Don’t be gone long…

Here’s the 2nd animation for “Music for Suicides” by Stand Alone Complex, created by Mike lewis. This animation is for Track 6, entitled Don’t be gone long…

After finishing the last animation for A Lullaby for Gwenydd , I thought that this one would be relatively simple to do. I spent about a month on the last one, and thought that this one should take about a week or so, based on what I wanted to do with it… This animation fell right into the 80/20 rule in that I spent 80% of my time finessing the last 20%. I got the rough version into shape in about 2 days, and then spent about 3-4 more weeks hammering on it, trying to make it more interesting and polish off some of the rough edges…

Here’s what the original artwork looks like, painted by Kami Goertz:
Original Artwork

Unlike the last animation, this one diverges slightly from the original painting. I added a lot more depth, and continued past the right hand side into something that’s not contained in the painting. My friend Vince and I had some discussions about the album and the track in particular, and what we could do with the various aspects of the painting… We took our own interpretation for the red dots being drops of blood, and the bar at the right hand side being some sort of threshold that the girl goes through… Once she passes through the threshold, the world is similar to what she was in before, but it’s darker, warped, and something isn’t right…

“Don’t be gone long” can be thought of as a message for someone, or a loved one, about to go on some hallucinogenic voyage. Everything seems ok for a while, then they pass into some sort of alternate universe where trying to communicate on their level, or get into their head is basically impossible. You can only hope that they won’t be gone long, and when they come back, everything will be ok. In this case, based on the name of the album “music for suicides”, we decided that this would be her last journey to the other side, and she dies as she crosses the threshold…

Technically, this animation was much more complicated than the previous one. Everything was chopped up into individual layers in photoshop, and then brought into Adobe After Effects CS4 for animation. The particles were animated with Trapcode Particular, but the rest was all hand animated in AE. One of the hardest things to do was to animate the growing purple columns so that they looked like the purple columns that were already in the painting. I tried cutting out some of the original ones, and using masks and some distortion effects to make them look like they’re growing, but it didn’t look very good at all. In the end, I cooked up a custom recipe of animated masks, blurs, and fractal displacements that got something that looked pretty similar to the originals.

Adobe After Effects CS4 Screenshot

Once everything was animated in AE, I decided to export all of these layers as individual renders for compositing inside of Fusion 5.3. I knew that I wanted to do some sort of time warping, colour shifting, weird displacement thing once she passes over the threshold, and I just could not get the effect I was after easily enough inside of AE. When working with multiple layers, and having to re-use these elements in multiple places in different ways, I find it’s a lot easier to work in a node based compositing application. Dealing with AE’s pre-comps in pre-comps in pre-comps is just a friggin’ nightmare compared to the ease of nodes. Each application has it’s strengths, and I tried to use each application to it’s advantage here, rather than trying to shoehorn everything into one app. I thought about running this through nuke to try and learn it, but for my own sanity, I decided to take this one through Fusion.

Fusion 5.3 Screenshot

As you can see from the screenshot to the right, this flow is a total mess, and honestly, I dont think anyone could really follow it if I had to hand it off to someone. Once again, 80% of this was cobbled together in about an hour, which is why it’s a bit of a maze to navigate.

Ideally, I would have been done here, and would have done my final render inside of Fusion. Unfortunately, there’s some really nice plugins available inside of AE that don’t work very nicely in fusion. Trapcode Shine for instance doesn’t work in 32bit float inside of fusion, so in order to retain all my floating point information, I decided to take the output of the fusion render, and feed that back into After Effects for a final FX / colour correction pass. Once that pass was finalized, I took the render back into another comp in fusion, and did some very minor colour corrections, glows, and added grain. I find the glow tools in Fusion work a lot nicer the stock ones in AE. There are some 3rd party glow tools available for AE but I haven’t had a chance to test them to see if they’ll work the same as Fusion’s.

Here’s a breakdown of the various render layers and colour corrections that were used to achieve the final look:

I’m really happy with the way this one turned out, and i’m really looking forward to working on the next one.

If anyone has any thoughts, comments, or questions, please feel free to ask.



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