As an internationally sought-after motion designer, Xu combines her passions of animation and illustration to bring captivating and artistic graphics to various projects all over the world. She specializes in two-dimensional character animation, which involves bringing small characters to life on every project she embarks on. She begins by taking a script or basic description of the character and plays with lines, shapes, and color until she eventually has created an all new being. It is truly magical.
Xu had worked as an animator with many high-profile design and animation studios for countless renowned clients, including Apple, Samsung, T-Mobile, HBO, AirBnB, and more. However, one thing she loves about her job is that in addition to working on television shows, movies, commercials, and videos, she also gets to work on concerts for some of the world’s biggest stars.
“Pop music has always been one of my interests. I am a sucker for almost all the mainstream music. I love listening to music and I am usually stuck in one to two hours of traffic every day, so I pass the time by doing car karaoke while driving. It is exciting to get to work with well-known pop stars on their music videos and graphics projects,” she said.
Xu worked with Possible Inc., a leading design company, as one of the lead animators/compositors on the project. She worked closely with Creative Director Michael Figge to design, shoot, animate, and edit together 27 custom full-song scenics for artist Chris Brown’s European tour. The concept was to use different graphics elements and textures for each song to convey different moods to the fans at the concerts.
Each artist was assigned five songs and needed to create visual elements for the music videos first and combine those elements into After Effects software for compositing. Xu was responsible for “Don’t Judge Me”, “New Flame”, “Five More Hours”, “Ayo” and “Loyal”, some of Brown’s biggest hits. She combined visual elements for the songs and put them together onto one screen, making sure that all those elements were part of the same scene and matched with the themes of the music videos.
“I like Chris Brown’s music. It is thrilling to get to work on some animation and compositing for something you listen to every day. Also, I like doing composting work for music videos. It is amazing to see how visual elements synchronize with the beats, tempo, and the whole style of the music. For example, in the song “New Flame”, we created lots of different shapes and forms of flames for the song. It was fun to composite different shapes of fire to get the best result for the music videos,” said Xu.
Xu’s graphics were played in 15 different cities in Europe during the “One Hell of a Night Tour” including Munich, Paris, Hamburg, Oslo, and more. The tour and its animation received a lot of public attention and they delivered a successful sold out tour to the fans. For Xu, knowing so many around Europe saw her beautiful artwork is reward enough, because she simply loves doing what she does.
Being a motion graphics designer gives Rupa Rathod the opportunity to channel her vast creativity. While designing and creating LED screen content for pop tours, events, television performances, and awards shows, she has the freedom to create anything and everything while working with some of her musical idols. Each treatment differs from the last, and she is always challenged to interpret a client’s concept, something that she finds hugely fulfilling. For this English native, there’s nothing that can’t be achieved, and she enjoys all aspects of the journey; it’s a feeling of achievement that she doesn’t think will ever go away, and what keeps her constantly motivated.
“Combining the two passions I have; music and the creativity of motion graphics design was like taking two perfect past times and fusing them together. It seemed like a natural progression in my career, to channel my creativity as a motion graphics artist into music. I was determined to make this happen any way I could,” said Rathod.
Rathod started working for Blink in 2014, where she was employed as an editor initially focused on screens for music festivals. She pushed herself to prove her talent and was quickly given an opportunity to work on a high-profile tour with Robin Thicke. Since that time, her work in creating graphics for concerts has gone from strength to strength and is now well recognized and well respected at the top of the industry.
“My style of designing is always very much influenced by the music I’m working to, whether it’s a pop song, metal, drum and bass, indie, it all determines the style the content needs to be in.
I’m fascinated by light installations and lighting design which is always very sharp, bright and tightly timed to music, so everything I design always has that accuracy to beat responsiveness and the biggest moments in music always need to be visually bigger. I focus on making obvious moments in a track very obvious on screen and the ability to be able to do that is what I would define as my own style,” she said.
This past September, Rathod worked alongside Kylie Minogue for a second time on her most recent European tour, Golden. Rathod had previously worked with the pop icon on her “Kiss Me Once” Tour in 2014, and the two formed a close professional relationship when working on her Sleepwalker film.
