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PSYOP Brings Life to Stats for My VH1 Music Awards

PSYOP animators modeled and animated more than 200 characters in three weeks By DMN Staff Writer
With award categories like "Your Song Kicked Ass but Was Played Too Damn Much" and "Is It Hot in Here or Is It Just My Video?" clearly the 2001 My VH1 Music Awards is not your average music awards ceremony.

For one thing, it is the fans that call the shots: the category names, nominees and winners are all determined through an online vote. That distinctly democratic impression was significantly strengthened by a hip, unique graphics and animation package created for the December 2 broadcast by visual effects/creative design house, PSYOP, NYC.

Building on the success of their work for last year's show, PSYOP followed through on VH1's request for them "take it to the next level" for 2001.

"Last year we established a sort of informational language to convey how the fans had voted," explains Marie Hyon, co-director of the project. "We created a series of generic 'people' icons, each representing millions of VH1 viewers. Those little icon-people came to life and became 'living statistics,' but still followed the formal rules of informational graphics. We wanted to build on that success -- we ended up with fanarchy."

Charged with the creation of no less than fifteen two-part category bumpers, 5 general bumpers, a one minute and fifteen second show open, logo animations, as well as winner and anticipation graphics, the PSYOP team had their work cut out for them. They created a wide variety of energetic 3D characters resembling the sort of "people icons" typically associated with graphs and charts, each one ostensibly representing millions of VH1 viewers. For each award category, the far-from-static icons perform a two-part skit, the first accompanied by the list of nominees, the second for the winner.

"We decided that our characters had to become more independent," says co-director Marco Spier. "We wanted them to break out of this rigid system of informational graphics, express their own individuality and start their own music party. The result is a grassroots coalition of different fan 'factions' bent on joining together to create an entirely new breed of music awards show -- one that is for the fans, by the fans."

In the "Your Song Kicked Ass but Was Played Too Damn Much" category, for instance, a group of icons are seen energetically thrashing to their favorite song as the nominees are read, then near exhaustion as the winner is announced. For the "There's No 'I' in Team (Best Collaboration)" category, a female icon is hoisted high in the air by a male icon, landing safely at the top of huge human pyramid. Once the winner is announced, the same female icon is seen changing a light bulb over the stage. The result is a series of sight gags that lend an air of youth and spontaneity to the proceedings.

"There were an incredible number of deliverables on this project," says Spier. "We created three different promos leading up to the show, but then we had just three weeks to create all the packaging for the show itself. It was really intense during that time, but it turned out very well."

Opting for a completely 3D environment that would give the illusion of virtually unlimited space, the PSYOP animators modeled and animated more than 200 characters in three weeks using Softimage|XSI v.1.5. In some scenes, however, more than 2,500 characters appear and interact seamlessly, thanks to the creation of a sizeable motion library. Final compositions and secondary animations were added using Discreet's Flame.

PSYOP describes itself as a "new breed design collective: An evolution of long-standing professional ties, creative relationships and diverse technical expertise. Their covert, paramilitary image suggests the impact a small, highly-trained team of propagandists can exert over a large civilian population -- a proud, ongoing American tradition. PSYOP implements this ethos within a fully independent creative design/production squad dedicated to the cultivation of mind over pixel."

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Creative Credits
Client: VH1
Creative Director: Susan Kantor
Project: 2001 My Music Awards package
Airdate: December 2001

Design/Visual Effects/Animation: PSYOP, NYC
Director: Marie Hyon
Director: Marco Spier
Special Effects Director: Eben Mears
Producer: Kimmy Ng:
Executive Producer: Justin Booth-Clibborn
Creative Consultant/Writer: Steve Raymond
Creative Consultant: Todd Mueller
Animators: Marko Vukovic, Pakorn Pupphavesa, Todd Akita, Kent Seki, Jason Goodman, Domel Libid, Joel Sevilla, Jeremy Butler, Danny Selinger, Collin Barton

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Related Keywords:animation, visual effects, graphics, VH1, music, video

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