Interpretation and Motion Graphics Project

Week 6
For this project, I worked with three fellow students.
Jess was designated as Director of Narrative as her chosen Master’s course path is Heritage Exhibition. Sylvia and Oisin are both on the Motion Graphics paths.
I expected to support their work as a Technical Designer as I have some knowledge of Motion Graphics, while my main course of the study lies in Interactive Art. But later on I worked more on visual asset production and animation as a Multimedia Artist and Animator.
At first, we all analysed the brief alone and together, and then we met with the group to discuss our interpretation and scout the locations defined by the brief.
At the time of location scouting, I was in self-isolation, so I contacted Jess and others online. I was to conduct my investigation of the three closes at a later time in Week 7.

Live Project Two – 12 Closes
Launch date:
11th of October (Week 6 of the course)
Delivery dates:
8th of November for a live group presentation (Week 10 of the course)
14th of November for digital files deliverables (Week 11 of the course)

My brief analysis

Week 7
Location scouting and a group meeting

We met during the reading week to discuss our ideas for the project. The three scouted locations were the Fountains Close, the Riddle’s Court and Barrie’s Close. We discussed the historical background of each of these places and their suitability for a projected motion graphics display.
Oisin’s bid was for developing a proposal for Riddle’s Court. We looked at the history of Riddle’s Court and its connection to Patrick Geddes, and we all, as designers, felt inspired by his ambition and proactivity in making the changes around him happen. Geddes’ work as a botanist and urban planner also inspired us. Environmental causes are close to our hearts, and the existing plant motifs and quotes are already in place in Riddle’s Court to celebrate Geddes’s personal history with the site.
There were discussions about whether we should try to focus on a proposal for a site that is less known in comparison with the Riddle’s Court. With Fountain Close and Barrie’s Close, we worried about accessibility. Locals use the former as a shortcut passage, and the latter is very steep and narrow, excluding any users but body-able visitors.
Riddle’s Court already has a cultural significance as The Patrick Geddes Centre is located there. The close leading to the Centre is narrow. As the space is not used for residential purposes, the proposal would need to be visible from the Lawnmarket to invite visitors in and explore the area.
As Lawnmarket is near Edinburgh Castle, one of the city’s most iconic tourist sites, developing a proposal for Riddle’s Court would also allow a chance to introduce this historical space to people who are not locals and familiar with the historical importance.

Every leaf tells a story

Patrick Geddes

The proposal
In Week 7 meeting, we discussed the concept of using the existing graphic motifs of leaves and quotes in Riddle’s Court to build a motion graphic projected installation.
Jess and Oisin proposed an idea of combining themes of leaves and passage of time with the design. They imagined a whirlwind time portal of leaves. We all liked this idea, but we were not sure about the feasibility of displaying such a projection on the two walls and a ceiling of the narrow close. Jess sketched a visualisation of this proposal.
I suggested using short quotes which can appear following a trail of a leaf and then disappear erased by another leaf because I thought we could use masks in Adobe After Effects to achieve that effect.
But the technical considerations were not at the forefront of this meeting, and we focused more on interpreting the site’s history.
I photographed a few events in The Patrick Geddes Centre for Scottish Book Trust during Book Week Scotland a few years back. I remembered that the place was difficult to find when walking from Lawnmarket. I wondered if we could have leaves flowing more realistically as we see in autumn when the leaves fall from the trees and are pushed by the wind or swirl. I proposed that we consider the ground projection of leaves blown onto Lawnmarket to attract passers-by’s attention, but we did not make any firm decisions.

Taking into account technical challenges associated with projecting in a narrow passage was also important. We research various projection methods and tools such as projection mapping software, ceiling mounting of projectors, etc. Also, the time of the day and the season of the year have impact on the visibility and quality of the projections so we had to consider the type of the equipment and the lengths and timings of when the projection is live.

During the Week 7 meeting, we divided some tasks to complete before the next meeting, such as further location research.
Sylvia committed to checking measurements of the close and looked further into the history of the place. She also presented visual styles of animations for our considerations.
Jess committed to further developing graphic sketches and identifying Geddes’ quotes we could use in the animation.
I was also looking for visual style inspirations and gathering references for leaves that could be used for the animation for 2D style and texture references for 3D assets and I conducted an independent location scouting session. I also created a quick mind-map of the most important visual elements we discussed as a group. Apart from that I organised online storage space for our files on Google Drive, managed a group chat for the project and kept minutes from our discussions.

