Art Director/Motion Graphics Designer Ilya Tselyutin specializes in a field of media technology so advanced that it almost seems he’s straddling a unique cusp between day to day creative facts and out of this world science fiction. Already recognized as a master in his field—a fast moving discipline that combines graphic design and animation in motion picture title sequences and television commercials—Tselyutin also excels in the exotic field of spatial augmented reality.
“This is also known as projection mapping, video mapping and 3D mapping,” Tselyutin said. “One of the earliest public displays of projections onto 3D objects was Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride back in 1969, but it wasn’t until the early 2000’s, when more advanced tools and software became available, that artists began using projection mapping in artwork.”
“It is a special technology used to display moving objects on various surface as a video projection, so, for instance, an entire building can be turned into a multimedia installation and become a part of a compelling story.”
The California based Tselyutin’s singular palette of skills, both as a creative artist and technical innovator, made him particularly well suited to explore this territory, a long-standing interest which he first he became involved with as a university student back in his native Russia. His fascination with 3D graphics, animation and design coincided with formal training in computer science and provided an ideal confluence for opportunity when the technology first arrived in the country in 2009.
“I was working at Channel One Russia as a broadcast designer,” Tselyutin said. “I was constantly exploring other areas of 3D motion graphics and the ways it can be implemented. And when I heard the Radugadesign agency was looking for 3D professionals to work on something that was quite new and challenging I was eager to try it.”
The Moscow agency was the perfect new professional home for the talented, ambitious Tselyutin, and he quickly distinguished himself in the vital new field. “I saw great potential in this and left my job at the TV channel to focus solely on 3D mapping and augmented reality,” he said. “And 3D mapping technology was unheard of in Russia when we created the first car projection show for Audi in the country.”
Created for the 2011 Audi Car Design Awards the spot featured graphics that changed the colors and tires of a 3D car model and established Tselyutin as a fast-rising 3D sensation (see it here). “I took part in all of the 3D mapping projects while working at Radugadesign,” Tselyutin said. “We worked on commercial projection shows for such clients as Audi, Samsung, some national mobile operators and many others.”
Tselyutin’s dedication and groundbreaking achievements benefitted everyone involved. “Working with Ilya was always a very pleasant experience,” Ivan Nefedkin, Radugadesign founder-CEO, said. “He was one of very few professionals in Russia who completely understood the specifics of 3D augmented reality. There was no really a university degree for what we did, so there were only a few people who could do the job. He always went extra mile to support our team by overtaking the hardest tasks to make sure the project is delivered on time—on the Audi projection show, he would stay up working all night. Ilya played a critical role in establishing Radugadesign as one of the country’s leading media agencies.”
Tselyutin’s professional reputation as an innovator and visionary quickly spread throughout the international media world. “Right after we produced that first car projection show, many agencies in Russia and abroad started implementing the same technology,” Tselyutin said. “I was invited to produce a projection show by the National Institute of Technology Kartanaka, Mangalore, India, who were quite impressed by what we were doing in Russia. I began receiving many offers from all over the world, and decided to move abroad.”
Currently residing in Hollywood, where he serves as Art Director/Motion Graphics Designer at the prestigious Trioka agency, Tselyutin is still breaking new ground, always expanding and elevating his technique. “Working on those challenging projects helped me master a great variety of new skills,” he said. “The most important knowledge I gained was learning how to successfully generate dynamic visual effects on static footage for a completely immersive effect. This proved to be very useful later on in my career,
Taken with an already impressive roster of achievements, the influential Tselyutin’s future potential is limitless.
“Ilya has a unique set of skills,” Nefedkin said. “From the advanced technical knowledge he acquired studying computer programming to his outstanding graphic design skills—he always came up with new creative ideas, challenged himself and the whole team, and pushed the boundaries of what was possible. Our clients loved it. He never ceased to amaze us with his both creative mindset and perfect technical execution.”
Diego “Couts” Coutinho did not always know he would eventually be considered a top art director and motion graphics designer in his country. He started working at the age of eleven, fixing cars. A year later, he began working in a chair factory. During his time there, he learned what hard work really was, and what it meant to succeed. At the age of 20, he went to school to study graphic design. He was the first in his family to go university.
Despite his humble beginnings, Coutinho quickly became one to watch. He has been recognized worldwide for his talents, winning awards and festival selections. Yet, even with all he has achieved, for him it is still about doing what he loves.
“The art director is one of the people in charge of the project, so if it goes wrong, it’s your responsibility, but if that’s okay you’ll get your laurels too. In this position, beyond the possibility of having more space to act, I feel very stimulated with the possibilities to explore my own ideas and solutions for the project,” said Coutinho.
