Music video ‘In the Air’ features artistic animation

nullIn the Air (White Noise – OST) the music video produced by composer-writer duo Ashu & Dhruv of Smoke Music productions and directed by Simi Nallaseth features some very artistic animation. The entire look and mood of the video borders on the grotesque and is full of floating elements that are constantly transforming. As is the case with any true work of art, the music video is very intriguing and non definitive and therein lies its appeal. The open endedness offers viewers the chance to reach their own conclusions as to what the video is trying to convey. One of the most striking things about the video is that it symbolises an acceptance of the darker side. The video does not at any point, make an attempt to conform, nor is it unconventional just for the sake of it. It has its own personality and elements like Blades, shattered eggs, wheels, rusted nails, chipped wood which are not generally associated with beauty have been used in an artistic, beautiful manner. On a technical level, the compositing and editing is brilliant. One of the most striking things about ‘In the Air’ is that quite a lot of animation work has been done in post. This is heartening news for film makers who wish to indulge in animation but don’t have the budgets. Another highlight is the way the team has created depth and space (Usually charcteristic of 3D) in 2D. Also each individual frame is a piece of art in itself. The music video which is airing on all major Indian music channels including Channel V, MTV, VH1, B4U and Southern Spice took around 5 weeks to complete with its entire team working nearly round the clock. Animation ‘xpress met up with some of the people behind this refreshingly new and different work of animation and here’s what they had to share. Dhruv Ghanekar – Producer , Music Composer & Vocalist null“We wanted to come up with something thats more left and not middle of the road. Since the song was edgy, it needed some kind of a unique and edgy idea, it needed to be crazy and surreal to support the song. We were stumped as to how to do it in a convential live action way. If it were to be done in live action then the budgets would have to be very high. Animation was a saviour for this video as it helped us get the kind of look we wanted at a comparatively more affordable cost We needed a sort of expanse and space, where you see a landscape which is almost endless, you are not limited by the location, place or character, basically your imagination becomes a hero. The brief we gave Simi and the team was to do weird things with our faces. We did not want to be percieved as straight faced artists and were open to experimentation, we wanted the viewer to be more intrigued by the potential of what the visual is trying to say. The last thing we wanted to be was like typical clients who want more of thier faces. Essentially this whole excercise of doing these 3 videos for White Noise has been a great experience for us, because it was for the first time that we have been involved both as a producer as well as on a creative level. We have decided to float our own record label, and we shall not only be people behind the music but also people who will nurture artists and talent” Simi Nallaseth – Director null“The song is about coming from darkness into light, it is about embracing your dark side and being at peace with the duality of life. We tried to convey that with the imagery. The eggs from which the faces of Ashu, Dhruv and the others break out are symbolic of being born again and of breaking free from a rigid area into the air. There’s also a lot of wheels and other objects that keep spinning in a circular motion signifying the wheel of life” she added. Animation is a team effort and Simi was glowering with praise for her entire team. “A lot of credit for The look, the imagery, the realism, and the finish goes to Jassi, who as the art director had a lot riding on his shoulders. The video looks aesthetically stunning due to his beautiful paintings. I must also add that Shashank did a brilliant job of compositing as well as post animation. Animation Director Kushal brought a new sensibility to the animation and Charmi did some brilliant animation. They both were very open to new ideas and adapted wonderfully to the abstract theme. I would also like to point out that while a lot of the team members were bursting with creative ideas, our technical director Shyam Shankarprasad silently yet brilliantly made it possible for us to translate our ideas into reality by creating an effecient pipeline for us. It was a breeze working with the D.O.P Anu M, he gave the exact lighting that we needed to integrate the animation with, and Srila the line producer was amazing at making the whole production process easy for us. I also want to thank Yuvraj for his inspirational pastel drawings that led to the look of the video. The in-betweeners did a great job of shading the drawings and worked really long hours. Last but not the least I would like to credit the producers Ashu and Dhruv, who had the conviction, passion and courage to invest their money into an art form like animation.” Shashank Jadhav – Post Animator & Compositor null“The video In The Air was originally conceived by Simi to be a rotoscoped 2D animated one, based on live action footage. The storyboard was originally designed with a good amount of live shots revealing the actors’ faces and 2D animation. However we later realized that with the given budget and the client’s request i.e. to occupy all the shots with animation pieces, there wasn’t enough justice being done to the video especially given the limited resources. It was then we realized that animating in the video post can take this video to the next level without further spending time and money. And so the video was evolved to be the post animated video. “This video has demonstrated the under-utilized potential of post animation. Not only is the animation for In the Air a delight to watch but also doesn’t cost as much as cel animation” The video overall required work in three major areas namely seamlesness, color correction and post animation. Seamlesness nullThe compositing work on the video has been the most challenging, and painstaking as well. The real art was to get the flat 2D artwork derived from various sources into the video screen canvas and compose them such that they appear seamlessly blended into one, as a painting with depth. And to get there, all different images were dipped with color correctors to arrive at right luma and saturation levels. Choosing the right size and place for each element, termed as composing the frame. Blurring areas that were too sharp like cutouts, or to give