Jeremy Hollister is a visual effects artist living in NYC and working mainly for music videos and television commercials. He sent us a videotape.
It's a promotional video for the ColdCut track titled 'Music for 18 Musicians' on the Reich Remixed album, and the beautiful visual soundscape fascinates viewers' eyes. He has done a number of promos. We interviewed him about the broadcast design scene in the US etc.
First of all, please tell us who you are.
My name is Jeremy Hollister. I am a visual effects artist and designer/director at Manhattan Transfer Inc. in NYC. I've been here since 1997. Prior to moving to NYC for work I was in graduate school in Chicago.
What mediums are you doing work for?
My work is mostly broadcast and television commercials, I have also done some projects in film and hi-def.
For broadcast recent projects have included the redesign of the Sci Fi Channel, HBO promos, and ESPN International. These were very design driven and allowed for a great deal of experimentation.
There was also some work I did for Informix and tag, as well as simple and classic typographic animation for a new Mercedes campaign. It's also given me the chance to work with directors such as Simon Taylor, Joan Raspo, Bob English, Todd Mueller, etc.
How and where did you learn motion graphics?
In college I studied political science but got bored with just writing theoretical papers, so I took some traditional animation classes. I've always been interested in time based arts such as music and sports like skateboarding, surfing and skiing. Animation is less spontaneous but similar in principle. After doing many projects using traditional methods I started mixing in editted and found footage, and was very influenced by Emergency Broadcast Network (EBN). Around this time I also started exploring software based editing programs such as Premiere and 3-D software to do graphic compositing.
The real bulk of applied experience has come from working on the job learning from some of the amazing designers that I work with, and those design projects that let me push my limits.
Which personal principles do you follow in creating motion graphics?
It is necessary to approach each design challenge with as open a mind as possible. This lets you come up with the best solution for the product. It's also important to admit that the designer is really in service of the product. That's the trade off. As designers we get to do exciting and fun work but at the end of the day it needs to be appropriate for what is being advertised.
That said, an equally important challenge is to push the boundaries of the medium. American television tends to be very heavy handed in it's goal to appeal to the "lowest common denominator". I find that insulting. People are much more intelligent and sophisticated than what is the stereotype. As a designer I try to create works that have layers of subtlety than stand up to the multiple viewings when shown at every commercial break.
As for actual working process I tend work as I go. Sometimes the mistakes that happen while working produce the best results. I am also quite hands on, an ideal project is to get a brief, come up with an idea either by myself or working with another designer, pitch the treatment, shoot the footage with a director of photography, and then start the actual execution of the design on the Inferno*.
Could you tell us about the video for Reich?
The Reich video was a unique opportunity. The commissioner from the label approached me to do something interesting for the ColdCut track on the Reich Remixed album. He was also very loose about style or direction, basically carte blanc. This was a nice change from restrictions of other more commercial work.
The combination of ColdCut, of whom I am a fan, and Reich who is a major figure both in 20th century American composers and as an innovator in sample and loop based music was appealing. Approaching the song I felt it needed to be minimal and elegant, yet reflecting the electronic 90's vibe of ColdCut's remix. I also wanted to avoid the temptation to overload the piece with too much.
Architecture always fascinates me and I think that modernist buildings such as those by Saarinen and Niemeyer (even though he seemed to a have certain level of disregard for how some of the buildings would work in practical use) are beautiful studies of form and contrast in space. I thought that it would be interesting to explore these ideas of form and space through the live action using different architectural icons, vast spaces and minimal action from the model/actress to enhance this. We used the white fields of color to anchor the visual theme, restricting the palette to white and blue.
The goal was to create an abstract visual soundscape of repeating key themes with slight changes, mirroring the tonal variations in Reich's compositions.
I was lucky to work with 3D Animator/Director Patrick O'Brien (his feature movie experience proved very helpful) and designer Eddie Pak (talented creator of suction.com) on the video. It is very important to have a good team when doing large projects like this video in a medium where everything depends on collaboration. Producer Adam Schlossberg, Director of Photography John Sawyer, Colorist Chris Gennarelli, Editor James Mazzulo, Model H.D., and make-up Artist Kim Wayman also worked with us.
We shot the footage on 35mm, edited with Avid. For 3D we used Softimage on SGI and NT. For the graphics and compositing we used After Effects on a Mac G3 and Discreet Logic Inferno* running on an SGI Onyx.
We'd like to ask you about the broadcast design in the US in general. What's hot now? What are representative companies there?
Broadcast design is booming. The awareness on the part of television networks has risen and there are more designers there to work on the promos. On the whole over the last four years in the US I think that design for television has begun to come into it's own.
Some big companies such as 3 Ring Circus, Fuel, Imaginary Forces are doing good stuff, 3 Ring did the Showtime relaunch a couple years ago which was quite an accomplishment. Kyle Cooper and Imaginary Forces I think speak for themselves, always doing something interesting. Some smaller companies like Legion of Doom and V12 are making themselves seen. Showtime and MTV have big crews of hot designers in-house as well.
I think broadcast design is at an interesting point right now, I think it is on the verge of something exciting and different developing.
What are you most interested in right now?
Fashion is very interesting to me. The whole idea of it is very ambiguous and flexible, and I find the mood of fashion to be reflecting a need for simplicity and minimalism, yet at the same time there is this craziness in the overdone zippers and tactile feeling of designers like Issy Miyake and the Final Home label. I find it interesting that he has just opened a store in NY with the Liquid Sky music Label, it does make sense in it's own way mixing music and fashion.
Music. This is a staple of my existence, I am a huge fan of all types of music, especially groove based stuff like Brazilian, Afro Beat, Acid Jazz, and electronica. There several favorite artists, such as United Future Organization, Jazzanova, Frederic Galliano, and more in this area that make my days go by with a smile. Remixing culture is great too, gives you so many variations and interpretations of a song. Refinement of the remix culture is phenomenal. I DJ on the side as well, it's a good way to explore other creative outlets.
Film. Maybe it's ironic but I don't like many movies with tons of effects and explosions, rather I prefer a good story, with plot twists and psychological tension, and good cinematography. Run Lola Run, a German film which came out last summer here, had a good funny take on temporality and postmodern theories on reality while making it entertaining. The original Akira is a classic.
Other favorite directors are Tarkovsky, Bergman, Kubrick, Jarmusch, Jeunet & Caro, Fellini, KarWai, etc.
If you worked outside the US, where would you choose?
I've been to Japan several times and I wouldn't mind doing some work with Japanese firms and artists. In fact there are several Japanese musicians I would like to direct music videos for.
Europe is pretty exciting, especially England where they are doing beautiful design and quite clever advertising. Austria has been creating some good stuff in music and design.
The last question. Do you have any plans for the near future?
Going to Stockholm for vacation next week, totally a random choice, looking forward to good design, funky furniture and strong vodka!
Doing more music videos, and probably start exploring narrative ideas more in depth, seeing how that can work with design concepts.
Speaking of remixing I'd also like to play around more with making music and remixes.
Text: Mayumi Kaneko