The Wall-Nuts interview with Gina Thorstensen & Nacho Rodriguez

We’ve just enjoyed a little Q&A with the imaginary animators for the Giving Me a Chance video Gina Thorstensen and Nacho Rodriguez! Thanks to them both!

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/49085099″>Gotye – Giving Me A Chance – official video</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/gotye”>Gotye</a&gt; on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Read along as we learn about this lovely and strange clip for one of the most hauntingly beautiful Gotye tunes!

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What media are used to create the effects in the clip-they look watercolor inspired?-Christine

Nacho: Gina manually paints lots of textures, like watercolor and ink blots. I take them into Flash or After Effects, and merge them with different layer blending modes, mostly ‘multiply.’

What was the visual concept of giving me a chance-what does the story in the video tell?-Jonathan

Nacho: It’s hard to put it in words, but I’ll try. It’s about an idealized love relationship that breaks. Then the guy chases his parts back through different planes. His armor/parts were artificial, and his attempt of reuniting them finally fails. But the black space/ void body that remains seems a part of a bigger cosmic being, a kind of unity different of the one he was striving for.

Does the artist you are working for usually give you any sort of specification or design brief when approaching you for an animated piece?-Anna

Nacho: luckily for us, we get almost complete freedom. As much, some minor requisites, like having the name of the song appear visually (in our clip “Bla bla bla”), or having the musicians portrayed somehow. Gotye only asked us not to use puppets as in our other clips. Let me quote him to be precise: One thing I might mention is that I’m more partial to the drawn/painted/animated elements in your videos rather than the scanned soft-puppets that feature in some. Don’t get me wrong- the puppets are wonderful also, and expertly woven into your work…it’s probably just my taste in texture

So we work with only ourselves as guides, which is great but a huge responsibility too.

Stills from the video

Stills from the video

What was their inspiration for the visuals? Some of them look similar to art by joan miró-is that a coincidence?-Verena

Gina: When we start to work on a project we don’t decide much on the aesthetics, we think more about the atmosphere of the different scenes and how to transmit that. But when I start on the visuals I find inspiration in very different things, from scientific topics to classic art and anything between. I look through so many books and blogs and videos that it would be impossible to name some artists who inspire me more than others.

Nacho: The question about Joan Miró is interesting because we’ve heard it many times, and yes, that is a actually a coincidence. I have been thinking a lot about it because he is not an artist I find inspiration in, but I can see how much the final result of the video looks like his paintings. And my conclusion is that the “Miró look” comes when me and Nacho mix our work, because when I look at the separate artwork it looks very different from the finished video. When Nacho puts everything together and moves it he creates a neutral background by superimposing textured layers and then the colourful characters play on top of that which is what makes it look like Miró I think…

How did this collaboration with Wally come about? who contacted whom and what was Wally’s role in the creative process? Did he give them free reign in creating these visuals?-Verena

Nacho: I first found about his work when I watched his music video “State of the art”, which I really enjoyed. I realized he had a bunch of animated videos in many different styles, so I contacted him and offered to make one of ours. He was pretty enthusiastic about it after watching our previous video “El Rey del Mambo y la Reina de Saba”. By the way, the view-count on that video went skyrocket after he ‘liked’ it on his facebook. He was really cool about the whole thing, showing a great deal of trust in us. After showing him some preliminary sketches and ideas, we had total freedom on how to interpret his song, and quite generous working conditions as for the budget and deadline. Maybe that’s why we went more perfectionist than ever with this project, trying out new stuff and putting tons of work into every scene.

Of which sequence in the video are you most proud and why?-Cris

Still from video

Still from video

Nacho: It’s the crayon-painted traveling, which complex technique I explained above. Gina insisted on having this excessively rich and elaborate scene. Since animation is such a hard work, where so many things can go wrong, my animator mentality doesn’t like wasting resources on this kind of crazy experiments. But I’m really glad we made that unique and over-generous scene.

