I spent this past May at the Red Bull Music Academy, directing a series of animated shorts that we dubbed “Sound Bites.” The series’ task was to illustrate memorable quotes by various musicians. I worked directly with Red Bull to identify and distill each “sound bite” from the daily 2+ hour lectures that were being hosted by the Academy. Because the Red Bull Music Academy took place over the course of a only month, we had only few days to turn each piece around. Basically, it was a month long design + animation hackathon. Or better put, motion graphics boot camp. If you’re wondering “is compressing 4-5 months of work into one suicidal?” the answer is… mostly. That being said, I’m incredibly grateful for the incredible experience and with a bit of rest, would definitely do it all again.
I’m going to be making a series of posts that gives a behind the scenes look at how each of these shorts came together. But the larger picture first: what is RBMA and how did this all come about? Every year Red Bull descends on a new city and invites a group of diverse, emerging musicians to meet, collaborate, have access to top notch equipment and learn from legends. And I do mean legends. Additionally, Red Bull hosts daily concerts, exhibitions and symposiums that are open to the public — events like Giorgio Moroder’s first DJ set ever. (!!!) Add to that, Red Bull hires a large number ultra-talented designers, illustrators and writers to make art and pen essays promoting everything that’s going on. I’ve been working professionally for about seven years and I’ve never had a client like them. Not only did the Red Bull team give me an incredible amount of freedom to make something I cared about, they had great taste and instincts, too. When they gave feedback, I almost always agreed with what they had to say.
Part of that great taste included commissioning M ss ng P eces to blanket the internet with videos about the universe revolving around the Academy. Some of my favorite pieces they made were a look back at DFA records, Four Tet on building live sets and Brian Eno talking about light and time. By contrast, “Sound Bites” was a series that isolated key moments of wisdom, clarity or comedy. We hoped that if we put those moments on a pedestal, you might dive into the longer lectures. Again, props to M ss ng P eces who thought up this whole strategy - and a big thank you for asking me to take the reins on this slice of content.
Back to the nuts and bolts. One of our the biggest challenges was that we couldn’t pre-determine what our videos would be about, since scripts were being pulled directly from the daily lectures. We couldn’t even say for sure who would be featured. Before the Academy kicked off I spent about three days making style frames, design sketches and collecting references in the hopes that we could create “design buckets”. It’s always easier to start from something rather than absolute nothing — though — it was certain some of the work coming out of this phase was going to be in vain. Still, I had a great time with it (included shots above). Just having setting a concrete conversation about initial thoughts and expectations amongst everyone involved, turned out to be really valuable when we were in the throes of production.
Lastly, I was lucky to have an amazing team collaborating with me on these. Drake Miller, who I know from freelancing at Mother, was my animator/designer partner throughout the whole project. If you need a talented someone to stay calm and committed under an intense deadline, Drake is your dude. His work on this was invaluable. Upright T-Rex (Ross Wariner and Cody Uhler) did all of the music, sound and mixing. They can turn around pretty much any style of sound as quick as I’ve ever seen. Insanely talented guys. We worked together on the VHX video and I was thrilled to collaborate with them again. Owen Katz held it all together and kept us all cool as producer for M ss ng P eces. And the amazing Red Bull team was made up of Todd Burns, Davide Bortot and Maartje kardol. I would work with all these people again in a heartbeat, and hope they feel the same.