Interview: Andrew A. Soria - Motion Graphics
Interview: Andrew A. Soria - Motion Graphics
I met Andrew A. Soria a few years ago while visiting some friends in Los Angles, he is super-awesome, and a really talented guy. Andy's a busy little bee, creating anything from movie titles to commercials to animating monsters. He has been freelancing since 1999 as a motion graphics designer for shops like Imaginary Forces and Brand New School.
Hi Andy, what have you been up to lately?
Well, I am freelancing at Brand New School and work on lots of stuff here. In the last 10 days or so I was on set to VFX supervise Walgreens and Bauch and Lomb shoots. The Walgreens spot was all blue screen with live actors, almost all of the rest of the environment will be replaced with stylized pop-up book paper cut-out style animated set pieces. Pretty challenging getting the blocking and timing right and all of the shots need to be tracked and stitched back together to become one seamless shot. The CG camera also needs to be tracked to match the live action steadicam shot which can be pretty tricky, but I think that we setup and planned carefully enough to have what we need to pull it off.
I know you sometimes create movie title sequences, what’s your role?
I'm a 2d and 3d designer and animator so I can draw and design, as well as put things into motion to composite the final result.
What makes a great movie title sequence?
A great title sequence has to be visually engaging. For it to really play and have impact it has to deal with the story somehow and either setup or tease… narratively support the film that is about to follow. Even if it is an abstract logo reveal title, the cinematography has to elicit an emotional response, for me anyways. It has to set the tone…Is this movie fun? Is this movie scary? Are we about to go on an adventure? Not every movie needs or deserves an elaborate title sequence either. I guess tasteful discretion is the key, as with all things.
I stick around for the ending credits these days, some them are so fun (The Incredibles and Hot Tub Time Machine come to mind), have you worked on any ending credits (is that the right term?)?
Yeah, I've done some "main on end" titles. At Imaginary Forces we did the main on end titles for Nim's Island. It had a fun paper cutout style and playfully hit a few character and plot points. The section that I built and animated had a big pirate ship cruising through a paper cutout ocean that crashes into an island. The island turns out to be a whale and it swallows the ship and burps it out under water. It was a pretty fast project. The team split up and took sections and I think final production making that thing was something like twelve days. Crazy. Twelve ultra-long days. Hehehe.
What do you like about working with big brands when creating commercials? Do you get much creative jurisdiction?
I like commercials. Some commercials we get to be really creative… some can be less so. A lot of the fun ones are when the agency comes to us and trusts what they have seen us do and specifically want what we bring to a project. Sometimes these things go through an exhaustive design process where we come up with all of this rad stuff with wild exploration and animation that in the end gets diluted down by the client to the point that it is a big logo at the end. Sometimes that hurts a little when we give them all this cleverness and it gets simplified down to a logo and a tag line. They could have just told us that in the first place! Hehehe, it's ok though. I die inside a little each time but try to bill accordingly ;)
Seeing how much motion graphics and music are tied together, how important is it for a motion graphic designer to have a sense of timing and rhythm?
I think it is very important. Like they say, it's the rhythm that gets you there. It is funny how many of us are musicians, pretty much everyone has pretty good depth and breadth in their musical interests. Everyone dresses cool and is really good looking, haha. I've played in multiple jam bands with people I work with. One of my main bands is Ila and the Imaginary Friends. We all met working at Imaginary Forces, so we are all imaginary friends (you are thinking "so good looking AND clever?" I know. These gems just flow out of me. har har) I was VFX supervisor on a shoot in Toronto and at lunch this guy busted out a couple guitars and we had a little jam session.
How did you discover you wanted to be a motion graphics designer?
I don't know if I ever discovered that I wanted to be a motion graphics designer per se. I've always been a musician. I've always been an illustrator, painter and sculptor. I've always been interested in film making. My first job in entertainment was making a Saturday morning cartoon interstitial called The Tube Dwellers then I got into doing visual effects for feature films. This led to doing some trailer graphics between film projects then broadcast graphics and commercials then film titles and so on. For me visual effects and motion graphics really go hand in hand. I think some people would argue and disagree with me but I really see them as the same type of problem solving. You still have to tell a story. Things are still in motion. Composition and visual interest are still important. So many motion graphics pieces have tons of visual effects and more and more films are becoming more graphic, I sort of don't separate filmmaking into categories.
At risk of sounding cliche I really do love the process of making things! I love to shoot things with cameras...live action, miniatures, computer animated.
Have you seen print or web designers transition well to motion graphics? What skills are required to make that leap?
Really, to make transitions from one discipline to another I think is in the doing. I've kind of worked on lots of different projects including content for some websites. I'm not a web guy at all though, that is a rather specific skill that I just don't have the technical savvy to make web parts work. I think if you just take on a motion project that gets you up to speed with things pretty quick. The best way to get savvy at something is to be interested in it and make projects.
What did you do as a kid? Toys? Movies? Games? Home life?
Watching Star Wars changed things. Before that even I was into Space 1999 and The Bionic Man and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad… all Ray Harryhausen movies. Anything animated (stop motion or cell). Tons of rad design stuff from comics to movies and illustrators and sculptors… Joe Johnston, Syd Mead, Bill Sienkewitz. playing with toys and drawing comics are probably everyones first film school. Playing at the playground. It's a pretty big waste of time if you were staging a giant battle or rescue sequence with your toys and your angles and storytelling were boring. I learned a lot about story telling and shot composition in the yard or under the dining room table or under a couch cushion fortress with my eye up to an action figure looking for the right camera angle. I'm just a big fan of great work and all of my life experience is filtered and put back out through the big filter of me.
I was always greatly encouraged by my family to pursue things I was interested in. Whether it was playing music or drawing and sculpture to break dancing, my family supported me and tried to make opportunity for me to do these things.
Where did you grow up? Has that influenced you as a designer?
Born in Los Angeles, I grew up in Covina, in the greater Los Angeles area. I love Los Angeles. Lots to do, close to where a lot of entertainment is created. LA is a really lush city with lots of culture and design sense. From mid-century clean lines to 1920's art deco to public works buildings to all the mission style spanish stuff. There’s punk rock, pop music and hip hop…Beaver Cleaver neighborhoods to dirty urban streets….I've had a lot of good stuff to influence me out here.
How do you keep your ideas staying fresh?
Hopefully they they just stay fresh. I am interested in things and new experiences New adventures fuel creativity and show up in everything we do. I like mixing it up and changing my job quite often, that keeps things fresh. A few years ago I went on tour with Z-Trip making the visual show and playing DVD turntables. We were also making new content constantly in the little studio we setup in the lounge in the back of the bus. It was pretty run and gun, fun stuff. We revisited those good times a few months ago when i made the new Z-Trip content for Coachella. All played on these giant screens, it feels pretty good to see your stuff out there displayed on a giant scale. This content has sort of become the new Z-Trip visual show.
I've also been directing music videos for a friends project King Fantastic. The first video is live on their site now and we are shooting 2 more videos this month for the album. It is pretty good stuff. Check it at thekingfantastic.com.
Any last thoughts about yourself or your work?
My life is like that Pablo Picasso quote "I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it." I don't want to just "do" things though, I really put a lot of effort into being able to do things at a quality level. I really want to accomplish these things competently and at a pro level.
Follow Andy: @badandysoria