We spent some time with After Effects this week, coming to terms with kinetic type. Kinetic type is pretty much what is says on the tin: it depends on movement for its impact. It’s pretty much everywhere you look these days as far as motion graphics is concerned, with film titles particularly beating the form into a bloody, quivering pulp.
Like Photoshop, After Effects is packed full of presets and this is probably where all kinetic type starts to look the same. However, there are some pretty nifty editing tools in After Effects that I was impressed by, particularly the graph editor, which allows you to change the curve of any given effect to make it your own. So really, there are no excuses for lazy kinetic work. Just lazy blog posts.
I had a look around for other kinetic type work on the World Wide Web and found many good and many terrible examples. The following may not be perfect, but each of them has at least one interesting idea that caught my eye…
Unfortunately, where our brief differs from each of the above ideas, is sound: we aren’t allowed any. Or at least, we’re not going to be marked on it, so the type absolutely must stand on its own – a monologue or song lyrics which rely on music or sound for rhythm aren’t going to cut it. I do find visual rhythm through editing an fascinating concept though, so this will be an interesting challenge nevertheless.
When I started thinking about what would work well for this format, my first instinct was to use a poem. And of course, myself being an angry man, Charles Bukowski sprang to mind. Whilst his poetry may not be beautiful in terms of vocabulary or structure, Bukowski often uses expressive and almost violent language in his poetry. It is quite conversational in tone, even if that tone is one of a bitter drunk. This makes for a far richer base to build kinetic type from.
Want Bukowski? Need bukowski.net. It’s a fairly thorough site, covering more than just his writing and has some wonderful scanned images of Bukowski’s poetry, straight from the typewriter…
There were a few that I pulled out, both for their expressiveness and suitability for the constraints of this project: A Very Dramatic Man (1971); This Drunk (1972); Girls Coming Home In Their Cars (1972); and Piss (1972). From these, I decided that Piss felt like it had the right tone and texture for what I wanted to achieve. I’m quite sure that many of the students in my class will head down the well trod path of The Matrix and Fight Club monologues, so I’d like my work to be something of a foil to that.
Piss is distinctly Bukowski, but is a little more restrained than the other poems I selected. It still contains some excellent and descriptive lines that I can work with in a visual form…
Piss – Charles Bukowski (1972)
we’re laying on the bed together.
I’ve got to pee, she says.
all right, I say, and let go of
she sits down to the sewing machine.
ZRRRRRRR! ZRRRRR! ZRRRRRRR!
o, god damn it!
she drops the scissors.
ZRRRRRRR! ZRRRRR! ZRRRRRR!
I hear her cutting cloth with the
it’s Thursday night tonight,
it’s supposed to be
ZRRRRR! ZRRRRR! ZRRRRRRR!
she’s been working 20 minutes.
she has on an orange sweater and
I’ve known her about 2 years.
we live together most of the
ZRRRRRR! ZRRRRR! ZRRRRRR!
she has various pieces of cloth
blue with yellow flowers
green with red flowers.
she appears to be making little
Kissinger is still in Paris
at the peace talks.
the dog is asleep on a red coat on the
she’s been working about an hour
ZRRRRR! ZRRRR! ZRRRR!
ZRRRRRR! ZRRRRR! ZRRRRRRRRRR!
that’s the strangest piss I ever
Just from looking at the poem, it’s difficult to get an idea of timing, so rather than start working in After Effects, I created a (very, very) basic storyboard. This was just a rough guide to give me an idea of how I could break up the poem. I assumed the total length of the project would be 1 minute, and broke that down into 5 second segments. Although the storyboard shows ideas for images, I expect these to change greatly, and will probably only use them as a starting point.
For now, it’s back to the tutorials.