Having turned 50 this year, Kylie’s new album channeled her country side, and “Golden” was released. The album was recorded mostly in Nashville, giving it a very authentic country feel and setting the tone for her new tour. The concept for this 2018 “Golden” Tour revolved around a journey from a desert landscape to Nashville, which would eventually all come together in a 70’s spaghetti Western style movie interpreted on stage with Kylie as the protagonist. Rathod was brought onto the team right away, creating content for the tour while Kylie promoted the album, and the motion graphics designer was extremely excited about the concept.
“I loved the conceptual idea of creating a 1970’s movie executed through the medium of a full multi-sensory concert and working with filmed content to create a cinematic visual was a beautiful piece of art,” said Rathod. “This tour was a completely new direction for Kylie and her dedicated team. It was a bold new move for everyone involved and to see it met with such positivity was gratifying.”
While working on the “Golden” tour, Rathod worked closely with Creative Director Rob Sinclair, who she has worked with on many projects throughout her career, including Kylie’s “Kiss Me Once” tour. Sinclair trusts Rathod’s ability to take his references and turn them into more graphical visual concepts. They understand each other’s styles and they work well developing them. For the “Golden” tour, there was a lot of filmed content, which is not often done; it adds a decadent touch and requires a large scale of planning. Rob and Kylie’s vision featured a lot of filmed content, which is what made the show so rich and so bespoke. It spoke for itself and helped to narrate the journey the audience were being taken on. The desert scenes at the beginning half of the show were filmed in California and Nevada deserts which was handled by Kylie’s longterm Video Producer, Tom Colbourne and the Blink team in Los Angeles. The second half of the show was shot in a London studio which was handled by Producer, Kirsten McFie and and Rupa in London. Rathod worked closely with Sinclair on the shoot, who was feeding his thoughts and notes to her on the day, which helped her get a sense of how it would sit in the show. She ended up working across all the content through the London post production and onsite rehearsals near Birmingham right up to opening night in Newcastle.
“This tour was an incredible experience to be a part of, not only because Kylie’s team remain wonderfully warm and welcoming, but also because Kylie herself has a huge amount of input into every aspect of her shows and she’s always so grateful to everyone involved. Her enthusiasm and excitement make all the hard work and devotion worthwhile. Kylie is genuinely just a very lovely artist who appreciates the hours of hard work and dedication that everyone puts into creating her shows with her,” said Rathod.
Having just wrapped up this latest tour, Rathod has a lot to look forward to. She recently won a prestigious award for her work on rock band The Killers’ most recent tour, and she has a lot more in the pipeline. She has worked hard to get where she is now, and for those looking to follow in her footsteps, she offers some wise words.
“For those looking to pursue a career in motion graphics, my advice to them would be to not be afraid of having your own style. It may take you a while to develop it, but you’ll have one and to have conviction in the work that you do, because if you don’t, no one else will,” she advised.
Despite having an interest in the arts from an early age, Ana Lossada never really thought she would have a future in the field. As a child, she enjoyed drawing and painting as most children do, but she also enjoyed sports, dance, and playing with friends. Creativity was an instinct for her, she was never conscious of it. As she began to grow, her other interests slowly started fading away, but art was her constant. She started to realize that she could pursue a career in the arts and do what she loved every day. It was this realization that changed her life, and now, as an internationally sought-after motion graphics designer, she has never looked back.
“As a kid, I never really saw it as a ‘this is what I want to do when I grow up’ type of thing. Doing creative things simply came to me very easily and effortless an. Besides being the artsy kid in school, I have always loved watching cartoons and also movies filled with action, sci-fi and a whole lot of visual effects. These tendencies worked out, as my art interests led me to pursue a career in the digital media world,” said Lossada.
Throughout her esteemed career, Lossada has worked with some of the world’s most well-known production companies and television shows. She recently collaborated with Disney to create the opening theme for the new show Raven’s Home, a spin-off of their older classic That’s So Raven. Premiering earlier this summer, the opening garnered a lot of media attention, and Lossada’s work is a large part of that. A similar experience occurred with Lossada’s work on the opening of Netflix’s hit show Atypical, where Lossada perfectly captured the autistic main character’s tendencies and feelings in her work. All that work alongside the designer are impressed with what she can do.
