An­drew Jones shares the think­ing be­hind Fu­tureDeluxe’s sur­real open­ing se­quence for OFFF Lon­don, to­gether with the ex­per­i­men­tal tech­niques that made it pos­si­ble

Computer Arts - - Contents -

The Lon­don-based stu­dio re­cently wowed the crowds at OFFF Lon­don with its sur­real open­ing se­quence. We chat to An­drew Jones to find out more

FUTUREDELUXE_ Fu­tureDeluxe is a Lon­don-based cre­ative stu­dio that spe­cialises in de­sign, tech­nol­ogy and the mov­ing im­age. It was founded in 2010 by An­drew Jones, now cre­ative di­rec­tor. Jones was joined by di­rec­tor James Cal­la­han in 2012. Clients in­clude Nike, Adi­das, Philips and Con­verse. www.fu­turedeluxe.co.uk

Since it was founded seven years ago, Fu­tureDeluxe has been break­ing bound­aries. The Lon­don-based stu­dio, which op­er­ates at the in­ter­sec­tion of de­sign, tech­nol­ogy and the mov­ing im­age, has pro­duced mo­tion work for clients in­clud­ing Adi­das, Dis­ney, Nike and Sony. It is known for em­brac­ing new tech­nolo­gies, ex­per­i­ment­ing with new tech­niques, and gen­er­ally push­ing lim­its with its work.

One of its re­cent projects – the open­ing ti­tles for OFFF Lon­don (see page 16) – was no ex­cep­tion. A vis­ual tour de force in­cor­po­rat­ing re­al­is­tic CG of fu­tur­is­tic hu­mans, mes­meris­ing ex­per­i­ments in colour ef­fects, a bonkers sto­ry­line and a goose­bump-in­duc­ing sound­track, the piece was the talk­ing point of the event. We caught up with founder An­drew Jones to find out what it was all about... Your OFFF ti­tle se­quence is pretty strange. Talk us through your idea. We asked our­selves one ques­tion: what is OFFF and the cre­ative com­mu­nity and process re­ally all about? We came up with the no­tion that it’s about shar­ing knowl­edge and pass­ing in­for­ma­tion back and forth. From there, we in­tro­duced th­ese stylised tribes and groups. We added some Fu­tureDeluxe de­sign witch­craft into the mix to get the fi­nal re­sult. What was your re­sponse when OFFF first got in touch? When you’re given an open brief it’s al­ways an ex­cit­ing prospect. How­ever, given that it’s the OFFF ti­tles, it comes with a bit of peer pres­sure! Es­pe­cially given it was Lon­don – and let’s face it, Lon­don is a tough crowd to please at the best of times. Did the open brief throw up any is­sues fur­ther down the line? Once we’d tied down the ini­tial idea, the project be­came a labour of love as there was no com­mer­cial bud­get. This is al­ways a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion re­source-wise, given com­mit­ments to other com­mer­cial projects. It can put a lot of pres­sure on ev­ery­one. An­other big chal­lenge was time – the whole thing was cre­ated in just two months. Were there any par­tic­u­lar el­e­ments that were re­ally tricky to crack? Creat­ing char­ac­ter CG to the level we wanted to achieve was re­ally dif­fi­cult. I didn’t think we could pull this off and so I chal­lenged our CG de­signer to prove to me we could cre­ate some­thing re­al­is­tic.

Within one week he had cre­ated a great demo of Linda (who opens the film), which was so re­al­is­tic. We knew at that point we were on to some­thing. How did you cre­ate the par­ti­cle work seen on the in­di­vid­ual speak­ers’ ti­tle screens? It’s cre­ated us­ing real-world macro footage of paint pig­ments and liq­uids. We shot hours and hours of footage with long-term friend and col­lab­o­ra­tor Davy Evans. We then went through the footage and se­lected a few key se­quences to use for the ti­tles.

Th­ese were then driven through a Hou­dini FX setup, which tracks the mo­tion and colour of the film and turns it into phys­i­cal par­ti­cles that we can stylise and add fur­ther physics to. Then we can add cam­eras any­where within the scenes to make them re­ally dy­namic. We hadn’t

seen this tech­nique used be­fore. How­ever we’ve since seen it ap­pear else­where on­line a few times! Why do you think peo­ple have re­sponded so en­thu­si­as­ti­cally to the fi­nal piece? I hope it was be­cause it felt dif­fer­ent, and be­cause it mixed a va­ri­ety of styles and tech­niques, along with a crazy au­dio score.

Creat­ing re­al­is­tic char­ac­ters is a huge ask, and not some­thing our stu­dio is known for. We de­cided to go for a very ab­stract, stylised look as we didn’t want to try and cre­ate some­thing that was pho­to­re­al­is­tic. This style, com­bined with dy­namic par­ti­cles used in the ti­tle screens, seemed to re­ally work. Do you have a favourite char­ac­ter? I feel like I’ve had a re­la­tion­ship with them all! Ex­cept Car­los, the weird dude with John Len­non glasses made of fur. If I had to pick one, it would be Ed­die, the al­bino girl at the end – she’s un­der­rated. What prompted you to launch Fu­tureDeluxe in the first place? I was al­ways fas­ci­nated with ex­per­i­men­tal mov­ing im­age and de­sign. I was frus­trated work­ing at big­ger agen­cies be­cause I wanted to play with tech­nol­ogy and de­sign in a way the com­mer­cial projects wouldn’t al­low.

