I began building the scene from photography. Even though I am a whiz with Photography many of photos do not get greatly altered for my projects. In most cases I shot what I am after – and do simple touch up and adjustments with Photoshop.
Tree Truck Photography
The nail photography was shot by Brian Jones – and worked perfectly.
The base of the trees from created from photography I shot of carpet patterns in Vegas.
There was something about this scene that was so, important to get right. The entire scene runs for near seven minutes during which time the green screen cat interacts with the live dancers. I loved how the cat running across the screen looked – that was super fun to make.
The green screen life action of the appearing and disappearing cat was timed to the ballet performance.
The cat was first shot on green screen. From our storyboard, all the scenes were shot. The laughter mouth footage – was shot with the dancer moving their head forward and back. During a life performance, the actions would have been perfect. However, for the final scene of having a large mouth – laughing and floating around the stage – meant the dancer’s head should have been still – so I could add a mask and reveal what I wanted. With the mouth movement – and the dancer out of town until the day before opening night. I turned to Adobe After Effects.
Using the tracing features in After Effects, I was able to track the inside of the dancers mouth – I think I track a tooth! After placing a keyframe in every frame, I then centered all the frames – which resulted in freezing the dancers head motion.
Before applying the mouth-shaped mask, it was almost impossible to watch the mouth footage. Once the mask was in place – and all the edges were cleaned up, and the magic dust was applied -the footage worked great.
Building The Scene
The background had to hold video footage and have the ability to act as a 3D scene. Nothing in the scene was shot together. I created the forest scene from more than 350 of my photographs. The bark on the trees was completely resurfaced with bark from another tree. Plants were cropped, resized, and arranged to create the entire scene. It was a beautiful experience of starting from a blank screen and collection of my photos – and start building a scene.
ALICE: Hall of Tears scene from the ballet created by Asheville Dance Company Terpsicorps.
GARY: It is hard to know where I began when creating Hall of Tears scene. There are layers and layers of video footage, frame-by-frame animation, green screen, and special effects. All of which came together to create this awesome stage design.
PLOT: This is the scene where Alice has gotten really large, and is crying. The water is from her tears. For this scene of the ballet. Alice was shot against a green screen – in this case we also had the dancer hold a green screen in front of her (as I just needed her hands and head).
On stage during the live performance – two dancer (tear drops) appear from a slit in the center of the screen. The video projection repeats on a loop.
Homemade Special Effects
When creating the water effects for the scene – I wanted the water to appear natural. I wanted a flow, spread, unevenness. All the characteristic of water. What I didn’t want to do – was simply turn to a 3D model to created water. Sure in certain scenes, and for certain effects it was great to turn to CGI to create the effect. However, for a modern ballet in Asheville – the digital media needed to be less polished and refined – the visual installation had its part to play as the backdrop.
Water Highlight – shot with a small hand-held digital camera
Poster Design and Branding: solely by Brian Jones.
Video Project for Asheville Ballet
Video Editing projects are such fun when you have creative footage to work with. For Terpsicorps – Asheville Ballet promotional video there was so much beautiful footage that I could have used.
The art of video editing is knowing which shots will tell the story best. I had great fun getting to film dancers. Capturing the dancer’s motion and creativity. And then bringing all of those series of images to the video editing part – filtering and combining the storyline.
Due to the marketing masterminding of Brian Jones (Branding Creator for ALICE) the promotional video for The Mad Hatters Ball was a huge success.
The video was both showcased on local TV news and public access TV. Published by Mountain Xpress newspaper. And featured as bonus footage during the online interview with Asheville Citizen-Times – and that was just for the preview.
Video Promotion Script
Heather (the creator/visual direction of Alice and director of Terpsicorps) – “I had definite ideas in my head of what I wanted to see come to life, and I sat down and wrote out a bunch of storyboards and pictures and things that I wanted. Having absolutely no idea whether any that was possible. I guess all that comes down to see what happens and meeting these people who can make it happen”.
Craig (Advanced tech, camera work, creative continuity )– “Bringing all these assets together is a gargantuan task requiring a lot of organization and production. Alice is a very complex project. We’re are going to be utilizing no less than four video projectors and six screens”.
