We wanted the Inlay illustrations to reflect the main cover and possibly continue on the theme of medical illustrations mixed with roots / branches.
Billie created some sketches based on the type of thing we were thinking. Anything from teeth to hips were fair game.
Using elements of Gray’s anatomy again, Billie worked her way through some ideas.
Billie then went on to create 14 illustrations for the interior of the album booklet. Seven for each inlay.
Billie then forwarded these all onto me to start editing together the images and lyrics.
I started by putting together some ideas for the cover itself. Attempting to place the text and the logo onto what Billie had produced.
I started by looking at a 3 page inlay as it would keep costs down and allow for a somewhat minimal interior. I wasn’t so keen on the initial text placement, or font. I finally settled on a more handwritten font for the album titles – ‘Penumbra’ and ‘Lucidity’. The second picture shows how the second inlay will work in conjunction with the first.
I’ve become quite attached to the idea of not having the logo on the front cover. That said, I think the band would prefer it, so I will look at incorporating it properly. Khaidian are looking at releasing the CD as a digipak, which means there will be a cardboard cover as the main packaging with an inlay inside a sleeve. It may be worth using this to drop the logo from the inlay, but have it on the actual cover.
I started experimenting with inlays with Billie’s illustrations and the lyrics.
Overall I wasn’t too happy with the layout, text, or much else… The six page booklet was definitely not big enough to incorporate everything I wanted to, such as lyrics and Billie’s illustrations, without it seeming crammed and ugly. So an executive decision was made to turn it into an 8 page book. Here are the final versions of the first 6 pages:
To me these fit much better. There’s a better flow to the text design and Billie’s illustrations fit well now. I also incorporated some imagery from the video (the mountains) to draw more relationship between the concepts of the illustrations and the video.
I decided to also pick out key phrases from Andy’s lyrics and made them stand out, whilst the song titles sit in the to the side of the body of text in a non-obtrusive manner.
All I need to do now is sort out the last page and make sure it’s checked for spelling errors!
Ok, possibly time to talk a little about the cover of the album.
Khaidian’s overall plan is fairly crazy, but when looked at properly in terms of the market, should make some sense. For example, most bands have a limited period of time in which to promote their albums. There is usually a 3 month lead in time from having an album completed (from being pressed) through to general release. And then from release, the press engine usually lasts around another one to two months. During this time, bands will tour and promote their album. This has been the traditional way of releasing music and in some respects has now been superseded by the release of music on the Internet. It can be instantaneously released, reviewed and promoted. You can also release one track a week if you saw fit. This would have the added bonus of constant content, and of hooking your audience in to the ‘lifestyle’ of the band. They go on that journey with you and you are always present through the release of new material. marketing…
Khaidian isn’t quite doing that though. The band will be releasing two records (the original plan was four!) to be released over a period of time to maintain momentum and relevancy. The artwork will span across the covers or relate to each other in some larger respect.
Khaidian’s original intention for the cover was to have something really simple. So simple in fact that it would probably have been just a white logo on a black background. Of course, being Khaidian nothing ever really stays that simple. Especially when there’s the chance to overcomplicate matters. This would be Khaidian’s official debut and it’s always nice to make an impression, so amid all the talk of deconstruction of the album artwork, I suggested Billie. I’ve always liked what Billie produces and as well as content, I love her use of realism, clarity and technique. It would not be too overpowering and yet eye-catching.
Khaidian are not a typical metal band, and as such we really didn’t want a typical metal look… personally I have grown to hate such aesthetics. Here are some examples of what I hate:
These examples are pretty much the standard of most metal nowadays (and possibly the last 20 years). They do tend to be a particular type of genre though, usually along the lines of classic metal, thrash, death and power metal. As much as I can appreciate the work that might go into something like this, and of course I also have a fondness for some classic album artwork, that really isn’t what Khaidian want to represent.
Artworks that I feel more drawn towards are usually slightly more minimal, non typical metal artwork.
