Design in Motion

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As the demand for motion graphics grows, more and more print designers and illustrators are adding motion to their skill sets. Barton Damer would know—he’s one of them.

Barton Damer's Design in Motion

It’s fairly common for filmmakers, videographers and animators to become motion designers, but Barton Damer has noticed a growing trend toward print designers getting into motion work, too. He knows because he’s part of that trend, having moved into motion graphics over the last five years after more than thirteen years as a print designer and illustrator. “I wasn’t even familiar with the motion graphics industry a few years ago, but it was obvious people didn’t want tri-fold brochures or static websites anymore, they wanted infographic-based videos about their companies or their products,” he says.

Damer often draws on his print work for motion graphics inspiration. This shot builds on a concept he did for Computer Arts Projects magazine (pictured below) in which a flat screen appears to have real-world depth.

At first, Damer used After Effects for his motion design, but he felt his work lacked a level of professionalism he saw in others’ projects. So he tried different types of 3D software before sticking with Maxon’s CINEMA 4D. “From the people I talked to, it seemed like C4D was the most friendly to a designer like me who wasn’t looking to do code,” he explains. “I really wanted something that could add depth to my design and motion work, so at first I didn’t worry about trying to animate anything.”

One-man shop gets Android spot

Fast-forward just a few years and Damer, who lives in Dallas, is not only proficient at using C4D for motion graphics, he’s getting increasingly high-profile jobs. Recently, he created a spot for a new Android smartphone, the Huawei M835 (pronounced “wah-way”), which was being introduced by MetroPCS, a local wireless provider. (See the spot here: http://greyscalegorilla.com/blog/2011/07/new-android-spot-uses-light-kit-pro-and-city-kit.)

Nick Campbell’s City Kit allowed Damer to overcome time and budget constraints and create an entire city that was extremely detailed and easy to animate. The result far exceeded client’s expectations

Damer was asked by the Firehouse Agency in Dallas to bid on the project. He had worked with Firehouse previously after an artist with the ad firm saw him speak at a conference three years earlier. “He followed my work ever since, and when he became the art director he contacted me,” Damer recalls. “That definitely changed my perspective on the value of public speaking.” (Check out Damer’s 2011 motion reel here: http://www.alreadybeenchewed.tv/motion/2010-2011-motion-design-reel.)

With the goal of appealing to young, urban consumers in mind, Damer asked his 8-year-old daughter for advice. She insisted turntables be used in the spot. Fortunately for both of them, Firehouse’s art director, Ryan Smith, loved the idea and so did the client.

Firehouse gave Damer some basic directives for the spot. The Android character needed to fly around a colorful, new world; the spot needed to appeal to young, urban consumers looking for affordable Android options; and, the video needed to educate MetroPCS sales reps about the phone’s key features. Beyond that, Damer worked alongside Firehouse’s art director, Ryan Smith, who gave him a good amount of creative freedom.

“I based my ideas on solid design and color theory,” he says. Mindful of his deadline and the fact that client changes had to be made quickly, he made animation a secondary concern poring his energy into design, instead. “I’m not trying to compete with Psyop; I’m just one guy and I have to be sure I can deliver what I say I’m going to do.”

Creating screens that appeared to have real- world depth was an important part of this project. In this shot, the Android was simply highlighting a Facebook status, but MoGraph made it easy to animate the interface using effectors.

Though he does work on his own for the most part, Damer is quick to add that he does often hire others to help. For this spot, he sends a shout out to Joe Myer of Sketchbook, Inc., whom he hired to model the phone. (See Myer’s work here: http://www.sketchbookinc.com.) He also got some worthy advice from his 8-year-old daughter who saw him working on a scene where the Android grabs a mic makes like he’s about to sing. “She said, ‘Dad, you really need to do turntables instead.’” He thought she was right, so he ran it by the art director and they agreed.

Damer collaborated with Firehouse’s art director, Ryan Smith, on the Android project.

Damer used Nick Campbell’s Light Kit Pro for C4D for the entire spot and was happy to see how much time the lighting presets saved him. Light Kit Pro also made it easier to drop a scene in with seamless background “because I could turn the camera whatever direction I wanted to and never find a corner,” he explained. Damer used City Kit for his scenes where cities pop up out of nowhere. Because it was created with MoGraph, it was easy for Damer to get the animation he wanted using effectors.

Moving from print to motion

Damer started out using C4D as a “testing ground,” by doing simple, basic renders of 3D objects to incorporate into his print work. Even now, when he does 3D and animation, the connection with 2D illustration and design remains strong. “I love doing illustration work, so you’ll usually see something in my illustration before I figure out how to do something with motion,” he explains.

Damer used CINEMA 4D to create a two-page spread for a feature story in Computer Arts Projects magazine. “The idea was that there is an endless world of possibilities when you use your iPad for your digital portfolio,” he explains.

C4D opened up “a whole new world of creativity” for Damer, who was often frustrated by how difficult it was to make ideas he had in his head a reality. “So often I had to find the exact photograph with the exact perspective I needed to make something work,” he says. “Now I can just model it myself or buy a model and use it in a creative way.”

Damer created this cover for Answer magazine’s “Best of Five Years” issues, which featured stories ranging from creation to evolution.

The organization Malaria No More uses this Damer design to raise awareness about the deadly disease, as well as funds to help prevent it.

Though he still does some print work, as well as smaller motion design projects, the move to motion graphics has allowed Damer to get work with agencies and post-production studios. “I’m cranking out work at a much more professional level now,” he says. “I can offer clients something very high-end that wasn’t necessarily more work on my part; it’s just a different type of work and now I have the tools I need to do it.”

About the Author, Meleah Maynard

Meleah Maynard is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor.

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