Robo Life Cycle Sketch
Design | Professional Work
Skills and Abilities
- 2D Animation
- Character Animation
FX & Compositing
- Motion Graphics
To facilitate multiple concerts being run in all parts of the US, the Octava Commander App has recently been upgraded to be run via any web.
The app originally ran as a iOS native app, but quickly outlived its usefulness. Now anyone running an Octava performance/presentation can not only run it from anywhere in the world with internet access, but they can also do so from their smart phone or mobile tablet. While we are still ironing out the kinks in the new system below are wire frames and mockups of the UX/UI for the new app.
I recently had the opportunity to work with author Brandon Jennings to produce original cover art for the release of his upcoming book, Battle Rattle and Other Short Stories. Having spent so much time over the last few year interpreting symphonies visually for Octava, it was great to work my way through a narrative to inspire the final piece. This was also another great opportunity to leverage the flexibility of After Effects and Illustrator to again arrive at a workflow for both print and animation!
Print copies of the book will be available soon through Amazon. Head over to Brandon’s blog One Veteran Writes for more info!
Possessions Of A Randomly Acquired Mind
Octava, an app designed to augment live performance and arts events with contextual information in real-time, has been in development for 5 years, as a collaboration between myself, and composer Linda Dusman.
The UX/UI design challenges were very unique to the development of Octava. A blend of institutional memory, tradition, dedication to loyal audiences and a general resistance technological adoption has made many orchestra organizations resistant to the changing perceptions and tastes of the contemporary public.
Essentially, our goal was to augment the traditional concert experience with supplemental information that is queued to precise moments in the musical score, providing supplemental context that enriches the over all experience. It was hoped that this would elicit more of an active listening experience as opposed to passively allowing the music to wash over the audience.
Having spent a decade working on multi-disciplinary teams of scientists, artists, earth scientists, and satirists (to name a few), I very much knew the role data could play in broadcasting any information to the public. With this in mind, from the beginning of the Octava project I knew we desperately needed a way to gauge user impressions.
The challenge here is that aesthetic impressions are qualitative, not quantitative, so we needed a metric that could allow users to quickly assess their experience in an unguided way. Collaborating with Human Centered Computing at UMBC in 2011, I developed a hybrid qualitative reaction survey that fueled 3 full revisions of the Octava app over the next 5 years.
While not empirically conclusive, the data yielded from these surveys gave clear impressions of our user test audiences that guided my UX/UI design decisions, allowing us to completely revert many of the initial critiques.
To get a better glimpse of how the app functions, please view the videos below.
The core challenge visually was to provide a visual context for the experience of the live performance that enabled an ease of reception with regard to the annotation texts, all while minimizing distraction. Here is an example annotation from an Octava performance:
As a designer/animator, motion needed play a key role in uniting the musical performance and the app into a single experience, so I designed the UI to accommodate animated frame sequences that would progress in concert with the release of each annotation. A breakdown of the how the Octava app produces the above image reveals the relationship between text, interface elements and animations composited with Octava:
As the orchestra plays, annotations are released to coincide with particular moments in the performance. Simultaneously with the release of each annotation, the visual themes shift as well, providing a sense of progression, especially through longer, more dense compositions.
While ultimately interperative, this design work was not arbitrary, and based on researching musicological, historical, and cultural resources to produce colors and forms that complimented each symphony. I personally created or art directed/edited every animated animated sequence for Octava, acting both as the conceptual and technical director, as well as lead animator.Two methods were developed during production to facilitate varying level of animation.
1) Looping Method: 3-5 frame animated sequences were designed to loop endlessly within specific movements of a symphony. This method allowed for frame by frame deformation, as well as pan and scan methods. The image here showcases this approach as used for accompanying Dvorak’s “New World Symphony.”
2) Animation Scroll Method: As an alternative, the scroll method focuses on developing a single image across which a virtual camera will pan. With this method, the illusion of motion is created without the need for frame by frame animation. Below is an image of the animation scroll produced for Mahler’s 5th Symphony.
