2014 Animated Christmas Card

I made an animated Christmas card from the book of Luke to celebrate/commemorate the advent of Christ. Enjoy!

Kinda psychedelic and somewhat children's-book-esque, no?

If you're interested in some insights into the process, feel free to read further. But if such things bore you to smithereens, you can also continue reading to induce deep slumber for winter hibernation.

But be forewarned: it's about to get nerdy up in here...

So in terms of creative choices, the name of the game was: aiming for the primal, rather than the stereotypical or the cliched. Everything I write after this point will simply explore the primal aspect of the creative choices in depth. I apologize for nothing, as it's about to get mad verbose in here...

Upon initial viewing, you may notice that the animation doesn't feel super smooth, and is rather somewhat choppy. This is a current trend in motion design tropes. Normal films in theaters play at 24 frames per second, meaning that in the timespan of one second, 24 images will flash in succession on the screen, creating the illusion of fluid movement. However, traditional animators have found that you can animate "on-the-twos" (which is industry jargon for animating at 12fps, so every other frame) to save time and resources, and still get away with a functional level of fluidity (though obviously not as smooth as 24fps).

Fast forward to the present day of motion design, and in spite of being able to easily produce animations at even 60fps (or higher, for an ultra smooth look that surpasses how we experience visual reality unfold before our eyes, but that's for another blog post), there has been a movement to harken back to old days of animation, and bring back the look, feel, and charm of animating on the 2s, for an aesthetic that taps into our collective nostalgia. That's why I wanted to go for that choppy feel, to make the animation unfold less as something generated in the present day, and more as something that could have emerged even 30 to 50 years ago.

Though it's a Christmas Card of the Christian variety, you will see that there is nary a symbol or representation of anything Christmas or even Advent related. To be honest, I was pretty tired of seeing mangers, snowmen, Christmas trees, presents, etc., and wanted to have it be about the written Word of God verbatim. Again, if the focal point is the primal aspect, I wanted the Word of God featured as the centerpiece, and not as an additional element to visual representations. I felt there would be more power in having the words represent themselves, rather than have other images to support it, being that our collective consciousness is already flooded with Christmas and manger-related tropes. And I wanted to see if we could have the Word of God feel alive, full of a vibrant energy.

In terms of the type design, one might describe it as being somewhat modernist (not so sure on my art theory/history – cut me some slack, folks). But in terms of pure aesthetics, I wanted to go for super simple shapes with a roughness and rawness to them. I didn't want them to feel so refined and elegant, and – again – wanted them to exude a primal feeling, like they were cut out really quickly and made to function in simple and striking ways.

My favorite part is definitely the color palette and textures. Because advent is a season of excitement at the coming of Christ, the Savior of all of God's creation, I wanted there to be this raw, and – again – primal feeling of exuberance and unbridled joy. You can convey that in how things move, but I wanted to keep focus not on the animation, but on the Word itself. In order to want to make it come alive, it seemed like a clear choice to paint the letters in such a way that they would be teeming with life and vibrancy and energy and expressivity. It may look like each letter has about 4-20 given textures that cycle through the letter shape, but it's actually just a few different textures that I painted in a multitude of colors each, and then did some After Effects trickery to have the textures move across the screen in randomized ways so that it appears like textures are cycling underneath. Ingenuity FTW, yo! I also wanted the background to be somewhat dark and murky, to represent the contrast between the living Word of God, that emerges in a dark, chaotic, confusing world.

Finally, the music is Teebs' "View Point," and I thought it would pair really well with this animation because there's something in that song that feels as if something beautiful and magical is about to come, and it does so through an aural aesthetic palette that feels at once – you guessed it – primal, and also ethereal and somewhat timeless. These are exactly the kinds of themes I was going for! A timeless, primal feeling! With something beautiful about to come! And I gotta say, I think it paired quite nicely with the animation and design.

So that about wraps up why things look and feel the way they do, and why they might not quite fit the common mold of a Christmas card.

Hope you enjoyed it!

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