Coutinho’s success continued when he worked on the film Wish You Were Here? to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the famous D&AD Awards for design and advertising. Design and Art Direction (D&AD, formerly known as British Design & Art Direction) is a British educational charity which exists to promote excellence in design and advertising. Widely considered one of the most prestigious and difficult-to-win awards in design and advertising, D&AD celebrates the finest creativity each year across a diverse range of disciplines.
“It’s a dream to be part of the 50th anniversary of such an important festival and to play with such groundbreaking pieces of art direction and advertising. So, for a festival of such importance like D&AD to give us the opportunity to promote next year’s awards is fantastic,” said Coutinho.
The spot summarizes the five decades of the awards in a creative and unusual way, recalling memorable pieces of design and advertising that won the coveted pencil-shaped trophies. The over 20 references Coutinho’s team picked from the immense D&AD archives were reinterpreted, using various techniques like 2D and 3D animation, stop-motion, live-action and puppetry, all the while swapping characters and narratives between the ads. The resulting fragments were sequenced in a free-associative way, with elements from a scene “trespassing” onto the next creating a flowing, surrealistic narrative that reflects the ambiguous, unpredictable nature of memory.
“It was great to work with such creative freedom. Of all the work I usually do, this one was like the ‘cherry on top’ because of the creative freedom we had and all the extra fun we had along the way,” said Coutinho.
Wish You Were Here? went on to win multiple awards, including one from D&AD itself, the Wood Pencil for Branded Film Content & Entertainment online. It also won the Silver for Visual Language and Graphics at the Cannes Lions, the Gold for Title Sequence at Ciclope 2015, the Bronze in Motion Graphics at LIA, and the 2015 Merit Award for Broadcast & Moving Image/Animation at One Show.
“I like the touch of mood that is important for the pacing of the film. I believe that it is fun for people in the field, who know the history of design and advertising, to try to identify all the references,” described Coutinho. “And receiving awards in many festivals for this project was an honor and a privilege.”
In this movie, Coutinho worked on the creative team, responsible for creating what would happen in the film. The storyline connects one commercial into another, and he had to think about how to merge two or three commercials in just one shot. After this, he created motion graphics and designed the posters of the movie.
“We began exploring ideas and concepts of what could turn out to be the film. After many suggestions, we got the proposal that summarizes, in a creative and unusual way, five decades of the Awards, all the while recalling memorable pieces of design and advertising that won the coveted pencil shaped trophies, mixing the commercials in a not your typical look-back piece, however,” he described. “The biggest challenge was to implement the concept of ‘let’s put mixed commercials in one spot’. The answer was gradually emerging based on associations, sometimes associations between elements in each commercial, sometimes in action or even free associations.”
The result is not a movie to be viewed from the perspective of the common market, in which technical elements as a clear identity, typesetting, and color work clearly permeate throughout the video, according to Coutinho.
“The final product asks for a moment of questioning about what is happening in the video, a fact that is obvious when we pay attention to the way how the track was built,” he said.
To create the posters, Coutinho used the same logic that was used to create the movie. He picked over some references from the D&AD archives and reinterpreted them in a fresh new way. The result of the posters come from mixing references of the Wish You Were Here? campaign, and other posters that were awarded in D&AD in the past. He used some materials that had been used in the creation of the short, and kept the references consistent with the identity of the campaign.
“Highly motivated, Diego has an amazing professional attitude that always brings a huge production value to any project he is involved,” said Diogo Kalil, a motion designer and 3D animator on the project.
You can view Coutinho’s work on the posters here, or check out the full video here.
Ilya Tselyutin has had an outstanding career as a senior motion graphics designer. He has learned from many talented professionals from all over the world including Konstantin Ernst, CEO of the Channel One Russia and the director of the 2014 Winter Olympics opening. He has worked with famous personalities from different industries, such as Formula One Champion and Tibor Pleiss, an NBA player. He has represented brands such as Lufthansa, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Audi and many more.
The 20th Anniversary of Internet in Russia was celebrated during 6 months with the major concert on April 7th, 2014 at Arena Moscow featuring an array of famous musical groups and musicians. The show started with a video streaming of the Russian Prime Minister giving a speech on the anniversary, followed by the concert alternated with the short reels with the TV pack identity we designed. The event was attended by a total of 2,500 people including major Internet business entrepreneurs and state officials.
Part of this included a promotional TV show spot dedicated to the 20th Anniversary of Internet in Russia. As a Leader Designer on this project, Tselyutin developed the concept, the opening title sequence, bumpers, lower third and a 30 second promotion using design elements typical to the past decades.