At the end of the second year I started talking to Billie about the possibility of creating artwork for Khaidian’s album. There’s been very little artwork created for the band so far, so it was essentially a blank slate. There’s no preconceptions about what the band represents as the name itself doesn’t mean anything at all, (despite a constant in joke that it’s Sanskrit for ‘making everything needlessly overcomplicated’). The primary hook we were working on was the use of roots. This has taken hold as a key component because of the bands logo created by myself a few years ago.
Billie’s use of trees, hair and various elements like this prompted us to look at utilising them within the image creation for Khaidian. An initial thought was to have her use of mirror imaging incorporated into the image, if not it completely.
We were really happy with what she had created, but decided to develop it further. The lyrics and content from singer Andy tend to be more personal explorations than overtly political, fantastical or horrific, so the choice was made to use human figures within the artwork. An example provided by bassist, Joe:
Billie then created a few sketches based on these ideas and sent them over to us to see what we preferred.
The use of the two heads spread over the two CDs seemed to work best for me. This allowed for some consistency between the covers and yet made them different. With this decision, Billie continued to work on some new sketches.
Although fleshing out the initial idea, there was some element of humanity missing from the imagery. I suggested to Billie the use of a more realistic anatomy, similar to Gray’s anatomy. I’ve always loved the images within as they have a real sense of tension and fascination despite them being medical illustrations. The idea was to incorporate veins, muscle and sinew into the root motif.
Original Gray’s Anatomy image
Billie’s interpretation using the veins as roots/branches
This definitely seemed like a great direction to be going in. There would be a figure on each CD and their heads would be linked by the roots from the top of the head. I sent over a quick mockup to Billie.
We decided upon using a fairly aged book look, something that fit with the type of imagery being produced. Billie then started to produce some final drawings of both CD covers, as they had to work as a pair.
Scanned in and edited
We attempted to combine the original kaleidoscope drawings to see if they worked together. We decided that the images on their own worked so much better as the overlaid kaleidoscope cover was way too busy for our liking.
That decided we ended up splitting each head onto a cover and just using paper and grunge textures to build up an atmosphere.
I think we’re both really happy with how it’s turned out, and the rest of Khaidian are very happy as well. there’s a simplicity to it, without it being boring or too minimal.
Boujou is great, but it can have some issues… especially on green screen footage. There are a few things I’ve had to do to make sure the solves are working, such as grading shots with more contrast before the solve and adding manual tracking points. There are of course some quirks I’ve come across such as it’s slight drift in time. Boujou doesn’t differentiate between 24fps and 23.976fps so I’m having to adjust where I can.
Primatte Keyer by Red Giant is a pretty good alpha key removal plugin, but I’ve been having numerous issues where I’ll key out the green screen and find myself 2 minutes later re-keying the same section because it’s reverted back to an improperly keyed selection. No idea why it’s doing it. Instead I’m going back to After Effects own Keylight plug_in, which I used for the Thrive video. It’s surprisingly accurate as long as you’re willing to tweak with a few bits. Using a mixture of the two my keys are now becoming more accurate.
This is my first time using linked compositions. Using Premiere and After Effects at the same time and bridging them between each other. It’s actually very useful. Previously I have exported files from after effects to place into premiere. This causes problems in sections being slightly lossy. Tones not being quite so deep, slight colour errors, that kind of thing. This pretty much bypasses all that. Definitely a way I’ll be using it in future.
I’ve also probably made my life harder with my choice of skies and atmospheric effects within Vue. My render times have shot up again with the use of morphing clouds and spectral lighting on everything. looks great but I’ve only got one more week to really finish all the editing! Render farm anyone?
You get the idea. So I have been attempting to render as many scenes as possible. I think I’m just under halfway with all the panned and moving shots. Which is pretty useful. Biggest pains in the arse have been;
The screwed up way that 3ds Max (the camera track format read by Vue) does it’s X, Y, and Z axis. It’s unlike any other program!
