We continue our conversations in our series of interviews and catch up with the talented trio of brand new motion design studio The Kinetic based in Joburg, South Africa. Kinetic is the brain child of Neil van Vuuren, Estian Fourie and Stephen Galloway. They flex their muscles in three areas of specialisation for the Kinetic, respectively 3D, Visual Effects, Design and Animation. In our conversation, we ask them about the hoops they jumped to form a start-up design studio and how they are getting along with running a the new shop.
From garages or late night talks on stoops or endless hrs working for other studios? What’s the story of the inception of The Kinetic?
Stephen and Estian and myself met when we started work at my previous employer, a production house in Johannesburg. We got along immediately and found that we all worked really well together and that all our skills added up to be greater than any of us could accomplish solo. We also found that while the project briefs were above average we all wanted to do more, really push what we were capable of. But late hours and tight deadlines kept that idea on the backburner. We finally decided the only way we could see how far we could go would be to actually start a company of our own, part of the deal being that we devote a set amount of time to personal projects even if we had to make up a client and fund it ourselves.
As a young design studio, what are your aspirations and areas of interest?
In all honesty we’re simple creatures. We love the world of production, in all its incarnations. The simple act of creating is in itself liberating. To create content that is effective and considered is foremost when we start with an idea, all that follows is a bonus.
As for styles and interests, we’re crazy about live action. We’ve tried to use a shoot in some capacity for all the projects we’ve done so far, even if the end result is purely graphical, the subtlety of motion reference gained from actually shooting a scene before starting post-production is impossible to beat. Even if only a single frame of footage makes it into the final animation, we believe the difference to be self evident, it just works so much better.
What we are exploring at the moment is the integration of animation and visual effects into our shoots. We are at a point in the industry where we have the ability to tell a story that doesn’t need a million dollar budget, or prime location for that matter. In the end, if your idea is solid and you’re willing to spend the time working on it, it’ll be great.
You worked on a couple of fun shoots. The Cancel Fashion Collective and an underwater shot. Please share about your process in both projects.
Both of these are great examples of giving in to our creative inklings. Both started with a “what if” over morning coffee, and then immediately sending invites and planning the shoots. Both were relatively unfamiliar territory, the underwater shoot especially. We had no idea how light would react under water or whether our simple set-up would cut it. We learned a lot and are planning another one later the year. Just waiting for summer to come back around, the biggest hurdle for the shoot was simply that it freezing that morning.
Cancel was another great learning experience and proof that a single vision trumps big budgets, we shot in the backyard of the studio, jumping on a trampoline and filming at night with a Nikon D90. Everything else we researched and applied in post, most eye-catching of these is without a doubt the slow motion courtesy of a motion estimation plug-in developed by the Foundry. For both of these the process was simple, make sure the idea is worth it, shoot without hesitation and spend the time on it. The cancel video we ended up choosing was around the 10th new edit. It came out wonderfully and has it’s received a lot of feedback. The music we used in the edit was so well integrated that the band gave us rights to use it and featured it on their website.
What do you feel is the most important problem facing designers and visual artists in Africa at the moment?
We feel that there is an expectation in Africa for animators and designers to adhere to an unspoken and undefined set of rules, to create content that is “African”. This in itself is a restriction that is meaningless and creates an environment that bounds creative growth. We believe that this country, and in fact the continent leaves its mark on you. It’s a undeniable and unique shift in the way you experience the world. By always trying to stay within the bounds of this enigmatic sphere of restrictions, the creative industry in Africa will always be bound to some idea of what Africa might be, instead of growing into what Africa is. There is a style waiting to be unearthed, so let loose we’ll know it when we see it.