“It was really interesting to work on the project for your home country in collaboration with designers from Germany and Argentina,” said Tselyutin, being from Russia himself. “This kind of mixture helped us to create something completely unique for the Russian TV market. It’s a minimalistic, bold and yet clean brand identity.”
Stephanie Helou, currently the Design Manager at Unilever Germany Productions, and former Brand Consultant & Managing Designer at Vision Unltd, worked alongside Tselyutin for the project with the company Creative Worx GmbH. She describes him as Creative Worx GmbH’s most experienced designer and was trusted with directing projects that required both creative and advanced technical skills.
“As a Brand Consultant I worked closely with Ilya on many projects including the TV show pack for the 20th Anniversary of Internet in Russia. Having made an extensive research Ilya took an unusual approach to design and created a minimalistic and clean concept that was rather different from other TV packs we produced,” said Helou. “A remarkable combination of bold vibrant colors and animated geometrical figures made this spot stand out among all other TV commercials on Russian television. Ilya showed his strong leadership skills by guiding this project from its inception to completion as a conceptor, designer and animator. This was a truly enjoyable project and Ilya once again proved to be a highly skilled professional with a non-standard thinking.”
Together, Helou and Tselyutin were invited to give a speech about their work for the TV show pack for the 20th Anniversary of Internet in Russia at a Behance Dribble NRW Community event in Dusseldorf, Germany, where they presented design, concept and a making-of.
“Stephanie is an incredible source of ideas. From the very beginning she suggested doing something creative and new for the Russian TV market and set us up on the right course of actions. Also, as a brand consultant she supervised the process of following the brand guidelines to make sure all of the products including printed and digital were consistent,” said Tselyutin.
The project did present some challenges. Working in a refined schedule is always a challenge in the industry, but Tselyutin had to also work with another country remotely. This presented languages barriers, time differences, and communication difficulties, and gave him the additional role of translator. Despite this, he says the design industry is constantly evolving and it is important to maintain certain level of workmanship and live up to clients’ expectations. To continue improving despite his successes, Tselyutin frequently agrees to work on projects that he knows require some set of techniques he does not have a complete mastery of.
“I learned how to handle an international team on a project where I acted in both administrative and creative roles. I needed to take care of communication in one country and control the design process in another,” Tselyutin described. “I guess I mastered my multitasking skills.”
In the future, Tselyutin aims to keep evolving as a creative director and take on a managerial role in the creative process, especially on projects similar to this.
“I liked the idea itself – present the history of the Internet in Russia. Loved working with bright bold colors and mix them with clean and minimalistic geometric objects,” he concluded. “Overall, this was a very pleasant design project.”
With a dazzling visual style, an acute eye for design and a keen ability to overcome unexpected challenges, animator-art director Angela Yu’s boundless technical capacity and artistic creativity are remarkable. Moreover, she has an innate knack for approaching projects with a transformative originality that frequently redefines and improves upon the initially proposed concept.
Yu’s spent her entire life preparing for this, going all the way back to her childhood in Bejing, China. Yu became fascinated by comics, anime and manga books at an early age, covertly defying her parents’ strict bedtime rule to read them by flashlight under her blanket. “I always loved to draw and became obsessed with beautiful things and I wanted to know how to create things like that,” Yu said. “Manga books were my earliest inspiration for drawing—I’d doodle the characters all over my text books. I also loved watching animation, especially Japanese anime—“Dragon Ball” and “Sailor Moon.” I still watch anime these days, such as “One Piece.”
“I grew up in a very traditional family in China, and though I dreamed of being a Manga artist or animator as a kid, I never thought I’d have a chance to do it in reality—because for all my life I had made decisions based on whether or not they would impress my parents,” Yu said. “But when I was 22, I came to America and was studying at Michigan State University, just as my parents planned. This gave me a chance to view my culture from a distance, with a different perspective, and it gave me the space to think independently and the courage to pursue what I really wanted for my own life.”
Once that decision was made, Yu, with an MA in advertising from MSU, did not hesitate. “I studied Motion Graphic Design at the Ex’pression College for Digital Arts. Since I graduated, I’ve worked at studios and agencies such as Goodby Silverstein and Partners, Oddfellows, First person. And I worked on projects for clients like Google, Yahoo, Cisco, Comcase, NBA, Motorola, GE, Adobe.”
“I love telling stories carrying a message that matters to people. It needs to be meaningful. It can be either an artistic short film or a commercial project. As long as I feel what I am creating has a purpose, I find it fulfilling,” Yu said. “It’s all about how strongly I believe in the message I work on, even on a branding video for a digital product. If I believe the message in the video will make a difference to the brand, to people who work for the brand, then I enjoy what I am doing.”
