MOTION GRAPHICS: be STILL my beating heart

For my After Effects project, I am creating a book trailer for Apocalypse for Beginners by Nicholas Dickner. Set (predominantly) in 1989, the book tells the story of Mickey Bauermann, who’s quiet existence in the small town of Rivière-du-Loup is disrupted when Hope Randall and her mother move to town. The Randall family has a history of receiving prophetic visions of the date of the apocalypse, and, when the end of days fails to arrive, slowly going crazy. Set against this somewhat foreboding backdrop, however, the heart of the story is really about two strange, lonely young people brought together by common feelings of isolation and longing, who together are a little less lonely.

My goal for this trailer is for it to capture this feeling. For the first still I chose to create a suburban streetscape, conceivably one that either Hope or Mickey could live on. It’s somewhat sparse with muted colours, and it’s nighttime, because I think these elements mirror the sparse, lonely mood. In the first still there is a single illuminated window to create a sense of isolation: the only lit up window on a dark street. In the second still the light has gone out and we zoom in on the basement below that house, where the glow of a now-illuminated TV screen shows the silhouette of two people sitting on the couch in front of it. In Apocalypse for Beginners Hope and Mickey spend a lot of time together in Mickey’s basement watching the news, and so by showing this after the solitary light I wanted to show how they are brought together by their “unusual” mutual interest and find solace in each other. In the final still it has zoomed in past the couch to the television screen to show that they’re watching a mushroom cloud overlaid with the text “Apocalypse for Beginners”. It was important to me to include some apocalypse imagery, the mushroom cloud being the most ubiquitous, because although it isn’t the most important element in the book (despite the fact that it IS in the title), it nevertheless undercuts the whole novel with a constant sense of unease.

I am sure by now you are DYING to see these prototype stills! Well, here they are:

Still #1

Still #1

Still #2

Still #2

Still #3

Still #3

For these images I was inspired by the work of artists such as Chris Turnham, who does some really beautiful, spare images of suburban spaces…

… as well as Douglas Coupland, whose considerable body of work often tackles similar feelings of isolation, identity, and the effect technology can have in society. A lot of his visual art work is features bold colours and shapes, which I tried to emulate a bit here.

To animate this, I am mainly planning on using the scale effect and the parallax effect. A lot of the transitions that I want to occur are movement such as panning down or zooming in. I kept a lot of elements layered so that I can create the feeling of 3D motion, with the camera zooming in past the couch and closing in on the TV screen. I am also planning on animating the mushroom cloud, making it grow to the size seen in the final still, and will maybe do so using stop motion animation.

I’m excited to take on the challenge of animating my stills, but I am a little nervous, partly because I somehow lost most of the layers that built up my first still. Overall though I’m stoked and optimistic about how it will turn out!!

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