It’s safe to say that video games have been a major inspiration for recent Syracuse University grad, Zachary Antell. If you managed to catch his award winning short “Player Two” on the front page of Reddit (featured on “R/Gaming”) about a month ago, this won’t surprise you. Zachary recently chatted with us about what inspired him to pursue a career in motion graphics and animation, and how Adobe Creative Cloud helps him create some truly interesting work.
What have been your major sources of inspiration when if comes to animation and film production?
In terms of films that have inspired me, I got into doing VFX when I was younger thanks to Star Wars. When it comes to my interest in animation, I attribute that to watching every single Knox Claymation by Robert Benfer, and of course following the Pixar classics like my personal favorite, The Incredibles.
Once I finally decided to take a shot at creating my own work, I found a lot of inspiration and guidance from film makers on the web, such as Andrew Kramer of Video Copilot and Nick Campbell of Greyscalegorilla. Particularly, I remember seeing someplace that Nick once said that he never was great at drawing. This is something I always remind myself of when I’m struggling a bit, that if Nick didn’t let that get in the way, I shouldn’t either.
Aside from more traditional film and animation, you mentioned that video games have been a source of inspiration, especially for your project “Player Two”. How have video games affected your creative process?
At least for me, after playing a game for the 15th time, you try to beat them or play them in the coolest way possible. When the player is given access to the camera, it’s easy to compose and block the animation in dynamic ways. Zelda, GTA, and Uncharted are especially great examples of this. Zelda in particular never features any protagonist dialogue so the emotion of the moment is completely in the player’s head. When I picked up 3D animation the idea of a free camera came naturally to me.
Because I grew up playing video games, and they had a part in growing my love for animation, I wanted to make a short about video games from the perspective of the little brother. People debate whether video games are an art form, garbage for the brain, etc. However, I think the context in which we were playing these games is definitely an important part of a child’s life, when imagination and memories are so strong. So the look I went for in “Player Two” was sort of like a hyper stylized memory, where the camera is flowing in and out between detailed moments.
What made you decide to use Adobe Creative Cloud to help bring those stylized memories to life, and what was your workflow like?
I started watching After Effects tutorials when I was 13 or 14, mostly as a hobby. I was using FxHome’s Effectslab and Visionlab at the time, which has now evolved into “Hitfilm.” In college I started doing all of my editorial in Premiere Pro and haven’t really looked back. Photoshop was something I was taught in high school, so that’s been part of my workflow ever since.
From the beginning of working on “Player Two” I knew whatever I animated had to be very economic and feasible. The workflow I followed was to roto frame by frame in Photoshop, and export video from there, giving me a little room to touch up in After Effects. Once I started principal animation, I found some scripts that would allow me to bring the majority of my Photoshop data in After Effects, which let me loop frames of animation, change colors, shading, and non-roto elements. Non roto elements were things like the posters or walls in the final shot. I could do a 3D solve of the live action footage and add in basic shapes in After Effects.
Do you have any advice for students who are starting out their film careers?
Keep putting out content, and don’t stop. Making one awesome video can blow up the internet, even if it’s a three second animated gif. I’m starting my first full-time job tomorrow, so maybe I’m not the best person to ask for career advice, but I will say I’ve managed to get myself a job in a field I love, that started as a hobby when I was nine years old. Doing what you love is possible if you work hard enough.