“Throughout my career I have worked with many talented designers and no one comes across like Ana has. Not only does she have amazing technical skills when it comes to handling computer software, she has a natural ability as an artist and illustrator. She is incredibly dedicated and gives her best in every single project. Her hard work will lead her to an incredible career,” said KA Batcha, who worked with Lossada on The Walking Dead: The Journey So Far, a thrilling recap of the first six seasons of AMC’s iconic series The Walking Dead.
Despite such success, one of the highlights of Lossada’s career is her work with Disney Jr. on their “Be Inspired” spot. The concept of the project was to encourage children to live healthy active lifestyles with promotional videos showing easy exercises that kids can follow along with, designed in the setting of the Disney classic The Lion King. The project was an immense success, and at only 23, Lossada showed one of the largest and most renowned production companies in the world, Disney, that she was extraordinarily talented.
After the success of Be Inspired with the Lion Guard, Disney wanted to team up with Lossada once again, this time with the spot Be Your Best with Miles, featuring the character Miles from Miles from Tomorrowland, a popular children’s show for the network. This segment is a 2-minute spot in which cartoon Miles and “real” Miles are compared side to side, teaching us how to live a healthy lifestyle by following a healthy diet and exercising frequently.
“The way children eat from a very young age impacts their growth and health throughout their childhood, and for the rest of their lives. A healthy diet and good nutrition are critical in preventing some of the issues and illnesses that are caused by bad nutrition, such as nutrient deficiencies, poor bone health, increased risk of injuries, poor academic performance and increased risk of eating disorders. Teaching children how important a healthy nutrition is and also the importance of a vigorous fitness routine throughout their childhood years will lay a base for a healthier and fulfilling life,” said Lossada.
The music video with exercises are currently being aired on Disney Junior worldwide. Each exercise video has over 60,000 views on YouTube alone, and the music video “Teke Ruka Teleza” has over 250,000. Such success could not have been possible without Lossada’s contributions.
Working with her team at Big Machine, Lossada helped design and animate the main title for the spot. Additionally, she needed to create modern and stylized split-screen graphics for the spot and also a UI/UX interface graphic that explained what audiences were seeing on screen. She did all this using her own unique style, as she is known for her distinctive artistry. Her artwork speaks strongly to people, and with Be Your Best with Miles, it has resonated with children around the globe.
While creating the video spots, all of Lossada’s skills were put to use, from designing to illustrating and even animating. Not only was she leading the team, but she was also working on the live action set as well, ensuring her graphics would perfectly transition with the live footage.
To generate ideas and inspiration for the project, Lossada watched an episode of Miles from Tomorrowland. Upon doing so, she noticed there were many simple shape designs in the show, primarily hexagons. This is therefore the primary element seen throughout the whole Lossada’s work on Be Your Best with Miles. She used it for overlay shots, for example the scene where Miles analyzes a breakfast kitchen, for transitional designs between live-action Miles and character Miles, and lastly for the split screens where they are seen together. Such attention to detail is what makes Lossada one of the best, and while working on Be Your Best with Miles, her co-workers were able to see all of talents really shine. Not only does she have the technical skills when it comes to mastering any software, but she also possesses the innate natural ability to design and illustrate.
“Working on Be Your Best with Miles was very fun. Mainly, because we had to find activities and exercises performed by the live-action Miles and compared it to the 3D character Miles,” said Lossada.
No matter what she takes on, Lossada puts everything she has into her work. This is not for the accolades or awards, but for a passion for what she does. She is a perfectionist in the best way. When people enjoy what she has produced, she knows she is doing what she was meant to do.
“I take a great deal of pride in my work and do everything I can to ensure every aspect of each project I touch is perfect, so it truly means a lot when people acknowledge the quality of my projects. Seeing the look of astonishment on their faces as they wonder how exactly I animated and designed these various projects makes all of the hard work worthwhile. I have always believed that the entertainment industry, particularly the creative side of the business, can convey powerful emotions and messages. It is my goal to use my knowledge and skillset to bring these feelings and experiences to the general public and leave an everlasting mark on the industry,” said Lossada.
She is already well on her way. Watch Lossada’s tremendous work in Be Your Best with Miles here.
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.
International Entertainment, and the Talents that Leave us Buzzing….