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Kennedy's 'Your Mama'

Transistor Studios' Joel Lava rocks the web By Ko Maruyama

Jared Plummer and Damon Meena started up a motion graphics company in Hollywood primarily working on DVD and promo graphics.  They soon outgrew their address near Capitol Records and moved to Venice.  Since their move, Transistor Studios' projects have expanded to almost every available aspect of motion graphic delivery.

Concurrently,  GreenTowel author Joel Lava was making a career by designing dynamic animations.  In a recent production by Lava and Transistor Studios, Joel directed Kennedy in his new video, "Your Mama" which has dominated online viewing portals like iFilm (, becoming the #1 downloaded music video on that site.

When I first met Joel at a Nike exhibit a few years ago, he had created only one other music video.  This latest piece is not a departure from his animation style, but definitely a retooling of his other music video work.

Nike Art of Speed: Click Image for Larger View

"This is my best," says Lava when describing the Kennedy piece. "I did another spec video, 'Rock Shock', which won several awards, but it was to electronica and not a traditional video like Kennedy's."  Creating motion graphics is different from directing people and injecting a musician's character and their music into a video. 

Even with moderate creative freedom, there are excellent challenges to be found in music videos.  What turned you onto music videos? 

"I love videos because there's a chance to insert a story and character to the music.  It was different from regular motion graphics projects because I had total control.  Directors generally have more control in videos than they do in broadcast commercials.   While great motion graphics work usually leaves the viewer thinking 'that was a cool ride', whereas great videos aspire to transport the viewer into a new world, a world guided by the musician's intent."

Click Image for Larger  View.

Joel and other members of Transistor Studios' roster have extensive backgrounds in motion graphics.  When I asked Joel how that experience helped him out, he answered, "My motion graphics experience was critical in getting crazy visions from my head to the screen.  I even made videos before I had design experience, but they were lacking something.  Now, the wall from "mind" to "screen" has been lowered.... 'though not completely eliminated."

Joel subscribes to the idea that having the right creative tools are important, but knowing how to use them well is key to allowing your inspiration to move from concept to reality.  If you can't execute your idea, you can't share it.  "Tools like C4D (CINEMA 4D), Photoshop and After Effects are easy to use; if they weren't the road to creation would be much longer."

Joel started using After Effects in 1997, but it wasn't until he started working at Imaginary Forces in Hollywood that he got his feet wet with MAXON's CINEMA 4D.  Imaginary Forces, a company that has produced graphics for everything from broadcast design, main titles for film and TV to special effects and even interactive gave him his first taste of CINEMA 4D in 2000 while he was working on a campaign for Comedy Central.

  Click Image for Larger View

The video has a psychedelic teletubby-esque world, in which disco-pimp Kennedy takes up with everyone's mama.  The creation of the virtual world started in the same tools it was finished in.

"Generally, I'll use C4D and After Effects in the beginning."  Even during previz stages, Joel admits that you need to have focus on what needs to get done during production.  "The more previz the better."

Smiling, he confesses that he didn't do that much previz for Kennedy's Your Mama because many of the environments hadn't been planned out.  "When I know you're going to put people in wacky environments, I just come up with cool camera angles and character actions."  

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Related Keywords:Joel Lava, Kennedy, Transistor Studios, Maxon, Adobe, Cinema 4D, C4D, Adobe, Ko Maruyama, Xfrog Greenworks, C4D


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