Movie Fanatix


BROADCAST: SHOW GRAPHICS PACKAGE
ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / Broadcast Designer / 3DS Max Artist
CLIENT: TechTV
ART DIRECTOR: Rick McKee

Branded a technology-based network, it was inevitable that TechTV would feature a show about film visual effects. At the time, digital effects were midstream through dominating the medium. Practical gags were still in use, with in-camera effects and miniatures continuing to be worthwhile techniques. But the writing was definitely on the wall, and the oncoming digital takeover would only be a matter of time.

As such, this proved to be an exciting time to capture and chronicle the transition from old school to new. And “Movie Fanatix” was TechTV’s solution to doing so.

With limited budgets and resources, there was no way the cable-based network could afford to do a graphics package that could visually compete with the content being presented.

The solution was to focus on concept over execution – the idea being centered around the infinite possibilities offered by a bluescreen shoot, where the show’s host would step in and out of virtual worlds via the bluescreen.

The end result had both good and bad moments, but it worked for its time. One positive outcome was finally getting to use “Chickadee,” a stop-motion biped robot that an old friend and co-worker Mike Murnane designed and shot for an abandoned short film.

Nerd Nation


BROADCAST: SHOW GRAPHICS PACKAGE
ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / Lead Broadcast Designer
CLIENT: TechTV
ART DIRECTOR: Rick McKee

There’s a little nerd in all of us. That’s the gist of TechTV’s quirky-yet-cool documentary series. Episodes featured an eclectic mix of geekiness, from hacker conventions and India’s tech-support culture to Roswell gatherings and Star Trek fandom.

The design is derived from the concept of plurality, and how nerd-dom is a quality that exists in just about everyone, depending on one’s point of view. Visually, this is represented through a sea of ever-changing faces and cityscapes to symbolize nerd-ism’s cultural transcendence.

The execution proved extremely tedious, hand-animating a 1000-plus facial parts to morph in and out of each other. Then applying a complex filtering technique to achieve the grunged-up appearance of the final product.

You kind of have to be a nerd to be willing to do all of that.

Secret, Strange & True


BROADCAST: SHOW OPEN
ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / Senior Broadcast Designer
CLIENT: TechTV
ART DIRECTOR: Rick McKee

An episode of “Secret, Strange, and True” once featured an exposé on the Pentagon, and how it was actually constructed as a giant satanic portal for evil to be channeled into the world. Whether that’s true or not is certainly up for debate. But it paints a pretty accurate portrait of what this TechTV documentary series aims to achieve. Sensational. Mysterious. Provocative. Outrageous. True (at least to certain parties).

Unexpectedly, the show open isn’t nearly as enticing as the content would suggest. But that’s a conscious choice. Rather than upstage the given show’s content, it seemed more appropriate to ground the visual design in some manner of artful legitimacy.

This translated to a typographical treatment, where each of the title’s three words is visually defined through abstractions of motion and color. “Secret” is red and caged like a mystery. “Strange” is green and amorphous. And “True” is blue and framed with geometrical structure.

The Tech of:


BROADCAST: SHOW GRAPHICS PACKAGE
ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / Lead Broadcast Designer
CLIENT: TechTV
ART DIRECTOR: Rick McKee

This remarkably in-depth TechTV documentary of “how things work” focused on just about everything: newspapers, oil tankers, high-rise demolition, football strategies, bridges, ice breakers, paper clips, etc.

For the show’s on-air design, the visual concept was based on the digital analysis of the everyday world. In this case, a building, a car, a newspaper, and a train. Oil tankers and ice breakers were tempting, but none were immediately accessible for filming. And although the paper clip would’ve been classic, it just didn’t have the immediacy we were looking for.

My clearest memory was shooting without permits in Oakland’s BART station. It was a year after 9/11. Tensions were still high. We were almost arrested. Luckily, our producer knew how to run interference.

Big Thinkers


BROADCAST: SHOW GRAPHICS PACKAGE | PROMO
ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / Lead Broadcast Designer
CLIENT: TechTV
ART DIRECTOR: Rick McKee

This show package was designed for TechTV’s slick and cerebral 2001 documentary about contemporary futurists, scientists, pioneers and artists. “Big Thinkers” profiled such people as author Douglas Adams, entertainer Penn Jilette, futurist Alvin Toffler, virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier, and former FCC chairman Michael Powell, to name a few.

From a design perspective, the visual component needed to be contemporary and classy, full of metaphor, yet equally straightforward.

This lead to the concept of a waterdrop to symbolize an idea’s birth. As the drop falls, the impact results in expanding ripples, each circular wave representing different disciplines of thought: science, art, philosophy, metaphysics, universal consciousness, etc.

Pretentious, yes. But most appropriate, given present company.

Titans of Tech


BROADCAST: SHOW GRAPHICS PACKAGE
ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / Senior Broadcast Designer
CLIENT: TechTV
ART DIRECTOR: Rick McKee

During the technology industry’s peak at the turn of the millennium, tech tycoons like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and a handful of others were leading the charge. To chronicle their achievements, former tech-centric network TechTV commissioned the weekly biography show “Titans of Tech.”

Capturing the essence of these captains of industry lent itself to a typographic approach for the show’s graphic design. Words, both descriptive and defining, were chosen to characterize the personalities of those leaders being portrayed.

Much like an infinite crossword puzzle, these words snake and slide into view, forming a grid of intensifying descriptive language. As more words enter the grid, they begin to form the faces of these iconic titans, until only faces comprised of the data-matrix remain.

To accomplish this, the words were individually animated to travel along the grid, with grayscale values of the positive and negative spaces used to create the facial definition of the featured individual. At the time, my skill at coding expressions wasn’t advanced enough to achieve the given effect procedurally. So I settled for the old-school frame-by-frame approach to the animation. Time consuming, but effective.