For a virtual Presentation of Doctoral Candidates, it was up to the motion design to confer the same solemn prestige found in the physical ceremony. Compositionally, the graduates’ academic hoods couldn’t obstruct their portrait or hang off the top, so I created a sharp geometric approach (slightly hexagonal, mostly in the downward chevron reminiscent of the University of Michigan’s blocky “M”). To convey the silk material, I animated the vector shapes like a heavy pour that slid and clung to the portraits. With both the foreground & background layers settling at the base, the PhD’s pictures appeared to be wrapped with their specific hood color. To further establish a sense of place, I matched the After Effects lights with my CG render of Hill Auditorium’s camera position. That way, I was able project multiple shadows on the flat image, lending to an illusion of depth for the subjects on stage.
While Rackham Graduate Exercises 2021 featured dynamic animation and design, most of the success was due to unglamorous aspects like file name organization, spreadsheet formulas for combining columns, and automated text generation. The original composition and animation were created once, and then made into a template or a pattern—a set of duplicated motion cues to be applied to the entire sequence.
From the comprehensive spreadsheet information, even if updated with a text edit or a replaced portrait, those changes could be made just once, and then propagate into the whole animation. The automated process for generating thousands of names & titles rather than manually typing them out not only saves a tremendous amount of time, but it also excludes the possibility of typos. Overall, having a defined goal with a plan for inputs & outputs help extrapolate an 8 second segment expand into 20 minutes of a memorable ceremony.