3DTotal : So seriously how long did this video take you to make, how did you make it and how did you get this gig in the first place? Laith :The JCB video was actually the first official project I embarked on as a freelancer. The band got
in touch in Jan 05 after seeing the Creep animation. They loved the piece and asked if I’d be interested
in creating an animated video for their first single release ‘JCB’. I’d obviously never heard of the band or
the song or the strange invisible force they called ‘music’. But I agreed to check it out and go from there. After being sent the track and listening to it 7 billion times (I counted), I enthusiastically agreed to create the video for JCB.
Amongst other things, I felt the song was fresh, quirky and child-like, yet emotional, deep and engaging...much like me. What followed was 5 months of the most intense, challenging, yet enjoyable and fulfilling work I have ever experienced. The first main task was to establish a foundation of concepts and themes on which to build the video. These were derived from repeated sonic scrutiny of the song and deep reflection on the lyrics. I connected the child-like perspective and nostalgic over-tones of the song to memories of childhood (especially mine) and the unhindered imagination capacity we have as kids.This led to the idea of doodling as an expression of this imagination and this in turn dictated the style of the video, with doodled characters on lined exercise book style paper.
Having established a main direction and outline storyboard for the video I began to create the actual animation. This was achieved using a combination of Flash, After Effects, Photoshop and good ol’ fashioned left-handed drawing. The scenery was drawn in black biro on paper, scanned in and then cut-out in Photoshop. These elements were assembled and layered in After Effects, then animated and scrolled to create the sense of traveling. All the characters were drawn and animated in Flash using the mouse – I’ve never used
any graphic tablets. The characters were then exported from Flash as .PNG image sequences and integrated into the After Effects scene to form the final movie composition. The entire process of creating the JCB video was quite organic and this was something I relished. New ideas were incorporated constantly as the video took shape and things were tweaked and re-tweaked to achieve what I wanted. Although I favour a certain organic/spontaneous quality in my work I feel it’s a luxury I may not (understandably) always have to the same degree as JCB. The fact remains though that sometimes the best ideas are those that arise when I’m sat staring at the scene on the screen.
3D Total : How have things changed for you after this song and video went it at No.1 in the UK charts?
Laith :Things went mad crazy after the JCB campaign and for a while life was a bit surreal. When I work I try not to devote a lot of thought to the final outcome and reception; I immerse myself in the creative process and go inside myself, which is actually illegal in some countries. So the success of JCB: the 1 million plus hits to the website, the No.1 spot and all the acclaim from the public was an amazing shock. The campaign brought me and Monkeehub to the greedy attention of lots of new and wonderful people. I was truly overwhelmed by the interest from businesses, film festivals, production houses, floozies, distant relatives
from the Macheke district of Zimbabwe wanting to transport 54 Billion dollars into the country who just need my bank details, and the Inland Revenue alike. Although it was all great stuff it actually became a lot for me to deal with at times as I had to try and balance the noise from JCB with a need to take some time out and focus energy on my so-called life. As a result 2006 paradoxically became quite a struggle sometimes but it also helped me develop a better idea of how I work and the kind of projects/people I want to work with.
In terms of work I seemed to get involved in a lot of pitches following JCB, most of which were for T.V. These pitches were done through my representation company ‘Passion Pictures’ in London, and for a myriad of different reasons none of these pitches turned into proper jobs. The whole process became very disheartening at times. As a creative person it’s natural to invest quite a lot of yourself into your work and if this doesn’t get past the pitch stage you can feel rejected on a personal level. Add to this the fact that creative people can have porn star proportioned egos and you’ve got a recipe for alcoholic tears. Therefore it was important for me to learn and appreciate all the other factors that decide a pitch: money, time, wind direction etc…and the fact that, like acting and boxing, it is an extremely competitive area. Regardless of the outcome however pitching can also help develop new techniques and styles as you try to cater for a variety of briefs. For instance I now know the short-cut to saving a file in Photoshop!! (Ctrl-Z). Incidentally I can’t believe I got through that whole pitch bit without making a baseball pun.