Once Yu brings her talent to bear, the results are impressive. The ability to enhance and elevate has been a hallmark of her career; if Yu is brought in to consult, she’ll envision something that takes the entire project to a higher level; when Yu finishes a task, it often assumes a life of its own, garnering more notice and appreciation than anyone expected, whether a promotional film or a rock music video.
As Dorry Levine, Digital Media Strategist at ReThink Media, describes her: “Angela was easy to work with, very accessible, met every deadline, was flexible with our ever-changing requests, and turned out a phenomenal project that people are still talking about. The video she animated for us was even covered by the New York Times. I’d work with her again in a heartbeat!”
Yu’s artistic vision is a marvel in its own right. Her gorgeous animated short, “This is California,” is a perfect example of the animator’s rich aesthetic. With stunning visual design and flawless animation, it depicts some of the Golden State’s most iconic spots in an arresting, irresistible form that earned Yu the Best Animation award for 2015 at the IndieFEST Film Festival.
Yu’s already impressive roster of successful jobs with some of the world’s biggest companies underscores both her illimitable potential and singular gift for expanding the parameters of any design or animation undertaking. “Angela is the type of person that makes the seasoned artist step up their game, while also reminding everyone what that fire looked like when they first started,” said Mike Landry, Creative Director at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.
Most importantly, Yu loves what she does: “I see animation as music written in pixels. I don’t play music very well, but I am fortunate to find animation as the medium to express my creativity,” Yu said. “To this day today, I still enjoy spending the whole afternoon nerding out a motion curve in the graphic editor. It is a very ‘zen’ feeling. I enjoy my craft, and I never stop creating original content. I want to keep developing myself as a better animator and designer.”
We recently had the opportunity to sit down and visit with Zi Li, a revered game designer and producer who has helped deliver award-winning titles including “Dissonance,” “Paralect,” “MiraLab,” “Dungeon Crash” and “Epic Knights.” Shining in both PC and mobile platforms, Li has also engaged her talents for the award-winning “Leviathan” virtual reality project and for the short films, “The Birthday Girl” and “Fly.”
Li, a Guangdong, China native, has a well-founded background for the field. She received a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Digital Media from Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Interactive Media & Games from the University of Southern California.
Dispatching her design brilliance, Li has been instrumental in the development, design and execution of cognitive puzzle games, fantasy RPGs and adventure games. She works with Firefly Games Inc., that operates offices in both Shanghai and Los Angeles, and had prior stints with Digital Domain 3.0 Inc., Floor 84 Game Studio and Ericsson Communications.
Li has constructed a standout career with a formula comprised of artistic creativity, engineering ingenuity and a command of computer programming and design principals. We are excited to share her story below in our exclusive interview!
What was it like to grow up and live in Guangdong?
ZL: To be honest it was kind of boring. I grew up in a middle city. Its economy is okay to maintain people’s basic needs. But we don’t have much to do. People are very chilled and always have morning tea, afternoon tea and night tea. Being chilled and relaxed is not in my nature. I always want to go to other places and see what is exciting and creative. I guess that’s why I am here making games.
What games did you grow up playing?
ZL: I did not grow up playing games. My parents were very strict when I was young. They don’t allow me to access to anything that could make me feel addictive. I was learning painting and into manga when I was a child. I always wanted to do art.
Unlike a lot of game developers, I didn’t fall in love with games first. I have particular types of games I like. I love visual art and engineer first and then found games that express meanings and allow me to feel smart when I am playing are very attractive. That’s why I get into game industry.
What drove you to pursue a career in game design?
ZL: I would say I’m driven by the idea of communicating thoughts through art pieces. For me game is art. Game designers are the same as other artists.
I was good at science related fields when I was a kid. I thought my ability is enough support me to become an engineer in the future. On the other hand, I spent more than 6 years studying paintings until high school. I always thought I could become a part time artist. I did an animation later. I found that doesn’t satisfy my needs of expressing my engineering mindset.
Later, I got clearer that in the field that science intersects with art is what I’m really passionate about.
For me, games is a media that allows both science and art collapse together.
What is your favorite game genre?
ZL: Puzzle. I like games that can make me think and use my logic.
What are your top three favorite games all-time?
ZL: Braid, Machinarium, Windosill.
How would you describe your job as a game designer and producer?
ZL: My job includes a wide range of tasks. As a producer, I work with different teams and communicate with each team about their perspective of the game. Also, because I’m a game designer, I also work on game design decisions and help with correcting the game development direction.