Mind-map I prepared after the Week 7 meeting

Week 8
Group meeting and initial in-class pitch

During Week 8, our group discussed important details in preparation for the initial in-class pitch session, such as our group’s design principles, roles, project interpretation, location opportunities, work timeline and technical limitations.
As Studio Banana we came from a place of belief in design backed by research. We defined our roles in the project further. Initially, we assumed that Sylvia and Oisin might work as Motion Graphics designers as they are on the MG path. My role was that of a Technical Designer, supporting the process. I also designed a logo for Studio Banana and compiled our presentation for the pitch session based on the notes I kept from our meeting.
Before the pitch session, we discussed what was important in terms of the project goals. We wanted to make the space more inviting, underline its historical significance and encourage the exploration of Riddle’s Court.

Pitch session feedback

  • Consider that a whirlwind effect of leaves might cause nausea or balance issues for some viewers. Directional flow of the leaves instead?
  • Consider what the significance of showing the passage of time is? 
  • How does a whirlwind invoke history?
  • What other visual elements inspired by Geddes other than quotes might we include?
  • Consider technical developments further, especially the type of projection equipment to use.

Further development in Week 8
As we aimed to develop the animation and test it around the 4th of November, we took the feedback session suggestions into account in creating an amended concept for the motion graphics. Sylvia visualised a partial storyboard while Jess researched what additional visual elements relating to Geddes we might include. I sent her examples I found helpful during my research, such as old photos of the Edinburgh Room from Camera Obscura and the Surveying Edinburgh project about Geddes’ involvement in urban regeneration. I worked on working out the pace of these elements for the animation while Oisin researched typography design for our quotes.
At first, I had to develop the needed assets for the animation, and I used my photographic references to create them. After the style of the assets was approved by the team, I worked on the animation pace using Adobe After Effects.

Leaves – assets I developed

Week 9

Animation process

After the team approved the style of the assets, I worked on the animation pace using Adobe After Effects. I keyframed individual leaves movements using Position, Scale, Rotation variables and then looped some of the created footage. I proceeded to add more leaves to make sure that the motions and that the 7 minutes long animation did not become too repetitive.
In terms of the movement of the leaves, I worked in a 2D space. I tried to recreate a gentle movement caused by the wind, and I attempted to keep the pace slow to add a sense of calm and melancholy to the animation. Thinking of the laws of physics, I allowed smaller leaves more whimsical movements. In comparison, larger leaves had more of a direct route when falling.
I exported the proposed sample, so Oisin could develop the text animations and match them to the pace of my leaves animation. Oisin sent me his project with text animations, but we changed the font to Antiquarian Scribe before combining both. I added more front layer details, such as Jess’s drawings and more prominent leaves animation, and I positioned these elements in the timeline. I had to apply a few effects to make sure that the sketches made by Jess were visible against a transparent background; that leaves change colours at some point to signify the passage of time. Additionally, I had to use masks to create the effect of front layer leaves erasing the sketches.

In Week 8 and week 9, the group relied on working remotely, and we kept in touch using our group chat and having brief talks while at university. However, we did not have dedicated meetings, so I did not keep minutes for our short conversations as we shared all the files and gave each other feedback.

I prepared the animation by Thursday, the 4th of November, in Week 9, and we met to test the projectors and the look of the projection indoors on Merchiston Campus. We tried two different projectors and evaluated technical aspects such as the size of the wall, the narrowness of the passage, the quality of the projections and our emotional response to the project. We also tried to identify any problems with the animation or pace. Based on this testing, we decided to rely on 3D visualisations for the upcoming pitch session to present what the project would like on the site.

Week 10
We met as a group to review our files and prepare for another live in-class pitch session. During this meeting, we collated the required files and assembled our presentation.