Gary (Digital Media Artist, Animator, and Special Effects) – “Some of the approaches that we’ve adopted is to use live footage shot in the Asheville area. And then apply different special effects and animation techniques. Using Adobe Flash, Adobe After Effects, and Adobe Premiere to create the content that we need for the show. Alice is a prime example of where all of our skills come together to create a beautiful project”.
The playing card animation was commissioned by Tersicorps Theatre of Dance – Asheville.
Alice in Wonderland – Chapter Eight – The Queen Croquet Ground.
What an exciting part of the Alice and Wonderland story. Alice has arrived to the Rose Garden and is now face-to-face with the mighty Queen. The stage is bathe with my playing card animation. A procession of dancers are flooding the stage – with impressions of my animation on their skin and white outfits. Everything and everyone got covered by the animated playing card wash. The visual effect was outstanding.
From the opening beating of the simple single rotating hearts – half white, half red. Before launching into the animated playing card parade. The mirrored tunnel effect added to the chaos of the scene to great effect. The heart design began as the photograph of my red jacket reflecting on the metal door. The door had a diamond design that created a strong silver in one panel, while my bright red coat beamed in the adjoining panel. For me the heart was the central design element for Alice in Wonderland – the scene is rich and heavy. With hundreds of little hearts covering the scene – little hearts that were created with my reflection. While the reflection on the heart is only one half of myself – the mirrored placement of the heart creates the whole reflection.
Video Projection – Animation Wash
Parading Playing Cards
Full stage front-projection washing over entire stage and two rear projectors for added 3D effect.
Off with her head
Undoubtedly the quintessential line from Alice – “Off with her head!”.
As the chaos of the scene grows the dark playing card animation slowly fade over the stage. The music gets darker – the mood changes. On the stage their are 5 men in a web of white rope. Pulling and turning, twisting their bodies into the same knots as the rope. The more entangled the twisted bodies became the heavier the dark animation painted their skin.
Unlike, the earlier lighter animation of white and red – which created an iridescent illumination. The dark animation achieved the opposite effect. The black of the stage literally absorbed the darkness of the animation. The crimson, dark grays, and blood tones created a sinister tension between the dancer and the entangled ropes.
Alice in Wonderland – Off with her head!
Animation cycle that covered the back wall of the stage. Unlike the front-projection that flooded the stage. The rear projection was onto the high-density screen. The clarity was incredible. The blood red of the animation reflected and painted the dancers skin.
Design Process – Animation Sequence
With every design the design process begins with the objective. For the The Queen’s Croquet Ground scene from Alice the animation was to serve to functions.
The scene relied heavily on flooding the stage with animated content. However, the general problem with washing an entire stage with visuals is that everything is covered the visual. Stage lights also serve to wash out projected content. For the scene – lights were lowered – projection increased. To create an awesome balance of visuals, dance, and audio synchronization. Finding this balance did take quite a few revisions – especially during the installation in the Diana Wortham Theater (which can only be expected).
The Playing Card Animation design process begin with simple sketches of playing card design. Before refining the designs in Adobe Illustrator. During the early design stages of the playing cards – I imported the roughs to After Effects – as I worked on refining the card design in Illustrator, the file would update to my After Effects animation. Most of the final animation effect was created prior to the card design being finished or approved.
Having a strong workflow plan completely helped to make this part of the project a huge success. The placeholder content that I had imported to After Effects was easier to animate and experiment with while the individual components were still so light. No delays from graphic card overload – fast and simple.
Once the final artwork was completed. I simply had to do to After Effects and render the animation. Revisions to the color content in relationship to the saturation of stage wash were done in Illustrator, and footage would be again rendered.
PLAY CARD GRAPHIC – Each card was created for the animation.
The Tapped in Time section of Alice – The Ballet is when the White Rabbit proclaims I am Late. During the Ballet the stage was washed with digital numbers.
The Trapped In Time – midnight strikes.
Trapped in Time – Larger scale.
VIDEO FOOTAGE Alice – The Ballet
The trapping in time scene from Alice – The Ballet. The animation I created were broadcast across the stage. The digital numbers cover the White Rabbit. I liked the idea of using digital numbers to connect how the footage was created. Everything captured, edited, and burnt to digital format.
When I began design work for Alice – The Ballet. The first visual concept that I needed to face was TIME. Alice is Wonderland certainly has many dips and turns in the storyline. While the theme of manipulating time remains constant.