What does it take to be a successful game designer?
ZL: I think a good game designer should be innovative, open-minded, and passionate. Other skills will come along as long as the game designer knows what he or she wants.
How did your academic career help shape your professional career?
ZL: I got an engineering degree in Digital Media. We learned lots of basic knowledge about films, animation and games. I learned how to program and work on cinematic pieces during my study in the Digital Media Department. I found my passion in films and games by trying out various media.
Then I went to graduate school for Interactive Media and Games. I was majoring in game design. I knew that this program is not only limited in traditional games. It matches what I want out of games. So I started as a game design student in the industry and gradually figured out my strength. I was involved in various games projects and learned different skills, like design methodology, cinematic expression and so on. They definitely help me to become a game designer and producer.
“Dissonance,” for PC, won the Indie Prize and the Experimental Game Showcase at the Out of Index Festival. Tell us a little bit about it.
ZL: Dissonance is a puzzle-adventure game developed by Team Dissonance. I created Dissonance as a bridge between puzzle games and a psychology concept cognitive dissonance. It started as my personal project. With six months development, the team has expanded to over 10 people. The developers transmitted the psychological concept cognitive dissonance into the core mechanics of game to make it more than just a puzzle game.
What place do puzzle and psychology games have in today’s gaming market?
ZL: Puzzle games are always popular. But I don’t see many games combining puzzle and psychology together. I think as one of the art media, comparing to other media, video games are still new and have lots of potential. Hopefully it will be growing and explored the usage in different areas.
The fantasy RPG – “Dungeon Crash” – has over one million downloads for Android and Apple. How would you describe the game and what’s made it such a success?
ZL: Dungeon Crash is a fun and adorable game which has playful battles accompanied by strategic role-playing elements.
The gameplay is deep and fun. Players always have the next goal in the game. The main goal of the game is to collect the best team of warriors, mages and healers. When a player is trying to work towards the main goal, he or she can balances other elements like gear, upgrade system, guild and so on. There are numerous things a player can do. Each person has their unique way to get close to the goal. Also they can show off their progress through fight against other players to get to the top position on the leaderboard.
Share with us a little on your background in art and how that’s helped shape you as a game designer.
ZL: At the place I grew up, my life contains 3 major activities: taking regular classes, painting and notebook shopping in bookstores (I collected notebooks when I was younger). Like I mentioned earlier, I spent 6 years studying painting. Also, my dad loves poets and calligraphy. He loves sharing them with me. I think this type of environment helps to build my aesthetic standards, creativity and cultivates my passion in arts.
I do think game design is a pretty flexible area. A lot of times, game designers need to make decisions with their aesthetic and design sense. Those things are very abstract and hard to grow in a short term. I’m glad that I grew up with practicing my aesthetic consciousness.
You contributed to the art that’s featured in the PC game, “Paralect.” What is the premise of “Paralect” and how did you enjoy working as an artist for the game?
ZL: Paralect is a 2D platformer that uses gameplay, visuals and narrative to tell a personal story of cultural un-rooting. It explores the paradigm shifts caused by culture shock and adaptation and investigates how those transformations affect one’s vision of people, their environment, the place you initially came from and, most importantly, the place you wish to call home. It is a story and a world inspired by the creative director Loan Verneau.
I had great time working Paralect. I like the concept a lot. I think the protagonist reminds me a lot of myself. I feel attached to the character. The game is programmed with C++, so all the art asset needs to be designed carefully. Loan and I spent time together figuring out how to interpret the design through programmed visual elements. It is great that I got to apply what I know into the game and learning new ways to express ideas in games at the same time. It also helps me to grow and build up experience to make my independent games.
“MiraLab” went on to win the Gold Award in the Education Category at the Serious Play Conference. Was the educational aspect a motivator for the Miralab team in creating the “MiraLab” concept?
ZL: The world in Miralab is a media arts world and accompanying design methodology that emerged out of a multi-faceted exploration of a naturally occurring biological process: the lifecycle of Turritopsis dohrnii, the immortal jellyfish. The biological structure acts as a contextual framing, research prompt, and unifying theme that generates multiple interdisciplinary arts and science media explorations. It foregrounds knowledge and outcomes associated with arts and design practice experimentation within the realm of interdisciplinary arts science research. It asserts how the unique potential arts practice engagement contributes to interdisciplinary learning. This abstract briefly describes each mode of exploration and contextualizes it within a larger poetic science methodology. It considers this methodology’s contribution to a new understanding of interdisciplinary arts science research centered in transmedia design principles.
That said, the “Leviathan” project you worked on implements some VR along with other components. What’s “Leviathan” all about?
