“Dubstep Dispute” – Interview with creator Jason Giles

September 13, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I attended Bug 32, a bi-monthly music video night hosted by Adam Buxton. There are always some great, inspiring pieces of work shown, but there was one piece that really stood out to me at this show. It was short (just over 1 minute), but involved robots and dubstep – what’s not to love?

I thought I’d get in touch with the creator of the piece Jason Giles to chat about his work on the project.

RF: Hi Jason. Could you introduce yourself for everyone and tell us about your background?

JG: Well, my background begins with fine art. Lots and lots of drawing as a kid and then some fine art at a community college where I got to experiment with painting, 3d design and sculpture. The next step was to focus on digital training and I enrolled at the Art Institute of Colorado where my focus was on 3d animation and design. While at the art institute I was offered a job working for a small animation house in Boulder Colorado called Pixel Kitchen. This is where I gained most of the foundations for my 3d and compositing skills; working on television commercials as well as some work for the Discovery Channel. Since then, my focus has been primarily on real-time 3d applications such as games and 3d interfaces. Recently though, I’ve been excited about getting back into some rendered animation and experimenting with compositing tools and techniques.

RF: How did the “Dubstep Dispute” project come about? What were your aims for the piece?

JG: It was really just time to create a piece for myself. I decided to keep the project in check by aiming for a short that was only about 30 seconds long. I’ve had visions of giant luminescent robots to Dubstep music for some time but to simplify things, I shrunk the idea down to a few bots arguing at the kitchen table and only using the chorus of a song. I also really wanted to experiment with some ideas I’ve had around precisely syncing music to animation. I didn’t want the animation to be just an interpretation of the music, but more of a direct connection between the two while still pulling in a simple story and realistic environment.

RF: Tell us about your visual inspirations. What influenced the look of the piece?

JG: I’ve always been inspired by electronic music and the visuals that it seems to conjure up. Dubstep in particular, can be very minimal and each instrument can easily be envisioned as a character. Many recent Dubstep tracks can get a bit more aggressive and I wanted to utilize some of that shock value for this piece.
The visual inspirations for ‘Dubstep Dispute’ are fairly obvious. It’s pretty much Blade Runner, meets Star Wars, meets Tron, meets the Muppets. All of which are still solid inspiration for me. I really enjoyed mashing all these influences together.

RF: So was the workflow to start with the music first [“Knights of Cydonia (Dubstep Remix)” by Nostalgia] and work from there?

JG: I started with the music first, as this would be the driving force. I needed to break it down and understand all of the instrument’s parts before I could assign them to different characters. Once I had a good understanding of the parts and marked up all the timing for each insturment, I applied it to a simple 3d set of characters and environment. I then moved into defining the story and polishing up the visual elements. Lastly was the sound effects, (which I simply recorded in my basement with a $20 usb mic), and the visual post effects.

RF: How long did it take to complete the whole project?

This was simply a side project for myself and the initial timeline was to be about 3 months. Once I began some test renders though, I decided that instead of a stylized look I should up the ante and go for a more dirty, realistic look. This decision pretty much doubled the amount of time and effort but I was very happy with the test renders I was getting. It took me about 5 months to design and create the 3d and animation, another month to render, and one final month for the post effects and sound effects. So it was about 7 months of part-time work all together.

RF: Tell us about the specific software you used. Were there any tech problems you encountered?

JG: All 3d aspects were taken care of in Modo. From modeling, texturing, animation, physics, all the way to rendering. I used After Effects for the final tweaks such as color and level adjustments as well as some simple glows and lens flares. All of the sound analyzing and editing was taken care of in Audition. I also used Audition to record some sound effects like dropping pans, batteries, nuts, bolts and sampled a few small motors I had lying around.
These tools really worked well for this project. I had initially envisioned some more heavy effects like liquids, smoke, and fire but I just couldn’t justify the expense for the software with this side project. Ultimately, those type of effects would have pushed the timeline out even further and the simplicity of rigid body physics that were used worked well. I decided to leave the complex effects for future projects.

RF: How do you feel about the finished piece? What has the reception been like from viewers?

The short film has been received quite well. Feedback has been coming in from all over and it’s been fun reading the comments it’s gotten. It’s been screened at several venues in the UK and set to be shown at several events in the US and Australia.
I’m glad to say that I’m happy with the final product. This was more of an art piece for me than a deadline type project. With me being the boss for this one, I got to make sure I was happy with all aspects before it went out the door.

Thanks for speaking to me, Jason.

Dubstep Dispute is currently being shown at various shorts festivals around the world

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