Animation Clock Hands
Prior to the opening of the ballet – my clock hands were projected on the theater curtains. First as a still image on thick red velvet curtains.
A short animated GIF – of the beginning sequence.
As a digital artist I tend to have a strong visual idea in my head – and I then set about creating that image. For the Alice Ballet the hands of time I needed the clock hands to regal and strong.
The audience were greeted with the clock arms. First, as a still image of the clock. Ten minutes before the start of the show the clock hands began to move. The clock animation is used during the opening and closing of Act 1 and 2.
Time Keeps Moving – bending time is always possible when creating visuals for Alice.
I am such a big fans of After Effects. I am a power house junkie with After Effects. I can think of a better reason than to use After Effects for my clock animation
From the basic animation of the clock hands I was then able to expand the look, feel, texture, and tone of the animation.
Backdrop Clock Animation
The backdrop clock animation was a fun layering effect. Again playing with the visual idea of time, and the rabbit hole, and falling.
The metal texture of the clock is my reflection on the staircase of Lloyd Bank in London. It was a cold Sunday morning. The bright polished metal and outdoor piping all looks super cool.
My bright red winter coat and testify to how cold it was. While also creating the constant of color against the metal panels of the bank. I refined the texture and tones in Photoshop.
The Door Scene. Some artist look back on their work. And with experience can see something different they would have done. I do not feel that toward these doors. At the time, I loved creating them from my photography and drawings. Each door projected on to a moving screen. The dancers interacted with the moving screens.
DOOR 1 – The Snakes
The red of the door with the iron work protected so well. The difference between the dark tones and the orange-red saturation work prefect. The snake really do look quite evil.
DOOR 2: Two Heads
The doors came from my own photography collection. What I didn’t have image of, I drew. These doors were shown off on stage – scaled larger than life. The 3D effect at the top of the door and the lower corners is an old disco ball. The teeth from the monsters head is the Needle (Center of Dublin). I like combining textures and tones from different time periods.
DOOR 3: Little Door
The small door had a quick scene when door opened for a short animation. On stage the door animation and stage lighting for the effect of light coming out of the door. Really great effect – that out a full house roam every-time.
DOOR 4: Knockers.
The 4th and final door is the most plain of the designs. On stage, this door was beside the 3rd door – that had an animation scene – that the audience were to engage with. Pull the design back on this door kept the interest in point.
Creating work for a moving screen
Two doors came from one projector. To ensure that the image rests correctly – when arriving at an angle. This is where the math comes in – and the artwork starts to look a bit like this.
Alice opens with the story of falling down the rabbit hole. The opening for Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance "ALICE" production began with an 8 minute multi media segment. The stage design included three projectors. Two front projectors and a rear projector. The depth of images that could be created on stage with three HD projectors was incredible. As the designer of all the media content - it wasn't until the dancers were in the theatre that I actually saw the installation at it's true size. AND WHAT A SIZE!
FULL STAGE BACKDROP (very large projection).
ALICE - Video installation for Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance.
Director and Creator: Heather Maloy.
Motion Graphics: Gary Crossey.
Graphic Design: Brian Jones.
Down the Rabbit Hole
The opening scene of Alice falling down the rabbit hole, with Heather Maloy (as Alice). The sky and trees were shot on a reclaimed beach near Jacksonville. The trees were bleached from the sun and had such interesting forms. I tried to capture arrangements of branches that resembled the form of the dancers.
Color appears as Alice enters the rabbit hole. The rabbit hole footage was created from the lighting inside the tunnels in Asheville and laying with After Effect.
Alice: Ballet – Motion Graphics by Gary Crossey
Artwork: The Clock
The silver clock featured in the rabbit hole and the White Rabbit being trapped in time was my grandmothers 70's wooden clock. After photographing the clock, I covered the wood with the silver Lloyd's bank (London) metal doors. The red on the animated clock hands is the reflection of my red jacket against the huge diamond metal doors.
Creating the Rabbit Hole scene for the Asheville Ballet of Alice was one of the most famous scenes of the entire production. The rabbit hole was not only the first color scene, but it was also one of the few scenes that were completely made of video – with on live action. All the dancing and effects were recorded, and I got to do my bit!
Research for the Rabbit Hole Scene
How to create the rabbit hole? While others may turn to After Effects for all of their special effects I prefer to look at the real world. In Asheville, there are a few tunnels – and that is where my creativity took me first.