals & Inspiration
WHAT AM I LOOKING TO LEARN NEXT?
I’m really looking forward for Illustration for motion. It’s something I have always struggled with and I’m glad you’re tackling it with this course. I just heard the podcast of Joey’s and Sarah Beth and it sounds awesome!
I also look forward to Blend 2019! I can not believe how quick these tickets went. I was lucky to get my hands on one.
MY FAVORITE INSPIRATION SOURCES THAT MOST ARTISTS DON'T KNOW ABOUT?
I love art and design books, anything that gives me an insight in the creative process of an artist in gold to me. I recently picked up “The Art of John Alvin”. It’s amazing to see the process and integrations in making some of Hollywood’s most iconic posters.
I’m also a massive graphic novel and animated film nerd.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” - Dr. Seuss
Outside Motion Design
I started getting more and more into landscape and time-lapse photography. I just love going out for hikes across the province and try to get a decent shot. I’m now lugging around 20lbs of gear pretty much all the time.
I also worked as a stuntman for a few years back in Switzerland. It got me on the stage of some operas, feature films and commercial. It was a great way to get introduced into behind the scenes of filmmaking.
Talk to you soon
I had a chat with Anne Saint-Louis who was my TA for Character Animation when thinking of joining the School of Motion team. It was great to get an insider’s point of view and she was raving about you guys! I would love to have the chance to work with you all.
Lots of love from Vancouver.