This was such an expansive project in the best way possible. We were not limited to one particular art or animation style - but instead got to explore many different methods of communicating Google's vision.
From an Alice in Wonderland themed segment to a sequence about Deep Space One - we developed numerous infographics and explainer animations, re-created search bars, comped webpages onto live video, and used a number of other innovative techniques of visual storytelling.
Thanks to Google for this amazing collaboration, and we are looking forward to working with you more in the future!
With designer and director, Dayday, at the helm, we began to explore a look for the series open through the lens of Black life in America. Using black & white photography as the main focal point, we profiled people, places and faces, within various constructs - from a map of the U.S. to the idea of a picture frame collage on “grandma’s wall.”
With a unanimous decision, we felt that photography exposed against the American topography spoke volumes to mirror the series tone. We pushed forward making footage and photography selects that could truly encapsulate Black life and Black joy - along with shifting our color treatment to keep the general tone black & white but keeping skin tones and location highlights intact.
The opening sequence would of course help inform other toolkitted elements, from chapter cards and episode titles to lower thirds and locators.
In addition to the show package, we were able to create a unique graphic ask for their episode about Afrofuturism - a concept that explores the intersection of the arts and science fiction through a Black lens and Black culture.
Inspired by things like Hair Love and the Boondock Saints, the ABC team was looking for a comic-book-inspired sequence to help explain what Afrofuturism is and its importance in celebrating Black pride and escapism from a tumultuous world.
Building off of the ABC team’s “star-child” concept, we landed on an illustrative direction by Art Director and Illustrator Jane Wu. Our illustrated sequence begins with Star-child in their bedroom, dressing up in a crafty, DIY superhero costume, and opening the door to chaos. When they open the door again, they’re transported to Ytasha Womack’s planetarium universe. And by the end of the episode, Star-child has become their fully realized self, in a shiny well-made costume, zooming through the galaxy, ready to take on the world.
Using cel animation and parallax techniques, our illustrators and animators really brought each piece to life, from the moment Star-child wakes up in their bedroom to the spin move of the fully-realized hero in space.
BGSTR: What made you choose BGSTR for the next step in your career?
Mark: I love watching documentaries and seeing how others are approaching graphics and when I’d see something that was smart and had a similar feel to how I’d approach something, inevitably I would step through the credits and there was - Bigstar. After seeing a few of these, I’d get to the credits and say, “of course, there it is, Bigstar.” So when the chance to come aboard and work at Bigstar arose, I knew it was going to be a great fit. Our philosophies align extremely well, and I already knew the staff was capable of great things. I’m so excited to be a part and can’t wait to help produce amazing work.
BGSTR: Where do you draw inspiration from?
Mark: Inspiration comes in many forms. When I set out on a project, say a documentary, there’s a deep research phase and I want to see as much of the projects process up to that point... raw footage, archival images, rough cuts... and from that I start to listen, and in strange way the project starts to tell you what it wants to be. I will go out and look for visual references, and I want to go well beyond seeing how other artist have tackled similar projects in the past looking at anything that can provide a visual spark, comic books, album covers, spending time in parts of the museum that the crowds aren’t attracted to. Like digging in the record bins for something that no one has heard, but feels like it’s been with us all along.
BGSTR: What is your favorite project that you have worked on?
MARK: It might sound trite, but my favorite project is always the next one. Every project I go into I try to push myself to learn something new, (a technique, a plugin, a fresh design style) either to keep me fresh on longer projects and continue to grow as an artist.
Some projects are more memorable because of the challenge of overcoming problems, be that technical, personal, or simply doing things no has tried before. Then walk away amazed, “I can’t believe we just did that.”
Then there are projects that you can feel a collaborative harmony come together while you're working on them. Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) was one of those for me. The editorial was great, the direction, the producing and subject just made me want to dig a little deeper to help make something special. When it gets released and there’s a positive response, Grand Jury and Audience Prize at Sundance, you’re humbled to be a part of it and so happy that others can recognize the product of that special collaboration.
BGSTR: What are some exciting trends you see on the horizon?
Mark: There’s certainly some exciting current trends: the explosion of 2D animation, machine learning, and greater access to 3D rendering software. Overall, I’m excited about the expansion of the type of projects you get to work with in this field. One can go from designing a 2 second animated GIFs to be used in an app, one day... to creating content for a 100 foot screens integrated into architecture, then back to designing a 30 second explainer for use in a documentary. There’s a diversity of techniques and thought processes that you employ from day to day... we just need to continue to the expand the diversity of voices.
BGSTR: Any advice to up and coming talent that want to get into motion graphics?
Mark: When I started the field wasn’t as defined as it is now in terms of training, awards, techniques, and superstars... And all of that is amazing! We didn’t even know what to call what we did... you’d say things like “you know what a graphic designer does, think of that, but it moves”... but there was also something great about working on something that was so undefined, everyone was approaching things from different backgrounds and it helped create unique takes on things. Certainly learn technique, master software and keep up with Mograph trends, but expand your influences beyond “motion graphics”... I love this field because you can have the opportunity to do dip into so many disciplines and often the instincts I rely on to get me through projects come from very different sources (fine art, poetry, dance). Strive to find a unique approach that goes beyond what’s being defined as “motion graphics”.