Our presentation

Reflections on the project
This project was an exciting opportunity to combine multimedia designs and the rich history of Edinburgh. According to the father of heritage interpretation Freeman Tilden’s Interpreting Our Heritage (1957), there are six principles of interpretation.
Tilden teaches that interpretation is revelation based upon the information. That is why we focused on learning about the historical importance of Riddle’s Close and Patrick Geddes to influence us in the design process.
Another principle explained that interpretation should combine many arts, so we combined digital drawings with sketches, animation, and light projection in our final design. We used videos, photography, sketching, 3D modelling, and other assets gathered through research throughout the development process.
Another of Tilden’s principles, stating that the aim of interpretation is a provocation, not instruction, led us to determine the purposes of our design. We wanted to enhance the existing features of the close and highlight the historical importance of the space. We chose to focus on Patrick Geddes rather than the history of Riddle’s Court and Riddle’s Close preceding him because of how still relevant Geddes’s actions and beliefs are in the 21st century. As a botanist and an urban planning pioneer, Geddes promoted collaborative work to improve one’s surroundings. As the 12 Closes project involves community workshops, the story of Patrick Geddes embodies well the current approaches of designers to design with people and communities. At present in history, every person should be aware of their impact on their surroundings. We wanted to provoke and encourage people to think of their roles in their communities by using quotes such as Think Global, Act Local.

Our proposed design was supposed to be suitable for a range of visitors of different ages and backgrounds. Using text in English limits the experience for those who do not read, such as young children or non-English speakers. Unfortunately, the whole concept of a visual projection also excludes visually impaired visitors from enjoying the experience. However, the site itself also introduces other constraints for the design. We could not make the project universally accessible and relevant to everyone.

We did try to adhere to another of Tilden’s principles that messages aimed at children should not be a diluted version of what we would convey to adult visitors. Creating a motion graphic projection in that space required us to create visual content that is family-friendly and suitable for a public space.
Our interpretation approach did not follow Tilden’s principles about presenting the complete information rather than a phase. We only focused on the period in the history of Riddle’s Close in which Patric Geddes was involved.

One more principle is that the experience should be relatable to the viewer. We hope to achieve that thanks to the project requirements that we use motion graphics and projection, and the medium is the message in this case. Historical sites should not rely on a sterile interpretation of history, explained to the visitors through plaques, boards and leaflets. The experience should be attractive, evoke an emotional response and be memorable. Riddle’s Close is easily overlooked, and many people walk past it, not realising that the narrow passage leads towards The Patrick Geddes Centre. The addition of dynamic visual projections in the space could attract visitors and introduce people to the part of Edinburgh’s heritage. So we believe that by using digital art and light projections, we can add a relatable element to the viewer’s experience. Upon catching a glimpse of the projected animation, when passing through Lawnmarket, they would immediately understand the installation is there for a reason and that they might be passing by a historical site. We expect these days that things are advertised to us and motion and lights catch people’s attention.

Overall, in my opinion, Studio Banana worked well on the project together, trying to bring different skills and contributions to make our proposal an exciting and noticeable piece of design.
At first, I worried about my role in the group, as Oisin and Sylvia were our motion graphics designers. So I tried to support the work through creative development and technical aspects, such as creating communication channels, online file storage, taking notes of meeting minutes and collating research files and visual reference files. However, as Sylvia took on the role of our 3D designer, I was given a chance to contribute to the motion graphics design. I created leaves assets, animated the leaves and Jess’s sketches, and tried to adhere to the proposed visual style from our mood board, storyboard, and group discussions.

Video visualisation of the projection in situ

Live pitch session feedback points for consideration:

  1. What could be other opportunities for enhancing the experience for local communities? Will local citizens become quickly bored with the projection?
  2. Could the text projection relate to the more current city and environmental issues? 
  3. What is the potential for further interaction? Could we try to capture live sound or snippets of conversations of people walking past?

My reflections on the feedback for potential developments

What could be other opportunities for enhancing the experience for local communities? Will local citizens become quickly bored with the projection?

One of the points we wanted to express in our proposed motion graphic design was the passage of time (leaves change colour from green to brown, symbolising change from spring to autumn). We could add more variety to the design by adding more graphic elements, and the animation would change slightly with the changing seasons.
Spring: leaves, swallows, other birds.
Summer: leaves, flower petals, bees.
Autumn: leaves, dandelion seeds, geese.
Winter: snowflakes.

Could the text projection relate to the more current city and environmental issues?
It would be good to adjust text messages to bring awareness about future environmental events or current ones. The projections could also promote the council’s urban planning initiatives requiring local consultations to pay homage to Geddes and his work further. A potential relationship with The Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh could be expressed by projected text to inform visitors about their events and initiatives.

What is the potential for further interaction? Could we try to capture live sound or snippets of conversations of people walking past?
I do not think capturing and replaying the sounds of the city and pedestrians would work in the context of the narrative we want to present. However, the potential for interaction could happen with the addition of small speakers and nature sounds corresponding to the projected season visuals, which would be played in the close, activated by the proximity of people walking past or through the space.

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