During the height of production for our Phase I Maryland Innovation Initiative grant, I oversaw a team of 7 interdisciplinary artists working around the country. The result was a series of animated sequences for the 30 most performed works nationwide. Below you will find a .gif sampling of visual materials from some of the symphonies within our catalogue. These changes would occur almost subliminally over time, but have been sped up hear to reveal the motion design within.
29 children are in a classroom. 20 have dogs, and 15 have cats. How many students have a dog and a cat?
Due to nature of set theory, the answer to this problem is variable depending on how you assign cats and dogs to the children in the classroom. The app needed to allow users to easily assign the pets to characters on screen, and see how their choices affects the total number of students with dogs and cats. I lead the development team and was responsible for the UI design. The video below showcases this functionality.
Despite being a problem at the 7th grade level, rigid perceptions of mathematics prevent many adults from answering the problem. Can you!?
Traditional arts institutions such as symphony orchestras are at a crossroads. With attendance down, such organizations are developing new models of sustainable growth that will resonate with contemporary audiences, who increasingly expect multi-faceted, interactive, and user-defined experiences. This is reflected in the myriad of mobile “smart” devices, saturating everyday experience. Such devices provide an opportunity to enhance the experience of attending orchestra concerts by creating multiple streams of information and media through which a performance may be experienced and contextualized. By utilizing these technologies, such institutions can reengage the wider public through contemporary forms.
The research will develop software for mobile platforms that will allow users to view scrolling musical scores in realtime, synchronized with a live orchestra by a human time keeper sending pulses via wifi. Utilizing and iPad, users will be able to view portions of the score yet to be played or revisit prior moments of particular interest, as well as access detailed annotations with compositional, historical, and aesthetic information. The Symphony Interactive prototype will provide a unique permutation of the traditional concert experience, leveraging mobile technologies in a way that heightens engagement through active participation.
– Creative Direction
– Interactive Design
– Graphics Production
– Evaluation Design
Desire breeds vision.
Sight with grasping hands,
And feed within arms reach.
Currently in development, this film will combine traditional as well as 3D animation, 2D fx/compositing and digital illustration. It is the most recent product of my ongoing musical collaboration with programmer, musician and artist Walter Harris. What began solely as an attempt to rebuild a functional musical partnership through the internet eventually yielded the process by which Titan was imagined.
Interestingly, the inability to physically play in the same space, combined with the flexibility of digital audio production strengthened our desire to compose, and much more time was spent actually discussing the ideas and emotions to be expressed that traditionally would have been developed through jam sessions in a practice space.
This process lent itself to becoming increasingly visual as well as narrative to facilitate communication. We eventually found that developing narrative structures was a key motivator in our mode of production. Narrative inspired composition is certainly not new, as many bands have often cited such inspiration for their work. What may be unique for our process in this regard is that developing visual and thematic ideas outside of a practice space was the only way to energize the creative process over such a distance.
We needed to build the stories we wanted to play.
Before long, I started doodling:
This image was the first visual result of this collaboration, acting as a style frame for the rest of the project. The storyboard was finished at the beginning of 2012 resulting in the animatic above.
© Eric Smallwood 2012
National Academy of Sciences
– Technical Direction
Shakespeare For Social Change
– Creative Direction
– Technical Direction
Hurricane Life Cycle
© Eric Smallwood 2007
Painter As Sculptor
Years later this same technology and process was utilized when working with the Center for Women in Information Technology @ UMBC to develop avatars for their yearly festival Computer Mania Day. I worked directly with Collette Searles of UMBC Theater, who expertise in puppetry elevated the performative aspect of our system immensely by enlisting undergraduate theater majors to perform as a developed character named Jennifer Webb. More about the project can be found here.
– Lead Animator
Incrdible Rotois a rotoscoping assignment I produced during my undergraduate studies consisting of digitally painted filmstrip frames.
© Eric Smallwood 2012