What to export your camera as, in Boujou? ‘static camera, moving scene’, ‘panning camera’, ‘moving camera, translating scene’ so on… what?!
Finding a ‘floor plane’ in Boujou. Easy enough in some ways, but when you want to move your camera and tracking points up, I know, lets flip it all 90 degrees! Why?!
the inability to move your camera in any way, once you import a camera solve into Vue.
I have a weird thing about solving these issues though. For some reason I kind of enjoy it. maybe I’m a masochist?
Mainly I want to get into the real interesting side of all this editing though. All the keying out will come next. I’ve sent Billie some frames of the edit so that she can draw over them and create her sections. Obviously they will be moving, so I hope I can implement them well enough.
I’ve also changed the format of my background renders – I was using BMP files due to their lossless quality, but each file was coming in at around 6mb. Overall it just made the whole thing quite unwieldy. I’ve since decided to render in jpg sequences as they seem to not have any major negative lossy qualities.
There are a few video styles that I’m quite interested in drawing from. Billie’s illustrations are all in pencil and the artwork has a very monochrome feel. That overall feel, linked with the Victorian medical look, is informing the look of this video, the album inlay and the merch.
It seems I’ve been influenced by a lot of monochrome videos. Although I don’t think I want to do something completely monochrome, I think the colours will definitely be drained in the final outcome.
Meshuggah : I Am Colossus
A stop motion video that has a claustrophobic feel. There’s nothing fast or aggressive about it, but it does have a creeping terror to it.
Vattnet Viskar : Breath of the Almighty
Great use of stillness and sky. It’s a black/post metal band that manages to create a video that shies away from the traditional imagery. quite modern, but unrelentingly dark.
Dimmu Borgir : Gateways
A lot of mucking about with focus here. That and slow motion / over cranked film. There’s a small amount of colour, but it’s mainly drained.
The White Stripes : Blue Orchid
Floria Sigismondi has produced various videos that have a dark and odd look to them that I find interesting. Other videos include David Bowie, Marilyn Manson and The Cure. Possibly more chaotic than I wish to achieve, but interesting use of speed.
So, my first render on my PC took around 2 days. It wasn’t even that complicated. Problems:
Time it took to render. If I continued to use the PC I wouldn’t be able to get the thing rendered for the hand in, even if I worked 24 hours a day. So alternatives are useful. Swapping over to the Mac has significantly decreased my render times, despite it not having a 3D card. Mac it is…
Exporting from Vue as an MP4 somehow includes the Alpha channel over the sky, and therefore completely screws the look. Though this could be a help later when I need the Alpha intact for the night time scenes. Instead of MP4 I’m just rendering them as a bitmap image sequence. It’s lossless and I can pick up any abandoned renders whenever I need to.
Camera tracking. Although it seems to work I need to go back to the camera tracks in Boujou and make sure they’re sufficiently smooth. the keys are a bit jumpy right now, so they don’t look too great. I’ve checked it out and there’s tools within Boujou to smooth out camera tracks.
So the edit in itself hasn’t taken too long. It took roughly a day to convert all the camera mp4 files into Apple Prores for editing purposes. Once that was done I started the editing process, following the rough plan I set out, I was able to select key scenes around the music and add those into the timeline. The editing took about a day in all, various sections have been left blank to include the landscape.
Once that was finished I then made each of the takes it’s own nested file. Imported the project file into Media Encoder, then exported each take as a JPEG sequence as it’s more accurate than H.264 to track from. I then imported this into Boujou where I tracked the motion and applied a camera solve. It seems to work pretty well, but one of the issues is the XYZ axis. Vue accepts 3ds Max camera data but Max’s Y and Z axis are swapped. After a little experimentation with the axis and the scale, (when importing into Vue a larger scale means it’s higher off the ground, not really what I want to have) I managed to make something work.
Once I imported the camera data into Vue and played around with some lighting, I ended up just waiting to finish rendering. I’ve got a lot to do, and it’s unlikely I’ll manage to get it all done anytime soon. Damn you render times!!!