ZL: The Leviathan project, based on Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy, takes place in 1895, 20 years prior to the source material. In Westerfeld’s story, World War I is reimagined with bioengineered fabricated animals replacing technology and facing off against large mechanical robots. While the books focus on the tension of war, the Leviathan Project emphasizes the experimental exploration in the concept of fabrication. By taking place earlier than the series, the project builds a world of wonder and amazement for the unknown and the unexpected possibilities that can suddenly arise.
“Leviathan” received the New Frontier Project award at the Sundance Film Festival and was featured at CES in Las Vegas. What were the responses and feedback you guys got on the project?
ZL: Players are amazed by what Leviathan offers. In the Leviathan project, we adapt the techniques that can track the player position in a room. So what players need to do is put on the headset and walk around in the room. It is simple and intuitive.
They love that they can walk around in the Leviathan world and observe the world and the stories as an officer. They can get immersive experience while creating their own version of story.
What opportunities does your role as producer allow for at Firefly Games?
ZL: As a producer, I get the chance of communicating with each team and overseeing the project I’m responsible for. Also, I have been communicating with other producers from other projects to share our experiences and tools. I have lots of practice in project management, negotiation and various problem-solving skills.
What can gamers expect to get from Firefly releases?
ZL: Firefly Games focuses on the games that are intuitive and fun for mobile gamers. We have three games out there and are developing more games. Hopefully players can find that our games are fun and relaxing.
What are some of your hobbies outside of the gaming realm?
ZL: I like reading books and watching animated films. These two media can always offer me endless inspiration. Currently, I’m reading a book called The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
What types of games are you looking forward to designing and producing in the future?
ZL: As an artist, I hope one day I can make a game that offers players a unique experience in a way that they reach part of the mind they have never explored before. I always have fun knowing myself and learning about myself. I find it fascinating that a lot of us don’t know ourselves very well. And a lot of art pieces help us. For example, the pilot in The Little Prince does help me to see that I’m just like him. He wants to be a painter, not a pilot. And I’m a person who always wants to be an artist instead of an engineer. I hope people can try the game and then say ‘This game is affecting me. I never knew that I’m a person like that.’
Living in the modern age we are bombarded by hundreds of commercials per day. As viewers when most of these ads hit the screen we often tune out in order to deal with the overwhelming overload of these messages.
So what does it take for a commercial to stand out and strike the interest of an audience in a world oversaturated with visual sales pitches?
Well, having a seasoned motion graphics designer like Vitaly Verlov behind the screen has proven to be an integral factor in the success of campaigns for global companies like Max Factor, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Volkswagen, Nokia, Samsung and countless others.
Over the years Verlov has amassed prodigious knowledge in terms of the technical methods involved in creating everything from multi-layered motion graphics to seamless visual effects. Beyond his technical skills though, his creative vision has made him a highly sought after talent in the industry. In fact, earlier this year he handled all of the visual effects on the upcoming film Redux, a sci-fi film starring Oscar nominee Eric Roberts from the films Inherent Vice, The Dark Knight, The Cable Guy and many more. What is even more astonishing is the fact that Verlov also wrote and directed the highly anticipated film.
His prowess as a motion graphics designer and visual effects artist have allowed him to take on projects that others in the industry who are only skilled in one of these two areas could not.
While you may not know the face of Vitaly Verlov, if you’ve ever tuned into MTV, VH1, Friday! Or Russia’s RUTV, then there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve seen his work more than once over the last decade.
To find out more about Vitaly Verlov’s captivating work make sure to check out our interview below!
VV: My name is Vitaly Verlov and I was born in the city of Novosibirsk, Russia. After graduating in 2007 I moved to Moscow to work as a motion graphics designer and visual effect artist for television and film.
IFR: How and when did you first get into doing visual effects work?
VV: In high school and university I did a lot of computer programming because I was a computer geek back then, and even before that I came across an international computer art subculture called Demoscene. Essentially it’s a community where young programmers, artists and musicians get together – for fun – to make demos: computer programs that produce audio-visual presentations in real-time. The visual side of creating a demo implies that you actually program algorithms to achieve a certain artistic effects on screen. To put it short, it’s awesome. As soon as my programming skills got up to speed, I started making graphical demos with some cool looking visual effects and showcasing them on so called “demoparties.” As a matter of fact, my thesis work was focused on developing a toolset for real-time motion graphics and visual effects production.
Later on I became more interested in non real-time photorealistic imaging and switched from computer graphics programming to producing visual effects, design and animation in a more traditional industry-applicable form and started doing broadcast motion graphics for television.
IFR: What inspired you to pursue this profession?
