Bringing a dragon to life: Animating the Creative Cloud logo
Chinese dragons are mythical creatures. So, magically bringing one to life created quite a stir in China.
This magic occurred centre-stage at Adobe’s Create Now event in Shanghai in November 2016 which saw Adobe’s Creative Cloud launch in China. Read more about the launch here.
How did this animated dragon come into being? Who designed it? Who made this dragon logo come to life: twist and turn, breathe fire and fly? And how did they do it?
We put these questions, and others, to Mike Tosetto (Never Sit Still) and Tim Clapham (Luxx), the two Australian-based designers who played central roles in animating Adobe Creative Cloud’s launch dragon logo for the China market.
What’s the background to this dragon design? How did it come about?
Mike: Tim and I were contacted by Adobe to help bring to life the main design for the China launch. The image was a beautiful Chinese dragon which formed a swirling Creative Cloud logo. The designer was Brian Yap, an illustrator in California, who Adobe found on Behance.
Tim: Our role was to create a five second sting to be used at the launch event with the image preceding the presenters. We said ‘absolutely’: a five second sting was very achievable.
How did you animate the logo?
Mike: This was a learning curve for us. Brian Yap’s original design was in Adobe Illustrator. However, as there were thousands of parts to that illustration we had to find another way to animate those various bits as one flowing whole.
Tim: Initially, we cut the dragon into twenty jointed pieces. The challenge as we animated it was the visible joins and not having an ideal silhouette. We wanted to maintain the smooth curves of the dragon. So, we started again with one long, smooth piece. We rigged it by animating it as one rather than many individual pieces.
Mike: Adobe Photoshop provided a solution. First, we flattened the original logo down to 8k file (i.e. 8000 pixels by 8000 pixels) suitable for Photoshop. This meant we could separate all the parts in Brian’s design. With Photoshop, we isolated the body, head and other separate bits like claws and talons. We dissected the whole dragon.
Tim: The challenge was how to animate the whole beast: the sum of the many parts. That was where Adobe Cinema 4D was just, hands-down, the right tool.
Mike: Cinema 4D allowed us to rig the dragon: to create an animation true to the look of Brian’s original design. It looked and felt alive. At the end of that process, once we were getting our renders out, we moved them into Adobe After Effects for final compositing, depth of field and then final renders.
What were the challenges in this project?
Staying true to the original
Mike: Staying true to the original design. No compromise; our final interpretation had to look exactly like the original design. However, there were thousands of brush strokes in that design.
Tim: The dragon was curled representing the CC initials of Creative Cloud. We used Adobe Photoshop to straighten it; to break it up; and then fill in the gaps. To create fluid movement, we dissected the illustration for animation rather than redrawing it. We did not want to alter Brian’s impeccable design.
Mike: That’s why, with the clouds for example, we split them out and animated every brush stroke using Adobe Cinema 4D.
Tim: A key challenge was time. The original five second brief changed out to twenty seconds. Adobe loved the logo and wanted the dragon to play a more prominent, visual role: especially linked to the CEO’s announcement.
Mike: We had a team of four who all stepped up. Adobe put a lot of trust in us. We were determined to deliver top quality on time.
What did you learn from this project?
Mike: Because there were so many moving parts to this project, we had to approach our thinking in a different manner than what we would for other pieces of work.
Tim: We wanted to capture these learnings so we began a process reel showing key behind-the-scenes efforts. It’s quick and punchy so other designers can view it for inspiration and insights.
Mike: The reel was almost entirely created using Adobe’s Creative Cloud tools.This involved taking shots from Cinema 4D; bringing them into Photoshop and making little image sequences; then redrawing in Illustrator; editing it all in Premier Pro; and then re-exporting to After Effects.
Tim: Process reels are about professional sharing. As part of that sharing, we also use Behance a lot. All our projects now go on Behance. Screen grabs, explanations of the process: they are all there. I love Behance.
Do you see this as an endorsement of Australian graphic design?
Mike: Design can happen anywhere there are good designers online. But, yes, Australia is increasingly growing its design reputation, presence, and influence.
Tim: Adobe has certainly helped bring Australian designers to a global audience as our work on this China project shows. We really enjoy attending the Adobe Make It conference, being able to connect with local design talent and see the quality of work that is coming out of Australia is really inspiring.
Mike: Australia is on the global design map now. We expect that presence to grow.