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Thriving in Creative Limitation

Feb 8, 2024

Feb 8, 2024

Creative Thought Process

This week in my studio I'm knee deep in some stop-motion animation for a client, as well as having a two-week-old newborn. Needless to say, I don't have a lot of spare time. Or sleep. Or brain power.

Additionally, I'm making a weekly video, typically involving some type of mind-bending illusion or visual effects magic. This kind of tedious, frame-by-frame work doesn't pair well with a busy schedule.

I could skip this week and say I simply don't have the time to make anything. Or! I can use my lack of time as a creative limitation.

How can I lean into or impose a limitation to inspire creativity?

If I make the story of my video that I'm far too busy to produce something extravagant, I get to have fun with a simpler illusion or visual effect. In a way, I'm creatively set free.

Last year, I ended my 10 Types of Magic video by fooling the audience with a color-changing shirt and asking if they were attentive enough to notice it. In a video packed with visual effects, it was the easiest part to edit yet had the biggest impact (and also fueled endless rewatches). That's exactly the kind of visual trickery that I can incorporate here, especially because it doesn't require a ton of digital leg work.

I'm reminded of Test Your Awareness (I won't spoil it), a well-known video from 2008 proving that you typically don't notice what you're not looking for. Having an object sneakily appear and then point it out works perfectly for the limitation of this week's video. It's also well supported by the voice-over and on-screen captions I've been using in my weekly videos.

So that's what I've done! I came up with some clever, yet seemingly boring, choreography to control focus while easily editing in a magically appearing object. I actually can't show what I'm animating yet, so I've staged that off screen (mystery). Then I turn and grab tools on the other side of frame (distraction) to serve as a screen wipe in order to digitally add in the object behind my torso.

I think it took longer to write up this post than to make the video - perfect.

Making the Video

  1. Film the entire video of myself performing, without the object in the background.

  2. Film the scene with the added object. It's important that I still sit in the frame (yet out of the way) to provide any potential bounce light or shadows that I might be adding to the background.

  3. Mask around the object and add it to the end of the video, beginning where I move back to looking off frame.

  4. Animate the mask frame-by-frame so that my body 'reveals' it.