|Passages was the first completed animation and the spark of the whole project. This animation began from experimenting in Adobe After Effects with a drawing I had done of the Buddha. My goal was a simple test of generating computer light based on the drawing. I placed the test in a scene over a waterfall. After 48hrs of rendering on my old Mac 9500 I had 8 seconds of animation. Once I saw that short little bit of zooming light I was hooked and set about creating the sequence of images that became Passages.
Essentially Passages was created with several levels of motivation. The sequence is a journey through states of consciousness as well as exploring places where I grew up and learned to love nature. The images unfold in a fluid series of moments, going toward higher states of being.
I believe in experiencing "Peak" moments in nature and the animation style in Passages tries to highlight that experience. The peaks are illustrated by the short moments of being present in each place followed by zooming light or shimmering particles. The use of the Buddha image in various states throughout the piece is reference to the ultimate peak experience of nirvana under the tree.
Passages tries to create a continuum of change, always partly there and partly changing into the next thing. Each element is timed for about 5.5 seconds of stability and about 5.5 seconds of going in or out. This timing was chosen for two reasons. The 1st reason was to give a tempo for Fritz to compose music to, and 2nd because 5.5 seconds is the average breath cycle (for me at least). By animating to the breath cycle I thought the piece would be very natural and relaxing.
The sound track to Passages went through many changes. The working sound that I used was a piece by Paul Haslinger entitled "World Without Rules". It had the tempo I wanted and a flow of energy that motivated me. Once the piece was done I contacted his record company for permission to use the piece but then thought that I would rather have free reign to show the animation without additional rights clearance. I contacted my friend Fritz Heede, a composer in Los Angeles, and asked if he had any music that would work. Fritz was pretty busy but sent a CD of unreleased music that I could try to use. Some of the work on the CD was fantastic, but none fully worked, so I created a frankenstein edit out of various pieces on it. There it sat for 2 years until Fritz and I had collaborated on several other works. I had sent him some drum tracks for inspiration on another piece and he pulled a rabbit out of his hat by creating a fully original piece for Passages based on one of tracks I had sent.
Passages uses sources from the area around northern Ohio where I grew up, from Starved Rock Illinois, England, Utah and a doorway in Spain. The drawing of the Buddha is a mixture of several statues I have seen as well as a fair amount of artistic license.
On the technical front, Passages, like all of the animations, is an Adobe After Effects based animation. The only 3d elements here are the particle systems and the occasional sphere. I make extensive use of plug-ins of which Passages uses Final Effects the most (FE has been owned by at least 4 companies since I started using them, so I don't actually know who owns them now). This piece took about 12 days to render, but I redid some parts at least 10 times. The hardware was an Apple 9500 and a G3 333 minitower. The animation was done in small pieces and edited together on an Avid Media Composer 1000 at avr75. The mpeg2 encoding was done directly from the avr75 pieces assembled in Final Cut Pro. The encoding was between 7.5 and 8.
Passages make extensive use of still images instead of video. Life is added to the stills by overlaying shadows of moving images or by mixing differently processed versions of the same image. At this point still were used because I had so many more still sources than video, and because most of the video was hi8 and didn't look very good.
Passages was 1st shown at the 1998 SIGGRAPH computer graphics convention as part of the animation festival. It has since been shown on numerous television shows at home and abroad.
Fritz's Composer's Notes: I have to say that John's art is the ultimate counterpart to the music I imagine. I knew that we would one day collaborate on something magical. He sent me a Quicktime of Passages. I found a drum track that he had recorded that I thought caught the energy and tempo of this piece and it launched me like a cruise missile. I cut and configuired the track with Digital Performer against the picture. Once I had the structure maped out I experimented with a recording I had previously done of three harmonic vocal toners. I sliced and diced this track to conform with the imagery until I had the emotional feel I was looking for. I now had the drive and the mystical ambience I wanted for this piece. I then filled in the MIDI keyboard tracks that gave this piece additional structure and nuances. A harp ostinato served to inhance the drum groove and an altered Indian tambur sample helped to steer the ethnic feel to compliment the Buddist imagry. I frankly could not stop working on this piece until it was finished. It took 5 days of relentless obsession. I am very pleased with the results.