It’s time for another installment of our Industry Spotlight series, where we cover some of the best and brightest studios in motion graphics and visual effects.
We often spotlight some of the biggest names around like Buck and Imaginary Forces. But today, we want to shed some light on a smaller studio that is working just as hard to create amazing work as they build a client base and a sustainable business.
Identity Visuals is just that kind of studio. They have a dedicated team who are consistently pushing boundaries and creating exciting work with a unique perspective. Creative director Zac Dixon has a true love of the art form of motion graphics that not only shows up in the work but extends to his podcast Animalators, that we’ve highlighted in our post on Podcasts For Motion Graphics Artists.
We had the pleasure of talking directly with Zac to find out a little more about some of their recent projects, and get an inside look at how Identity Visuals brought them to life.
First, a little background on Identity Visuals. The best explanation of how Identity got started is in Zac’s words. “Identity Visuals started up when my co-founder Samuel Cowden and I moved to Nashville in the summer of 2012. In the beginning, it was just the two of us working on whatever work we could get on the first floor of Samuel’s apartment. A few months in we hired our first two team members and eventually moved out of Sam’s place into our first tiny studio on Music Row (right across from Zac Brown’s studio for any country music fans out there).
“It’s been a crazy ride these last few years that has included two burglaries, two more office spaces, and a ton of really fantastic projects.”
“We’ve had the privilege of working with clients and freelancers from around the world, and we can’t wait to keep learning and pushing ourselves towards better work in 2016!”
Let’s take a look at some of the pieces Zac, Samuel, and crew have been working on.
One of the most interesting pieces recently completed by Identity Visuals is the title sequence for the Reddit web series Formative. The concept behind Formative is to ask a successful entrepreneur one question that gets at the heart of how they came to be who they are today. That question, “What was the most defining moment of your life?”
Zac and his team were fortunate to have the trust of the creatives at Reddit. “They had a couple initial ideas of what the sequence could look like, but ultimately they left the field wide open for us to come up with something cool,” says Zac.
He goes on to explain “It was a really really quick turnaround for when they needed to see the first draft (a little over two weeks), so we had to take a bit of a gamble and combine storyboards and style-frames into one process. I drew a few quick sketches in my notebook, and dove right into creating style-frames. Much like the show itself, I wanted the opening sequence to look back in time towards that one singular moment. The whole sequence happens in reverse, starting with a polished product, through a few phases of development, and then all the way up into the brain where we see the initial idea occur.”
“We nervously sent our boards to the guys at Reddit, and they loved the concept & look!”
Once the look was approved by the client, it was time for animation where Zac used a number of plug-ins and applications to bring the story of the “ah-ha” moment to life.
Zac detailed the process for us from style frames to completed animation.
“I created all the style frames right inside of After Effects, so from here it was just tweaking a few design elements, and then bringing it all to life through animation. On the final shot inside the brain, we wanted to step it up a bit from the style frame. The initial board was created with Trapcode Particular due to the tight turnaround, but it wasn’t quite moving the way we wanted so we brought in the talented Maxwell Anderson to help us out with some Cinema 4D action using X Particles. To composite the shot together, we did a few render passes out of Cinema but also used Element 3D to bring in the structure of the nerve. This was also my first project using the Sapphire effects suite from GenArts, and they proved to be incredibly useful throughout the project.”
In order to really take the whole sequence to a higher level, Identity brought in some talented audio help, including Nashville composer Cody Fry, who created the unique soundtrack, and D.C. audio house Defacto who polished it out with a superb sound design.
The final piece is sophisticated and beautiful, combining organic elements with icons of the tech world.
Another great selection from the Identity Visuals catalog is the animated short for Deufol, “global services provider for packaging and related services.”
Here Zac was tasked with creating an explainer video that would be both informative and entertaining for an industry that may sometimes seem boring to many.
Rather than focus too much on the “industrial” side of the business, the team instead created a fun flat animation look, punctuated by a limited color palette fitting the Deufol brand, and a unique line art animation technique that makes the piece stand out from much of what has already been done.
Here again, Zac gave us the behind-the-scenes look at what really went into getting this piece delivered with a quick turnaround and good communication between team members.
“Deufol started for me with a great script written by my co-founder Samuel Cowden,” says Zac. “From here I mocked up some simple storyboards and shot directions in Illustrator, and put together a quick mood board for the client. The video was centered around the different phases of industry and how it has changed over the last few centuries. Luckily we got through without any revisions and I handed the boards to our frequent collaborator, the incredible Allen Laseter.”
“It was another quick turn around, I believe we had the first draft out in around 2 and a half weeks.”
“Allen and I touched base almost every day to go over the project, and it was a blast seeing it all come together. Allen has a fantastic style that suited this video perfectly, and we’re all proud of how it came out!”
These are just two examples of how Identity Visuals is working to make their own voice and become a leader in the fast moving motion graphics industry.
But Zac also helps inspire others with his podcast Animalators, where industry veterans like Jorge Canedo Estrada sit down and talk about everything from process to what inspires them.
The Animalators podcast has the tagline “Curious conversations from the world of animation.” Zac explains how he got it started. “I love podcasts, and I love talking to other artists so this really made a ton of sense. Austin Harrison our Relationship Director had the idea for the name, and Samuel ultimately had the idea and pushed me towards making the podcast.”
One of the most interesting points Zac made in referencing the desire for the podcast was the fact that the team is so fresh to what they are doing. As Zac put it, “As a company, and personally as an animator/director, we are super young in this industry and have a TON to learn. None of us are traditionally trained in animation/design, and this is all of our first jobs in the industry, so I see Animalators as the perfect way to learn more about this incredible industry, and then to share that information with anyone who wants to listen!”
Even though they may be young to the industry, their “non-traditional” training is giving them a unique perspective and a fresh voice that comes out in all of their work. We have no doubt that we’ll be seeing many great things from Identity Visuals in 2016 and in the years to come.