Not being an artist any kind of creative process is hard for me to grasp: how are Gina’s and Nacho’s roles in the process defined? who does what?-Verena

Nacho: the process starts slowly, without much to see. First we try to find a deeper story, something beyond the apparent message of the lyrics. We start juggling with concepts and ideas, many get discarded, others slowly start conforming the subtext of the story. We also try to find new ways of telling the story visually. The whole thing gets a life of its own, and we don’t know how it would end until it’s done.

On the more technical side, we mix a lot of techniques, but here’s something we do a lot: I draw the animation in Flash, frame by frame, in a crude look, but with the right movement. Then Gina prints all the frames and redraws them with ink, watercolor, or any illustration technique. We take it back to Flash or After Effects and we get the best of both worlds: animation and illustration.

We usually apply this to separated characters, but we took this technique to an extreme on the crayon-painted traveling sequence in Gotye’s video. It consists of 122 frames where the whole picture is moving around, landscape and character. It was quite a complex animation for me, and an enormous work for Gina to paint with crayons each of the frames. She took it further by having the black character not drawn, but cut out with a pen knife from every frame, then she scanned each frame with a black and starry background beneath, keeping a little distance between both papers, so the silhouette feels like an actual hole.

In other parts of the clip we just do this process digitally, and we keep my Flash vector drawing of the black character without further skinning. Other times Gina makes an illustration, I cut it into parts and animate them separately. As for the backgrounds, Gina paints separated textures which I put together and merge by tweaking colors and transparency.

So we mix technically complex scenes with others more ‘limited’. But we decided nonetheless to have this ‘excessively rich’ scene, and it turned out as something quite unique. It’s usually Gina who tries to make things more elaborate and complex, while I try to hold it back and get the story told on time, and not too technically messy.

To sum up: Gina is an illustrator and I’m an animator. She’s more into the aesthetics and original concepts, and I’m more into storytelling and movement. Although our two artistic fields are very close, they hold important differences in forms and concepts. Mixing them has been a source of success and sometimes conflicts too.

Still from video

Still from video

When Wally saw the video for the first time, did he have any changes or suggestions? Was he easy to work for/with?-Lisa

Nacho: he was really cool about the whole process. We had been working on this for 5 months, and we had only shown him a rough clip half way. So when we delivered it, after some very hard work, we were quite nervous about his reaction. It was a big relief when he said he loved it.

He just had a tiny change when the whole thing was done: the animation originally started some seconds before the music came in, with the main character falling. He suggested that they both started together, making the fall a bit shorter. No problem from our side.

The shadowy character’s armor kind of fell apart in the beginning of the clip, and he spends most of the video trying to gather it up and put it back together. Then at the end it all crumbles down again. Who came up with the storyline, and why did you choose a melancholy ending?-Lisa

Nacho: We always compose the story together. The best ideas come up in conversations where one of us throws an idea, then the other one gives it a twist, and so on. Well, the original idea of a tetra-dimensional cosmic being that projects himself into different planes was mine. Then Gina had some very clear view of the psychology of this character that get’s “too wrapped up in himself”.

The original idea for the ending was that he fails on his attempt to reconstruct himself, but on the process he finds another black being very much like him. Then the plane rotates and they were both hands of this big cosmic being, only separated in this particular plane. But it’s usually Gina who dislikes a message too clearly stated, and maybe I animated it too subtly. At the end, after the ‘Frankenstein’ falls apart we briefly see these 2 black beings, which too soon transform into space hands. Our creative process is full of this ideas that grow on their own, so the message remains somehow ambiguous, buried on the subtext. By the way, he wasn’t only trying to get his armor back, but also constructing a new partner with the pieces.

It’s a common structure story, in both real life and fiction: we get identified with an egoistic goal that finally fails, then when everything is lost, after losing all hope, a new solution arises, an unexpected window opens, greater than our little goal.

Which is the first element you take into consideration when you start working on a new video? Where do you get inspiration from?-Francesca

Nacho: we try to find a deeper story, beyond the apparent meaning of the lyrics. Also, after 3 music videos together, we realized we were resorting to some formulas, such as having a parade of characters. The walking loops save work and they look nice. But we didn’t want to repeat ourselves, so we decided to have every character not walking but jumping, not to recycle loops, and to move the camera not only side to side, but in depth.

