Okay, it’s not exactly Apocalypse Now (worth seeing young Harrison Ford at 0:48 in that trailer,) but there was a lot of effort that went into the simple 90 seconds you’ve now seen premiered here. Personally, I had very little input apart from coordination, but I’m hoping it’s fun for you all to see what goes into the process. Before we go into the blow by blow, please note both the guiding hand of our director of E-Communications, Thomas Listerman, as an influence at every single stage, and and also Brian Woo, an animator at AJSNY in New York, as the prime mover of the final product.
Flight Plan: This started in January, as we (USF, our architects at NBBJ, and Brian Woo at the animation studio) tried to determine the ideal flight plan. We nixed the idea of flying through walls and into the laboratories — this was disconcerting and required guesses as to the exact final lab finishings, furnishings and equipment. Studios also don’t typically have “students doing lab activities” in their stock of animated characters. We all decided to stick to the exterior for most of this animation to emphasize the campus impact.
Nearly final "flight plan" for the animation. We moved the starting point at the last minute so that viewers can have an elevated perspective of the new plaza. Handwriting is that of NBBJ's Lilian Asperin-Clyman.
Major contributors to the finalized path include our architects at NBBJ, USF’s Jim Muyo, Director of Publications, and many other pairs of eyes.
Rough Drafts: AJSNY’s Brian Woo would then make rough drafts of the animation so we could assess exactly what is seen, the speed of progression, and the exact angle of the “camera,” and so forth. It was at this stage when we elevated the starting point and, in the upper plaza portion (i.e. the middle of the video), we decided to have the camera pan towards University Center, to look out across the new lower atrium, or commons, in the plaza. We also decided on the speed of the moving camera and the overall length of the animation here. There’s the factor of cost to consider (it simply goes per animated second,) but we also wanted to make sure it didn’t feel boring, even on repeat viewings.
Rough draft with wire-frame graphics and a mostly gray pallet. This suits Harney nicely, as it turns out.
Realism: To move to a completed movie, the animators needed realistic campus photographs of each major viewpoint. Many thanks to JJ Thorpe, a project manager in our Facilities division, for taking a ton of high quality photographs, from the roof of Cowell, to new photos of Kalmanovitz Hall and photos of UC that include the newly upgraded Phoenix (thanks to our intrepid, no-fear-of-heights art students.) These photos then make the animation that much more realistic.
Lighting details: What time of day should be featured? How reflective should the windows in the garden level be? Our publications folks had the guiding advice here. We opted for mid-morning to light up Harney, the eastern face of the new project, and St. Ignatius Church.
Labcoats: Fr. Tom Lucas, University Professor of Art and Architecture said “make sure there are people in lab coats,” which was the perfect advice for more realism (especially in the learning lobby at the end of the video.) As it turns out, the standard animation toolkits don’t include people in labcoats; it’s more of a briefcase crowd, and in fact you’ll notice this in the animation, with more khakis than you typically see on campus. It was actually my wife who suggested “why don’t you just turn some business blazers white?” Voila! See this in the closing sequence within the “learning lounge.” It is either science or disco, or both, at work.
Lobby Art: The two images on the interactive displays of the learning lounge were selected by USF scientists. The molecule is actually taken from a research paper by our Professors Claire Castro (Chemistry) and William Karney (Environmental Science.) And the galaxy was selected from NASA images by Professor of Physics and Astronomy, and our interim Dean, Marcelo Camperi.
Music: We wanted something somewhat modern, even electronic or “techy,” and I thought I’d found the perfect track from the band Prefuse 73. Major raspberries to them and their management for never returning my emails or calls. Thomas Listerman suggested going to Creative Commons, which highlights a number of “free” music sites, where artists offer their work as long as you don’t use it in a for-profit enterprise. From the opsound.org site, we found the winning track, Holding Twilight, from Orchestral Movements of 1932, and many thanks again to them for letting us use this gorgeous track.
Intro and credits: USF’s Thomas Listerman then set up the intro, using JJ Thorpe’s present day plaza photograph, and he also set up the closing credits. He also got the animation ready in a million formats, from DVD quality to you-tube-ready versions. This is a lot more complex than you would think, and if you play too detailed a version on a normal computer, the animation “hacks” — literally, it looks like it’s about to spit up a hairball. Not pretty.
Okay, that’s a long post, but for people like me, who had never seen such a process, it’s a rare window into CGI.