VV: After seeing some television channels that were neatly designed from a graphical standpoint or motion pictures packed with great visual effects, I really wanted to become a part of it.
IFR: Are there any particular artists that inspire you?
VV: In my early days I was fascinated with some of the broadcast design graphics on TV and dreamed about getting to this level of quality and impression. That’s what basically inspired me to learn, more than personalities. However after moving to Moscow, I had an opportunity to meet with some of the great guys behind those outstanding designs and work with them.
IFR: What kind of training was involved in order to become a VFX artist? How important is formal education to getting a job in the industry?
VV: I personally don’t have any special VFX related training. Nor do most of the other artists I know. Basically, to become a VFX artist or motion designer, it’s important to have a natural artistic sense and a good eye plus the ability to efficiently handle technical tools and software. On the other hand, it’s also a matter of specialty in the industry, for instance: environmental concept artists or matte painters often have a background in fine arts. One thing is true for everyone working in VFX: you don’t stop learning, no matter what your specialty is.
IFR: What is that you love about being a VFX artist?
VV: The ability to create something impressive out of nothing; and the ability to impress girls at parties, of course.
IFR: What is your specialty in the field?
VV: As a VFX artist, I consider myself a generalist which means that I can pull off a wide variety of tasks myself, including modeling, texturing, animating, rendering, compositing. There are fields that I prefer more, and there are fields I’m not involved in at all – like character modeling and rigging.
As a motion/broadcast graphics designer and art director, again, I can do a lot, starting from initial creative concept to final delivery.
IFR: What is your typical workflow like in terms of collaborating with other artists on a film?
VV: It depends on a project and/or studio. Sometimes workflow is precise, broken down into stages and compartmentalized with strict deadlines, sometimes it’s a complete mess and overnight hell. The most positive experience is of course when you focus on something specific you really like and are good at. This way of collaborating is very efficient and creative at the same time.
IFR: You also work as a motion graphics designer, can you tell us a little bit about what that entails?
VV: Sure. Essentially motion graphics design is an animation-oriented subset of graphic design. Graphic design is just a single picture. Motion design is graphic design in sequence, in motion, and you see it pretty much everywhere: opening sequences for TV shows, film titles, game console menus, or photo-realistic 3D smartphone magically spinning in mid-air in a smartphone TV or Web commercial, or even user interface animation within that smartphone. In other words, any animated piece in visual medium is a subject of motion design.
That’s what I’ve been doing for various television channels including MTV, VH1, Friday!, and others. Sometimes there is client input on the initial concept of what we’re trying to achieve, sometimes there is no input. When there is no input, I also work as a copywriter where I suggest different ideas or scripts on how an end result might look and what meanings/themes it might have behind it. When the concept is approved, we move on to actual motion design.
IFR: How does being a motion graphics editor differ from working as a VFX artist?
VV: Motion graphics is a general term. It’s something that visually can be executed in different ways and styles. It can be two-dimensional, flat design-ish/illustrated looking as well as filmic three-dimensional. I think my direction is more filmic/three-dimensional oriented, that’s why it depends substantially on the visual effects techniques. For example, for a commercial spot for Peugeot the idea was to make a realistic car driving along a stylized miniature street – stuff like that directly relies on VFX techniques because it requires 3D modeling, rendering and compositing as a part of the workflow. In a sense, for such projects VFX is a way to implement the creative idea. That’s where motion graphics and VFX come together.
On the other hand, there are motion graphics projects where VFX techniques are not required for natural reasons. For instance, I have experience making on-screen graphics as a part of graphics package for several television stations where the task was to design the look and feel of info graphic elements that pop up during a broadcast. While these elements look pretty minimalistic, they should have a thought-out motion behavior and structure that keeps the integrity of the overall design. Sometimes the way these elements pop up on screen, interact with the viewer, and disappear is hard to conceptualize. That’s where “design” in the “motion graphics design” title comes to the forefront.
IFR: How has having skills as both a VFX artist and a motion graphics designer separated you from others in the industry?
VV: I think VFX and motion graphics are storytelling devices, and I always try to approach projects from the storytelling perspective. So for me the primary task is not making a neat looking animation or effect but supporting and enhancing the context it is a part of. Motion graphics is about guiding the viewer’s attention and it’s also very important for visual effects shots. What separates me is a good understanding of these aspects which, in real life, means that a client is usually happy with the timing, pace and accents I put into designs during the early stages of production, which is cool because it eliminates the need to reiterate on that so I can spend more time perfecting the visuals.
IFR: What companies have you worked with in the industry?
VV: Since I consider myself motion graphics oriented, I have more experience working on commercials and on-air broadcast design.