Did the fact that Wally uses his videos in his concerts and on big screens influence the type of visuals?Is there an explanation to the part of the video involving the character and the swing set. Why is she (or he) tying things to the swing set and why does it all fall on her/him?-Lorraine

Nacho: Not really. That is a cool fact about this project because of the visibility it gets. I was amazed when I had the chance of watching it live. But, if anything, this video is a very atypical example of ‘visuals for concerts’, since it has too much visual content. As Wally himself told us, on each scene there is enough material for a whole song. We didn’t think of the visuals, just about making our best possible video. Then it seems that people really like it as visuals too.

About the swing , I think I explained it above. But we like to leave the message hidden in a subliminal level, not too clear. So one thing is our original intention, but whatever that scene tells you, that’s your message.

C. Gina Thorstensen (from her website)

C. Gina Thorstensen (from her website)

Explain the idea behind the floating arms that appear to be manipulating and moving through each of the frames. What inspired this, and what’s the thought/message behind panning out to it at the end of the clip?-Paige

Nacho: Ok, since you ask, I’ll try to tell. This idea came to me during a meditation, where I felt… well, just like in the clip. I felt that this being that I am is only an extension of a bigger thing, like a puppet to a puppeteer, or better, like a hand to a body. It felt big and behind me, behind the curtain, it just takes this form when intersected with this plane. So my individual struggles felt too small regarding the big picture. A relieving sense of peace. Imagine two of these partial beings, falling in love, searching the feeling of unity, then falling apart, feeling separated… they were both played by the same character behind the curtain. I prefer to tell this with crazy pictures, instead of cheesy words.

What are you career backgrounds? What were you doing before working with Wally ?  Current and next projects ?-Vero

Nacho: I studied Fine Arts in Barcelona, but all I know from animation is self-taught. I’ve been working professionally in Flash since 2002 in cartoons and videogames. What I like most is cartoony, surreal and funny animation, but I try to experiment in new fields. I started collaborating with Gina as one of these experiments into the unknown. I had made 4 other music videos before Gotye’s one, 3 of them with Gina and one on my own. So I was basically a freelance animator and I still am. I currently have a bunch of ongoing projects: the big ones are a new music video, a 4 minute classic cartoon for Fantoons.tv, some animation for a Danish documentary where I work with Gina again, and on my free time I’m making a point and click game of my character Mr Coo. You can check my work at www.mistercoo.com

Gina: I studied art and design and after finishing school I worked mostly with illustration, but I always loved to work with all kind of different medias. I started to make puppets which I integrated in my illustrations and that was actually the beginning of the collaboration with Nacho. Now I’m making some very big textile sculptures that I have used for animation and also art installations. My real size elephant on rollerblades is currently on a voyage in Copenhagen where companies have him for a while and use it for different purposes. I get very strange and mystical reports on what happens to him in the different places; one morning there was blood on the floor and a knive in his mouth and later someone else told me they found him with the stomach open and small puppets from his inside on the floor. So after I let him out in the world he got a life on his own and I think that’s what I want to keep doing, create stuff that comes alive while interacting with the world, whether it be film or installation or something else. www.ginathorstensen.com

C. Gina Thorstensen (from her website)

C. Gina Thorstensen (from her website)

Can you hear colors (synesthesia?)-Heizel

Nacho: Not at all. But it’s funny that you mention it, because someone contacted Gina about this, precisely after watching this particular clip… He said he could actually see the colors of music, if I’m not mistaken.

Please let them know-I really love this music video so much!-Anne

Nacho: Thank you very much, Anne!

Thank you Gina and Nacho! Folks-please check out their amazing websites with more brilliant artistry!

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/32161184″>Mister Coo musicvideo: Ça Ça Mirlaquerr</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/mistercoo”>nacho rodriguez</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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2 thoughts on “The Wall-Nuts interview with Gina Thorstensen & Nacho Rodriguez

  1. Pingback: The Art & Music | The Wall -- Nuts

  2. Thank you, Gina and Nacho, for your gracious and fun responses, as well as the time you took in allowing my fellow Nuts and myself to engage a bit deeper in your creative process and work.
    Cheers!
    Cris

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