Time passes fast. I often feel as if i get nothing done. I want to do so many things, yet i never seem to have enough of that elusive thing called time. I find myself getting less and less sleep, just so i can get more stuff done. And yet, it never seems to be enough. This exact feeling is what Ma’agalim, a video clip for the band “Jane Bordeaux”, is talking about.
“It’s not me that’s progressing,
it’s just time that’s gaining distance.
Another train that’s passing by,
another rope that’s getting tighter.”
“Ma’agalim” is the creation of Uri Lotan & Yoav Shtibelman, with a few more talented creators. Uri and yoav are two independent animation directors. A few years back they graduated from Ringling College. They worked at some of the big animation studios like Disney, Pixar and most recently at Sony on ‘Hotel Transylvania 2’. Last summer, they returned to Israel, determined to find new exciting projects to work on.
Uri was kind enough to share some of the “behind the scenes” of the project. Read on below.
You’ve been working on some major titles in the recent years, what drove you to make this amazing video for a not so heard of band?
“The bigger the production, the less room for creativity there is, so I guess we were just thirsty to be involved in something more fulfilling on a personal level.”
How did you come up with the idea/concept for Ma’agalim? What were your references?
“‘Ma’agalim’ was conceived in an untraditional way. We contacted the band with the intention of creating them a music video,. That gave us complete creative freedom, as long as it was in the spirit of the song.
For a while, they’ve been thinking about making a music video for ‘Ma’agalim’, but didn’t have a clear direction. What we loved about the song was the rhythmic melody, the subject (which was relatable) and the fact it was in Hebrew. The inspiration came from a visit a few years back at Musée Mécanique in San Francisco, a museum devoted to antique penny arcade machines. Walking around the museum there was a feeling that time had stopped. The characters inside the machines have been destined to a never ending cycle repeating the same action over and over again. That metaphor worked perfectly with the lyrics.
We’ve been eager to work with Ovadia Benishu and Yosef Refaeli for a long time and this was the perfect opportunity. The first stage was creating a pitch for the band. The pitch included a style frame that showed the world we were imagining, and an animation test that gave us a glimpse to the final look. Not only did the pitch help persuade the band, it was an invaluable guide throughout the production.”
What were the tools you used to create the video clip?
“An interesting element of this production is that we were all working from home. Working via google drive and using Skype as our way of communication. It was a smooth process, surprisingly, Other than a few hitches here and there (Somehow when it’s all said and done all those hitches seem minor, but back then, they were not as pleasant).
What was the work process like?
“One of the big challenges of this production was its scale. Producing 3:30 minutes of animation in 5 months was tight. It forced us to think outside the box and create solutions fitting our crew’s needs. We kept things organic and less formal, making our crew much more powerful, and less bogged down by technicalities. There was a lot of overlap between the different stages of production. While we were animating, we were modeling and set-dressing the world. While we lit shots, we kept finessing animation and so on. That freedom gave us the ability to keep pushing things until the very last minute.”
How long did it take to do? What were the challenges in making it happen?
“The work was completed between November 2015 to March 2016.
Ma’agalim means circles in hebrew. Early on we decided that the ‘circle’ will be a dominant element throughout the film. The circular design is in the cylinder world itself: The gears, many of the characters features, and set properties. Basically, It’s everywhere graphically and thematically. In one of our first meetings with the band we pitched the idea that the whole music video will run as a loop. This tied in with the circle theme. They suggested that as the music intensifies towards the end we shatter the world. We agreed with the note, but couldn’t find a justification for that to happen. What does shattering the world mean? how does it relate to the lyrics? We kept banging our heads, with one question to guide us, How do you break out of a circle? A Line! A line has a beginning and an end, it’s the opposite of a circle. It seems so obvious now, but it took a while to get there. That led us to transform the cylinder into a flat surface, finally breaking our protagonist out of her cycle.
Another interesting challenge was creating the illusion of life within these wooden lifeless dolls. Editing, composition, lighting, juxtaposition and any other cinematic tricks we could think of were used to convey the idea, that these characters are emoting differently through the music video.
One of our biggest technical challenges was the opening shot. In it we zoom into the machine, introducing the entire cast and the world they live in. A beast of a shot running 41 seconds, 978 frames long. It was a technical nightmare – but we really wanted to start from the outside and throughout the progression of the music video, get closer and closer to the characters.
First, we mapped out the “world” as a flat surface. A schematic top view. We carefully positioned each character, and figured out their movement on the surface. Our main concern was leading the viewer’s eyes from one character to the other. We were aware it could easily become a visual mess. From there, we storyboarded the whole shot and created a simple 3D layout version. The next stage was designing a world ‘around’ the characters. We based each world on the character’s story. One of the most crucial stage for achieving the graphic look we were aiming for, was painting the texture map for the cylinder. Finally, Yosef took all the models, textures, shaders and lit this beast of a shot to the final look you see in the music video.”
Any last words?
“We wanted to thank our amazing team! You guys rock, we couldn’t have done this without you!”
Producers: Uri Lotan & Yoav Shtibelman
Director: Uri Lotan
Co-Director: Yoav Shtibelman
Art Director: Ovadia Benishu
Additional Art: Avner Geller
Lighting and Shading: Yosef Refaeli
Additional Lighting: Uri Lotan, Rob Showalter
Storyboard: Yoav Shtibelman
Modeling and Rigging: Uri Lotan, Ore Peleg, Or Ofri
Texturing:Yosef Refaeli, Dor Ben-Dayan
Animation: Yoav Shtibelman, Toby Pedersen, Ron Polischuk
Effects: Phenomena Labs
Compositing: Uri Lotan, Ilya Marcus
Colorist: Ilya Marcus
You can see some more of the production materials below. enjoy 🙂
And here are some still shots from the actual final Ma’agalim video clip: