November 20, 2012

Hench-DADA Unveils a “Blue Sky”

Faculty and Students Produce Music Video for Musician Jeff Lynne and Electric Light Orchestra

MR BLUE SKY Electric Light Orchestra

On most projects that come out of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, the words psychedelic, Bollywood and English garden usually aren’t the starting point. However, when Associate Professor Michael Patterson and adjunct faculty Candace Reckinger teamed up with a group of their animation students and Electric Light Orchestra musician Jeff Lynne to create a video for the song Mr. Blue Sky, the combination of these ideas helped to create something truly unique.

Animation and design of Jeff Lynne character by Louis Morton,
background paint and kaleidoscope animation by Andrew Malek
and Miguel Joron.

Jeff Lynne is a prolific musician and renowned producer best known for his band Electric Light Orchestra, as well as working with members of the Beatles and creating the Traveling Wilburys, which included music icons Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Tom Petty. Patterson and Reckinger previously collaborated with Lynne on a Roy Orbison music video in the 90’s. The song Mr. Blue Sky was featured on the soundtrack for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Patterson and Reckinger recruited a team of students who were excited to work collaboratively and use a “blended media” approach to design the scenes and characters. This use of “hybrid-media” had been applied earlier for the “Pictures at an Exhibition” project (2011) with classical music conductor Michael Tilson Thomas where Mike and Candace assembled a team of 11 USC animators to create the 15 part animated work for live orchestra performance.

Animation and design by Lisa Chung, additional characters by Louis
Morton, sky by Corrie Francis Parks

"Mike [Patterson] and I enjoy a hybrid approach to media making," said Reckinger. "We love mixing organic, hand-made techniques with digital. By blending 2D and 3D techniques, the result is often unique and more original.Once our concept was presented to the team, students contributed creative ideas and images that were later combined. We wanted to highlight the students’ individual talents while giving the video a cohesive style and look. Many of the scenes became the work of more than one animator.”

Animation and Character Design by Dan Wilson

“I already loved Mr. Blue Sky and ELO, but I really wantedto work on the video because I like working with Candace and Mike,” said Dan Wilson, 3rd MFA student in Animation. “From the start, the project was opened up to us as individual artists - our input and creativity was allowed to define the video. No one was just a pixel-pusher or software technician. The video is really the perfect intersection between student and commercial work. It's the official music video for a legendary song, but each of us had the latitude and opportunity to make it our own.”

Animation and design of "Mr. Blue Sky" character by Einar Baldvin

By working collaboratively to design and animate the video, Patterson hoped that students would find the experience parallel to working in a professional studio. “Even though most of the team had no prior professional experience, their time at USC’s Division of Animation and Digital Art was good preparation for the project.” said Patterson. “The students had never worked together before, but quickly adapted to the process bringing their individual styles together to produce beautiful and original work.”

Students found the process of combining their efforts toward a single goal to be stimulating and ultimately very beneficial to thinking about ways in which they will work on future projects.

The Mr. Blue Sky video was recently reviewed by Cartoon Brew and can be found here: patterson-and-candace-reckinger-72652.html

Animation and Character Design by Jovanna Tosello

USC animators and designers: Dan Wilson, Lisa Chung, Einar Baldvin, Louis Morton, Jovanna Tosello, Andrew Malek, Corrie Francis Parks, Miguel Jiron, Larry Lai, Sullivan Brown, Amy Lee Ketchum, Robert Calcagno.