I wanted to col­lab­o­rate with as many ex­cit­ing artists glob­ally as I could, but at the time that just wasn’t a thing. We take it for granted now, jump­ing on Skype or Google Hang­outs with de­sign­ers and artists from around the world on a daily ba­sis, but back then it felt so new. Col­lab­o­ra­tion is still a huge part of how we work at Fu­tureDeluxe. How many peo­ple work at Fu­tureDeluxe now? There are 15 of us. We ex­pand through reg­u­lar trusted free­lance sup­port as we get busy, but we have made a clear de­ci­sion to re­main around the 20-per­son mark within the Lon­don stu­dio – purely be­cause the stan­dard we want to keep is very dif­fi­cult to re­cruit for. Also, be­cause cre­atives are a fickle bunch, if it gets too big we al­ways feel we lose that per­sonal touch, start-up drive and gen­eral men­tal­ity. You’ve pre­vi­ously men­tioned the com­mer­cial dan­ger of spend­ing too much time on arts-based projects. How do you know where to chan­nel your en­er­gies? From mak­ing mis­takes! We have learnt a lot over the years about what does work fi­nan­cially and what doesn’t. Our ap­proach has al­ways been based on ex­per­i­men­ta­tion – it’s the core of our busi­ness and has at­tracted the clients we work with. How­ever, you learn when to start and stop that process, and how to use it ef­fec­tively. Could you give an ex­am­ple of a project you poured a lot of love and en­ergy into, but it paid off? Th­ese OFFF ti­tles are a great ex­am­ple – the phone hasn’t stopped ring­ing! We’ve had a lot of en­quiries in the past few weeks since we re­leased th­ese. Our last piece of work tends to be the driver for new busi­ness, and also the ex­per­i­ments sec­tion of our site is also the driver of many new client con­ver­sa­tions. Do you have is­sues with clients just want­ing the same ef­fects as your ex­ist­ing project?

It’s a re­ally big is­sue. Brands and agen­cies can some­times be very lazy with their briefs. As Pin­ter­est and so­cial me­dia has ex­ploded fur­ther over the re­cent years, its all too easy with a lim­ited time to just grab an im­age as ref­er­ence and say “We want that” without even think­ing what the brief re­quires. Hence why we al­ways get pointed to our last project – or even worse, one of our com­peti­tors’ – and then asked to recre­ate it.

How do you com­bat this so you can keep pro­gress­ing as a stu­dio?

It’s some­thing I feel re­ally strongly about and al­ways try to push the client in a more con­sid­ered di­rec­tion. We pub­lish a lot of ex­per­i­men­tal and self-ini­ti­ated work for the sole pur­pose of mov­ing away from the last job and look. We also try to con­vince the client to give us more time and bud­get dur­ing the R&D phase of projects to find some­thing unique and think more.

Your work of­ten ex­plores new tech­nolo­gies. Which comes first, the idea or the tech­nol­ogy?

We def­i­nitely start with an idea or a re­sponse to a brief first, but we are all very in­ter­ested in tech­nol­o­gy­driven pro­cesses. So we ap­ply this knowl­edge where we think it’s suit­able. I love the scale and po­ten­tial that tech­nol­ogy adds to pro­duc­tion, it gives us op­tions that we can never de­sign or plan for.

What’s your opin­ion of the de­sign scene in Lon­don?

Lon­don has al­ways at­tracted amaz­ingly tal­ented peo­ple from all over the world. How­ever, in to­day’s cli­mate the bound­aries are bro­ken. The Lon­don is scene is now global. We com­pete with other stu­dios glob­ally, our briefs and clients are global and we col­lab­o­rate with artists all over the world.

If any­thing, with all that’s go­ing on po­lit­i­cally in this city, it’s mak­ing Lon­don seem like a less at­trac­tive place cre­atively than it ever has. Our in­dus­try is tran­sient, which means the best artists can be po­si­tioned any­where they want in the world. Which some­times makes my life a lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenge!

What new tech­niques or aesthetics are you drawn to at the mo­ment?

I’m still a huge fan of any form of data-driven vi­su­al­i­sa­tion or com­pu­ta­tional de­sign. Any com­bi­na­tion of dig­i­tal tools or pro­cesses that can be used in dif­fer­ent ways to give unique cre­ative con­tent will al­ways blow my mind. Find­ing that new aes­thetic will al­ways be a huge part of how we work as a stu­dio.

Above: Vi­brant shots were cre­ated us­ing real-world macro footage of paint pig­ments and liq­uids.

Above: The Fu­tureDeluxe team, in­clud­ing founder and cre­ative di­rec­tor An­drew Jones (top left).

Above: The film is full of bonkers touches; al­bino Ed­die shares in­for­ma­tion with Den­nis by press­ing her face into his in­verted fea­tures. Far left: In­side Fu­tureDeluxe’s stu­dio space.

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