Sunday, 28 August 2016

Meet the Animator Behind 'The Arrow' Music Video...

What does is take to create a 4 minute animated music video? We caught up with the mastermind behind it all, Dom Aldis, to learn more about his craft and the process behind visually bringing The Arrow to life. Let's just say that it requires more than just a whole lot of time, paper, pens, and pencils...

How did you get to work with Urthboy on this music video?
I've always been a fan of Urthboy since I was 16 - his music is different, it's got purpose to it, he's a great storyteller. So I bought his album when it came out and at that point I just finished working at the studio that I was at - I sort of freaked out because I didn't know what I was to do. I wanted to get back into my own art because I missed it - I drew all day at this other job but I wasn't actually drawing the stuff I wanted to draw. I've always wanted to do music videos so I thought I'd just go for it and get in touch with ET.

Tim chose the song for me to collaborate with him on, but it was my favourite song on the album - I kind of related to it a lot as well. To me The Arrow is about following your career path, your dream, but it's also about all the shit that happens to you on the way and getting through it all. It's also about taking your personal life as it comes and still pursuing that dream of yours.

How would you describe your style of animation?

It's definitely messy. I guess with this style people can appreciate the mistakes. I think people like that rawness as it adds a bit of humanity to it - it's not so removed. All my personal stuff has been of a hand drawn style where I capture a lot of character - you can actually see the person in it that I'm trying to represent. My style of animating is not necessarily about the drafting skills. There's this free flow element where you sort of go from your eye and it evolves as you draw - it's more focused on the movement and the transitioning as opposed to an action starting here and ending there. It's that constant flow into the next thing that I'm more about.

How would you describe the world and character that you've created within the music video? What's the inspiration behind it?

I do this a lot where it's about the character being consumed by his environment. It's almost like he is at the will of everything else that's happening around him. I definitely got that from The Arrow in the first place so my style just aligned itself really well in the end.

To me it's about the journey. He's getting hit by waves, he's getting picked up by giant hands, and thrown off a building - he just keeps going. The purpose of what he's doing is meaningful enough to put up with all this shit, and he gets the reward at the end by stepping out on that stage in front of a big audience and does what he loves. I worked a lot from the lyrics - it was just easier to tie it in that way, but I was still able to interpret it in my own way.

Can you give a bit of an insight into the process of making this animation?

It took me almost two months and about 2700 illustrations. I was basically working on it everyday because I was working a casual job as well - I'd come home and sit down and start drawing. It was in Canberra during the middle of winter and I didn't have much space in the house so I set up in the back shed - it was just freezing cold.

I did a lot of tests but I actually found the concept fairly quickly. Lachlan Pini's (storyboard artist) style is very comic book like so I got him to draw up a character concept for me first - he's tidy so it's a crisp drawing. I took his concepts and adapted it to my style.

Illustration by Lachlan Pini

I was using tracing paper to draw on and working on a light box - I was just laying the paper on top of each to see the top and bottom key frames so I could draw the betweens from that. I realised that there's actually animation paper that you can flick through a lot easier.

Illustration by Dom Aldis

Who else did you work with on this music video?

I definitely didn't do all this by myself. I had some talented guys working with me. One of them is an incredible background artist, his name is Kit Rigby - he's from Katoomba and actually knew Tim and played at the same cricket club as Tim. He did most of the backgrounds - he did all those really stunning ones. I got him to draw up some of the features from Katoomba - you'll see some of the streets and mountains in there is you look carefully. I had a storyboard artist, Lachlan Pini, who I've worked with since first year uni so we sort of understand each other really well - he's all about the composition and planning it all out.

I had a 3D guy, John Carolan, who did the chorus part for me because there was no way I could've animated 4 minutes on my own - he's actually my room mate. He saw me every waking minute trying to get this thing finished so he thought he could help out as much as he could. Then I had an intern guy, Tom McCarthy, who contacted me because he wanted to get some advice on hand animation. I needed some help so I offered for him to come do some stuff and he ended up doing a lot of the inking with me - I did a lot of the pencil work and he'd draw over the top.

There was also Pete Bailey who worked as the compositor and editor. He put in a lot of hours cutting the video together with me and is extremely talented at cinematography. He also helped me in the early stages by filming some reference videos of me acting out some of the shots. He's a big fan of ET and was really keen to get involved. He put in some really cool camera moves and parallax shots that really added to the animation.

Photo by Dom Aldis

What are your thoughts on the status of animation as an art form?

I think it's really under appreciated. I don't think people realise what goes into it. Hand drawn animation really helps because people can actually see the drawings a lot better - you see the pencil texture or you see where an artist has made mistakes a lot more with this stuff. Whereas you don't really see it with stuff you watch on television so it's really easy to criticise. There's people that work to strict timeframes and it's a bit frustrating how people judge it when they don't realise that person probably spent a year working on something just to get it as a clean and nice as possible for television or a movie.

And here is it from start to finish: 'The Arrow' by Dom Aldis

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