My One Year Project, Part 01: "Sometimes it's necessary to be crazy!"
Let me start by saying that all I want with this text is to help people out. I would be very happy if someone could find anything useful among what I describe here. I’m not here to say what is right or wrong. Just telling you what I went through while working for a year in this project. No need to say thank you or to share it. I mean, I’m not going to be upset with you doing so, but the biggest reward for me would be to see you doing the same – trying to help someone else; even someone in something completely out of this field.
Another warning I need to give you is my grammar. Writing is not my best skill and I’m not ready to spend some cash to pay someone to make it better. LMAO. So...
In November 2016, I decided to live as a freelancer. Was a hard decision. I didn’t have any savings, clients... I didn’t plan anything at all. But I always took risks in life to make things happen. The first time I worked on a political campaign, I was in charge of Motion and Post-production, but I had no experience in After Effects. But hell, I said yes to the offer. I had nothing to lose.
The work was in a small town in Brazil, 300 Km away from my home. I borrowed R$ 50,00 from my mum, to secure myself a ticket to come back. I thought something could go wrong and I would need to leave as a runaway, LOL. I was brave and bold (or, depending on the perspective, plain crazy) and after many mistakes and good calls, I understood the key to surviving in my universe: “SOMETIMES IT´S NECESSARY TO BE CRAZY ”.
At that time, there weren’t many challenges left in my work, and for anyone working in a creative field, this can be a real nightmare. So after this crazy first trial and another month without doing much than very small jobs, I was blessed with an idea -- “I will invest my time and energy to create my portfolio”. For a year, I would create a video per month. Good ones. Clips I could be very proud of. A solid material for my portfolio.
Choosing what to do first was already a challenge. I began looking at everybody’s work – short films, hero and action features… I was looking for a theme that could keep me interested and hooked for hours and hours in front a computer. After some trials, I stumbled upon a text about cangaceiro – a cangaceiro was a type of bandit from Brazil’s Northeastern area, old times, a mix of a pirate and Robin Hood, with a some social concerns. Some saw them as heroes. The government could only see bad things on them.
Anyhow, those words brought me to Patativa do Assaré, a famous poet from Ceará. Assaré was an uneducated man who created this amazing poetry, with spelling mistakes and so forth, but who managed to translate the suffering and the resilience and courage of my people – those born in one of the driest and poorest parts of Brazil.
After hours and hours of research, I chose to draw inspiration from those guys who had always astonished me. I would watch whatever I could find from bad asses like Marcel Ziul, Mau Borba (from State Design) and Ariel Costa. After mining the internet, I thought those were styles suitable for what I was looking for. I’ve got to analyze their material almost frame by frame, but very soon I realized the scope of their work was way bigger than I thought, and I didn’t have a clue on how to start. My point, however, was to try; try to get as close as possible to the same quality I spotted on their work. If my final piece could be at least 20% as good as theirs I would be happy.
I had never done anything as hard as that. Indeed, every time I tried to do the art for an animation, I failed badly. But here the challenge was different – I was trying to create something interesting for myself. I did an extensive research about the production process, storytelling and other things I had never paid attention to before. I finally found a piece from School of Motion about the process of building up a short movie. The link is here. I began copying its workflow and did the first sketch of my storyboard. Geeeee, it was way more complicated than I thought! I redid it countless times. But at the end, it was really helpful. It gave me an idea of the project’s scope. Here you can see some of the “neatest” frames, LMAO:
I realized I needed to somehow get my skills to another level. I decided to test new techniques. It was the first time I used Cel Animation. It was a very basic usage, but it was enough to give a “handmade” feel to the animation. This was important as the area where I am from has this strong connection with craftsmanship.
In this video, I used 3D, although always with the help of 2D. Applying 2D textures in a 3D environment gave me freedom for camera movements.
It also gave me more room for the creation of some special effects. I have no clues on how to do the same in 2D.
Eventually, among mistakes, fails, and trials, I came to this result:
I showed the clip to some friends and was astonished by the positive feedback. It felt amazingly good to know that I did it all by myself, from the beginning to the very last frame. This gave me the certainty that I wanted to keep going, improving my game.
Excited by the success of my Patativa vid and now conscious of my poor skills in the design part of the job, I enrolled myself in the School of Motion’s Design Bootcamp. Ouch! It was expensive for me, but as Andrew Kramer says: “Invest on yourself”.
I broke the piggy bank and begun the course in January, together with a new project -- the remake of the opening of a movie I love. The problem I found was the heavy load of work required by the course. I wasn’t prepared to give up on my pet project.
It was freaking hard to find some balance between personal life and my project. At this point, Keliane, my wife, was fundamental. Her support and patience made all the difference. I could not have finished the course if it wasn’t for her understanding. I’m very thankful, my "Nega”. Love you sooooo much!
It was to see how what was supposed to be a problem ended up being a blessing. I knew my weakest point was design. I was always that guy who knows the software and nothing else. This was keeping me as a button pusher and nothing else. But I had the clever advice of a sensei, Felipe Seabra, a big name in 3D in my city, who doesn’t work in the field anymore. It took me a while to understand his words, but here they are:
"Learn to learn. Optimize your learning by studying properly."
Sounds obvious, right? Yeah, but I still see tons of people getting really good at using a software before learning the basics, like what is complementary colour, for example. But if you can do both, you are optimizing your learning. So you can imagine how the course has blown up my mind...
Using what I was learning, I’ve got into developing style frames for my take on Dirty Harry’s intro. The process was quite the same – checking out samples and references, drafting styles and animating them.
While doing my research, I soaked myself into different styles, capturing a bit of everything I thought was interesting enough. Then I used all that stuff in the storytelling and the concept all intro must have.
This video left me in front of quite a curious problem: How do you get out of style frames and have a final video? The transition from static to animation was something I needed to develop. If you pay attention, (wacth the video) you will notice a difference between the final video and the styles. I simply could not reproduce what I drafted in Photoshop in the AE environment. But I needed to finish it, as January was almost ending. Better have it done than seeing it forever resting in a folder somewhere.
Here is the final video:
It wasn’t that bad, right? For me, it was a precious professional experience, as to learn how to create something from one end to the other in a much more structured way.
This piece also helped me understand a Timothy Samaraque’s line I read a long time ago:
“Rules can be broken, but cannot be forgotten”.
I had never given much attention to design before. I thought I didn’t need to. It was like being at high school learning about vectors and this stuffs and thinking I would never use that info in my life. I can imagine my teachers now laughing at me.
Nowadays I feel like learning the basic rules is what I needed to be more creative. Now I know how to transform an idea into a video. I can use the rules to solve problems, make money and pay my bills. (But I also found out that things weren’t as simple as I thought).
Life is not all rosy. Failing is part of the process and even necessary for your growth. Anyway, I must stop here before it gets too boring.
Soon, I’ll publish more.
All good for you!