As a lead designer and VFX artist, I worked for the Russian branch of MTV and VH1 Networks and nation-wide entertainment television channel Friday! As an art director and motion graphics designer, I’ve done quite a few projects for a major music television channel, RUTV. Specifically, I created motion graphics and the overall design for the RUTV 2014 annual music awards ceremony, and some pieces for its 2015 installment.
As a freelance designer and VFX artist, I’ve done a bunch of commercials for international brands, including Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Volkswagen, Max Factor, Nokia, Samsung, Eurovision, Sensation, plus a variety of Russian brands like Beeline (a major mobile operator in Russia).
As a lead VFX artist, I have several projects done for the US-based boutique postproduction company Coat of Arms. Also, I have great experience working for the international visual effects company Pixomondo (Game of Thrones) as a lead 2D effects artist.
Working for various international companies and clients gives a pretty solid understanding of how the global industry works as well as flexibility in the way you approach projects in terms of planning and workflow because the process makes the result.
IFR: Can you tell us a little bit about the television and film projects you’ve worked on; and the specific contributions you made?
VV: I’ve done a lot of TV show openers and channel idents, in a team of designers and by myself, including works for MTV Networks, nation-wide channels Friday!, and RUTV.
While working for Friday! I had a positive interaction with the broadcast design department of Les télécréateurs (Paris) who designed overall on-air look of this station. I’ve made a few show openers and extra identity pieces based on the existing visual style of the station. And for RUTV I created motion graphics and design for the RUTV 2014 annual music awards ceremony which was a pretty huge amount of work (a show opener, a set of nominees, promo spots, press materials) on a tight schedule – that’s where the ability to sit focused for 18 hours came in handy.
Also, recently I had a chance to work as a lead 2D VFX artist on a Chinese big budget sci-fi feature film called Impossible, which is scheduled to hit the market sometime this year. I came in when the postproduction was in full swing, and my job was to complete a bunch of VFX shots, mostly energy fields and portal effects.
I should mention that I’m a filmmaker myself with two sci-fi live action films already under my belt. The latest one, Redux, features the well-known Hollywood actor Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight, The Expendables). It’s a short character-driven story with the ’80s/retro-futuristic vibe to it. I wrote, directed and edited this film and did visual effects.
IFR: Why is motion graphics design important to modern filmmaking?
VV: In its pure form, motion graphics design is critical for television and Internet – that’s for sure. Filmmaking also takes advantage of it, particularly big budget sci-fi & fantasy films and movie trailers, which are a marketing device. Film credits or sleek futuristic computer interfaces you see in a sci-fi flick is a product of motion graphics design. Sometimes it enhances the narrative story of a film, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s in there. Moreover, since motion design and VFX are somewhat interrelated fields, motion graphics can be essentially found in any film featuring visual effects. That’s also a good way to save some time and money during production, which is important, especially for independent narrative filmmakers like myself. Can a modern live action film be done with no VFX and motion design? Probably yes. But if it’s a mainstream (commercial) film, there should be a marketing/ad campaign involved and that’s where motion graphics comes for you again.
IFR: What has been your favorite project so far and why? What projects do you have coming up?
VV: Not sure about all-time favorites, but I can name a couple of recent ones. I was a part of a team who made a STRAFE® promotional spot for a successful Kickstarter compaign. STRAFE® is an independent old school first-person shooter video game. On this commercial, I worked as a lead VFX/motion design artist.
And of course I loved working on my second film Redux because I think it looks pretty neat, has a coherent story and stars well-known Hollywood actors.
As to the projects to come, some of my past TV clients have a brand new music channel in the works, and while there’s not much info available at this point it looks like I will be creating an onscreen design and several VFX heavy idents shot on green screen.
IFR: Do you have a passion for working on a specific kind of film or project, if so what kind of project and why?
VV: In the TV world, I would say, a show opener. When making a TV show opener, you’re actually making a focused 10-15 second piece which tells a story visually, and that’s what attracted me to the visual medium in the first place.
In film, I have a passion for working on my own films.
IFR: What would you say was your first foot in the door to the industry, and what advice would you give to aspiring artists?
VV: In 2006 I believe, I started making what I called the daily images: the goal was to make one new artistic image every day, just for fun and training, and post it on the Internet into a corresponding design community. I ended up making just a couple of images a week, but after a year of this marathon I was invited to work full-time at a prominent postproduction studio in Moscow, N3, because they liked my pictures. That’s basically how I got into this industry. So I guess my advice would be, stop being aspiring and start actually making something just for the sake of it, start the process and watch how everything unfolds.
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