depth of field to close-far objects, selecting and darkening of live action faces and 2D work to give shadow depth to otherwise flat images. Blending the areas of the elements to hide them in the sky or mist was carefully worked out to make the shots believable. Color Correction nullSecond major aspect of the compositing was color correction. After keying the live action singers which was shot on Mini DV format, infamous for its grainy nature, they were ready to get color treated. The live shots were originally very loud in color-contrast against the subtle treatment given to the rest of the background. So all live actors were de-saturated and then introduced colors in their dark regions thoughtfully. It made the actors blend well with background and they looked classier. Post Animation Third aspect of the compositing was post animation which I think is one of the unique features of this video. It’s a highly potential method to get your imagination fly in depth with pieces of 2D artwork. As the whole artwork was being put together in combustion timeline, it was felt that the number of usable cell animation was far less to give video the movement and energy it required. One option was to hire more cell animators and replace all static shots with cell driven animation or take the available image elements and animate them in combustion. By adopting to post animation method, we avoided further hiring cost of the artist and subsequent consumption of time to draw, line-test, scan, cleanup etc that would amount to further delays. The video has a lot of elements animated in combustion like the moving hills with blades waving like human hands, animated eggs helmets with blade wings, rotating blades wheels, Eggs free falling in the sky, shower of nails dropping down weightlessly, wood trunks flying, chariot’s carrying eggs, or even singers peeping out of the flying machines etc something I only see in my dreams or fantasize it otherwise. All the animations have one thing in common, you may see anything and everything is flying in air weightlessly, appealing both the visual and the motion aesthetics. Morphing was used to animate the melting egg. Some shots have been worked out like Dali compositions with animating elements within. This too, gave the much needed pep and movement to the video. The video ends with all the elements that were animated in the video, zooming past the camera and receding towards the horizon. It has a lot of 3D depth and has come out really well. Layering Layering this video was pretty heavy as every shot has 7 layers in an average. And almost every layer of the shot has many layers of effects modules like color correctors, croma keyers, rays fx, layer masks, shadows, blurs, selection masks of various types to name a few. But then most of the music videos do have almost the same amount of layering one may ask. The difference here was, except for the live action shots, all rest of the elements layers were scanned or created in Photoshop at very high resolution right from 800 * 600pix to 6000 *4000pix and more. Compare it to 2k Res anamorphic feature film format which could be 2048*1743pix, it is still 3 times larger image size used in this video. This gave control to scale the elements as and when required to compose the frame like a painting without spoiling the quality of the artwork. But it slowed down the post process a bit in return. Additional treatment Further additional believability and depth was improved with smoke and mist layer animated in combustion. Also neatly using sunrays effects helped to get atmospheric properties that took away from the obvious flatness. Finally adding subtle grains to the whole video helped the flat artwork to further appear more film-like on tv screen. But in overall, I enjoyed doing the video with the freedom given by Simi to come up with ideas and implementing them, something really worth appreciating. Always open for new suggestions and better ideas. The whole team has given their best and more to this video is what enjoyed while working them. Jasbinder Singh – Art Director The kind of work seen in the video is thanks to the space and creative freedom that our director SIMI gave us.She encouraged us to visualise a more art oriented video that was to be done in 2D yet give the and depth like 3D . There’s a lot of melting effects where each frame was worked on in Photoshop and the challenge was not to loose the textural quality of the charcoal and dry pastel paintings I am glad that the high quality of artwork has been able to add to the overall quality of the video in a major way. To me the video looks like ‘Paintings in Motion’ Kushal Ruia – Animation Director The Experience: The best part for me about working with Simi was that â€?No Idea Was Crazy Enoughâ€?.She was very energetic and respective of everybody’s creative space. The Video: As far as the video itself is concerned I do think its important from Indian animation  point of view, cause I don’t recall any such effort being made in my recent memory. The fact that the music directors had faith in animation. is really cool..and that too animation that shows that animation does not have to equal Mickey Mouse-esque characters doing their thing!.It can be creative and fun and surreal and thus maybe making it even more accessible and palatable by a more adult and mature audiences. Thus increasing the use of Animation in Indian Media. The Art of the Video: Technically this video is all 2D artwork and it looks cool 2D artwork has its own charm and place.It just re enforces that it’s not about the technology or the choice of medium but about the Idea and the Execution. At the end of it all I would be happy if this video in any small way can contribute in just opening the minds of people in India (consumers, audiences, directors, filmmakers etc etc) about what animation can do for them and thus letting animation into their lives). Following is a complete list of credits for ‘In the Air’ Music composed & produced by – Ashutosh Phatak & Dhruv Ghanekar Music Video Producers – Ashutosh Phatak & Dhruv Ghanekar Director – Simi Nallaseth Words – Ashutosh Phatak Vocals – Dhruv Ghanekar Art Director – Jasbinder Singh Post Animator & Compositor – Shashank Jadhav Director Of Photography – Anu M Line Producer – Srila Chatterjee Animation Director (2D animation) – Kushal Ruia Chief Animator – Charmi Chedda Technical Director – Shyam Shankarprasad In Betweeners – Hrishikesh Deshpande, Yogesh Kavale, Prashant Shikare & Abhishek Additional Artwork – Yuvraj Shahane Additional Shading – Radhika Deshpande Additional VFX – Heten Daiya Production Supervisor – Varun Vora Production Assistant – Devrath Sagar Editor (Offline & Online) – Sabby (Famous Studios)