June 6, 2023

The Magic of Motion

Once an innovative and new form of design, motion is now a staple in the modern creative palette. By giving stories depth, motion design can help tell them with enhanced beauty and impact, thereby strengthening a brand’s visual identity while creating a more immersive experience for audiences.

In June of 2022, Bailey Lauerman was presented with an incredible opportunity to work with the nonprofit, Nebraska Impact, to create a video bringing to life the breathtaking artwork within the Nebraska State Capitol. This initiative was launched in coordination with the Governor’s press conference and introduction of the state’s new license plate in late 2022 featuring “The Genius of Creative Energy” mural.

Numerous visits to the Capitol as well as tours and research brought forth a new understanding and appreciation of the masterful works adorning the structure, from artists such as Hildreth Meière, James Penney and Jeanne Reynal. The walls, ceilings and floors are not only visually stunning but tell a unique story—a story of Nebraska’s rich history composed by the strength and spirit of those who live there. We wanted to tell that story in a way that captured the epic art depicting the creation of the cosmos, the prehistoric flora and fauna and the rise of our modern civilization.

Working off a script and storyboard concept titled “In Our Bones,” communicating this heroic and mythological scale required tying together the themes of the artwork as an epic journey through our history from the dark beginning of time to the resolve of Nebraskans and the promise of our future. In our storytelling, we wanted to show respectful reverence to the original artists and their incredible craftsmanship. We knew the story we wanted to tell and so we set off to create it. See the full video here.

“One of my favorite things about working on this project was being able to go back to the Capitol and see the artwork for the first time in many years. What I didn’t realize previously was that all the artwork there was telling the story of Nebraska. And each one of those pieces—the murals and the paintings on the wall—has this long, amazing history behind it. So being able to add some music, some animation, some timing, we’re able to take that amazing artwork and enhance it.” —Casey Stokes, Creative Director

We began with a few proof-of-concept animations using photos from one of our visits to the Capitol. We broke the artwork down into layers, building out backgrounds and elements that didn’t exist in the original work. We did this tile by tile, replicating each artist’s technique. It became clear that in order to bring this artwork to life we would need a high level of fidelity when it was captured. We needed resolution and a lot of it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as simple as using a big camera. We had to overcome some very specific challenges.

First, most of this artwork is big. The rotunda floor is over 90 feet in diameter. Second, the accessibility wasn’t ideal. The artwork was on the floors, walls and ceiling. Not only was the “Virtues of the State” 112 feet in the air, but it was also on a domed surface. Lastly, there are immovable fixtures in front of the artwork. We had to develop a technique that got around those and solved perspective and lens-distortion issues. The answer was drones and shooting each piece in an overlapping grid system.

While our solution allowed us to sidestep some challenges, it also created a few new ones and more work. Each set of these overlapping photos needed to be carefully stitched together. They also required a lot of color correction, as most of the artwork we captured was murals made of tile, and tile is shiny. Each time the drone moved to capture the next photo in the grid system, so did the glare of light sources. Our team did an amazing job reconstructing, color-correcting and even restoring damaged areas in each piece. The Capitol’s artwork had never before been collected, treated and preserved in such a way.

With master files prepared, we began building assets for animation. We wanted to breathe life into the characters and add dimension to the landscapes. In order to do that, we needed to fill in the gaps, create elements of the scene that didn’t exist. We made mountains behind trees, built missing feathers for wings, and finished the underside of rolling waves. We made hundreds of little adjustments, all with the same care and intent. All to ultimately go unnoticed by the viewer—simply to help bring to life the artist’s work, not distract from it. That is one reason we did most of the animation in Adobe After Effects: we could animate the characters, layer our scenes and introduce some lighting and camera moves, but stay within a 2.5D space. We used Cinema 4D in scenes like “The Blizzard of 1888,” where we mapped the artwork onto a particle system to dynamically simulate wind gusts.

While the techniques we used to create this video weren’t groundbreaking or industry-changing, we did have to “get creative” before we could really get creative. That’s something we’re very good at. It was a labor of love for our team and the passion showed. Nebraska is lucky to have an incredible Capitol with breathtaking art that tells a story—our story. Hopefully, we can remind a few people to stop and take a look.

To learn more about BL’s motion-design capabilities, contact us.


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